Artificial Reef FAQ

Artificial reef with fish

What are artificial reefs?

An artificial reef is a human-made, underwater structure built to encourage marine life. In 1975, the Pinellas County Division of Solid Waste began creating artificial reefs from clean, inert debris such as concrete. Since then, about 50,000 tons of reef material have been placed.

How many Pinellas County reefs are there?

There are 13 offshore reef sites and 29 inshore reefs, and one in Tampa Bay, north of the St. Pete Pier. View reef maps or GPS coordinates.

How are artificial reefs made?

The Pinellas County artificial reefs are constructed from environmentally-safe building and demolition waste. Items such as concrete pipes, steel beams or entire ships are carefully placed on the ocean bottom. Within about two weeks, algae and barnacles attach to the reef material. Soon, fish come to feed on these creatures. Within a year, the reef begins to support coral growth.

What is the purpose of the reefs?

Reefs create valuable marine habitats in areas with featureless bottoms, divert clean usable materials from the waste stream, and boost tourism and the local economy by enhancing fishing and diving attractions.

What are some of the more unusual items used to create reefs?

The Pinellas II reef features three vessels: a steel barge, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn, and a tug boat Sheridan. Many divers consider this area the best wreck dive in West Central Florida. Other reefs are built using a shrimp boat, WWII Navy diving craft, and 10 Army tanks. View the descriptions and GPS coordinates for each reef.

Are donations of reef materials accepted?

Yes, but we can accept only large-scale materials such as the concrete debris from a bridge demolition. Small amounts of concrete or steel from a homeowner are not usable. Potential reef materials are carefully screened before being accepted to make sure they are safe, non-polluting, weigh at least 500 pounds each, and have adequate structural integrity. For more information, call (727) 464-7500 or email reef@pinellas.gov.