Alabama's Artificial Reef Program is the product of a cooperative agreement between the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Program is the culmination of many meetings, letters, reports and workshops between various user groups within the coastal area and while the system addressed on this page is the current program, it is intended to be dynamic with changes occurring as technology and information develops on artificial reef construction and deployment.
The following coordinate download files are grouped into inshore, nearshore, and Gulf of Mexico reefs to help users manage waypoint groups in their GPS. The files contain GPS coordinates, range and bearing information, reef material used, date of deployment/enhancement, and date coordinates were updated.
Inshore Reef Coordinates (Current as of March 15, 2017) – To properly download files, right click the link and select “Save”
- Inshore Reef Coordinates.csv
- Inshore Reef Coordinates.xls
- Inshore Reef Coordinates.kmz
- Inshore Reef Coordinates.gpx
Nearshore 0-9 nm Reef Coordinates (Current as of July 17, 2017) – To properly download files, right click the link and select “Save”
- 0-9 Mile Reef Coordinates.csv
- 0-9 Mile Reef Coordinates.xls
- 0-9 Mile Reef Coordinates.kmz
- 0-9 Mile Reef Coordinates.gpx
Gulf of Mexico Reef Coordinates (Current as of July 17, 2017) – To properly download files, right click the link and select “Save”
- Gulf of Mexico Reef Coordinates.csv
- Gulf of Mexico Reef Coordinates.xls
- Gulf of Mexico Reef Coordinates.kmz
- Gulf of Mexico Reef Coordinates.gpx
Master Reef List Coordinates (Current as of July 17, 2017) – To properly download files, right click the link and select “Save”
Users that are not interested in separating reefs into waypoint groups by inshore, nearshore and Gulf of Mexico reefs can download the master coordinate files. These files represent a consolidated list of the files above and provide GPS coordinates, range and bearing information, reef material used, date of deployment/enhancement, and dates in which coordinates were updated for all reefs deployed by Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
- Master AL Public Reef Coordinates.csv
- Master AL Public Reef Coordinates.xls
- Master AL Public Reef Coordinates.kmz
- Master AL Public Reef Coordinates.gpx
Alabama Marine Resources Division (AMRD) manages the most diverse artificial reef program in the United States. AMRD has utilized a multitude of different materials over the decades to create ecologically productive reefs with decommissioned bridge spans, oil/gas platform jackets, limestone aggregate, pre-fabricated reef modules, army tanks, repurposed concrete culverts/manholes/pipes, ships, drydocks, barges and other materials of opportunity. Reefs from these materials have been constructed throughout the inshore waters of Alabama, within the nearshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and up to 55 nautical miles offshore. This diversified strategy along with partnerships with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration program, Coastal Conservation Association of Alabama, the Alabama Wildlife Federation, numerous oil/gas energy companies, and the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef Restoration Foundation has helped produce the most productive artificial reef program in the United States.
Hard bottom substrate is very limited along the water bottoms of coastal Alabama and the addition of purposely designed artificial reefs along the predominantly featureless landscape of sand and muddy substrates has proven to be extremely effective at increasing the biomass of reef fish populations including red snapper, gray triggerfish, sheepshead, flounder, and gray snapper. Furthermore, constructing high quality reefs within Alabama’s coastal waters increases the connectivity between inshore, nearshore, and offshore habitats. For example, red drum, sheepshead, gray snapper, and southern/Gulf flounder utilize inshore and nearshore habitats. Red drum and gray snapper migrate from Alabama’s coastal rivers, bayous, and bays as juveniles and early adults to the nearshore sand bars, gas platforms, and artificial reefs as spawning adults. On the other hand, sheepshead and flounder migrate to and from inshore waters and nearshore hard bottom habitats each year during spawning migrations. Reef construction projects throughout multiple depths offshore of Alabama also increases habitat utilization opportunities of juvenile gray triggerfish and red snapper before migrating further offshore to inhabit reefs in deeper water with more vertical complexity. Therefore, increasing the availability of a limited resource (e.g. hard bottom habitat) will increase foraging opportunities, shelter, and spawning potential of numerous fish.
During the first few years of a reef structure, numerous finfish congregate around the structure. However the structure doesn’t have the qualities of a fully functional reef. After several years the structure becomes covered by epifaunal organisms such as oysters, mussels, barnacles, tunicates, sponges, and corals which increases small-scale rugosity (small-scale changes in surface relief) of the structure. The increased structural complexity offered by these bioengineers provides thousands of nooks and crannies for cryptic organisms such as crabs, worms, sea urchins, blennies, and other animals to use. These small cryptic organisms then serve as vectors for nutrient transfer and prey items for higher trophic level fishes and the structure becomes a true reef complete with ecological activity throughout the trophic pyramid.
Alabama’s Unique Artificial Reef General Permit Zones
Approximately 1,030 square miles of offshore waters are included in the artificial reef general permit areas of Alabama, making this the largest artificial reef program in the U. S. (Reef Zone Map). The five permit areas are set forth inside bold lines on the map and are called the Hugh Swingle General Permit Area, the Don Kelley General Permit Area - North, the Don Kelley General Permit Area - South, the Tatum - Winn General Permit Area - North, and the Tatum - Winn General Permit Area - South. Within these General Permit Areas, artificial reefs can be constructed by individuals by acquiring a permit from the Marine Resources Division (please review the Artificial Reef Protocols). Offices of the Marine Resources Division are located in Gulf Shores (251-968-7576) and on Dauphin Island (251-861-2882). Both of these offices have individuals trained in artificial reef permitting and can schedule an inspection of reef material in a timely manner. In order for individuals to legally construct artificial reefs outside of the general permit areas previously mentioned, a permit must be obtained from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers pursuant to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, as amended. The advantages to utilizing the General Permit Areas for artificial reef construction are numerous, however, the three main advantages are: (A) a permit can be acquired in most instances within one working day after the request is made, (B) the specific location the structure is deployed is not publicized, and (C) the chances of artificial reefs within the General Permit Areas coming in conflict with other users are reduced.