- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) - The continued partnership between Alabama’s Marine Resources Division and Coastal Conservation Association Alabama has ensured two reefs in Mobile Bay continue to support recreational fishing opportunities.

This summer more than 5,000 tons of limestone rock was placed on P. Grey Cane Jr. Reef (30 27.460’ - 87 55.940’), which resulted in adding 3 inches of relief to the reef except in the northwestern corner of the reef which had significant shell remaining and only required a light deployment of rock.

The reef is located southwest of Point Clear.

Nearly 4,000 tons of crushed limestone was evenly distributed over Fish River Reef (30 19.705’ - 87 49.830’). Some of the limestone was used to expand the northern portions of the reef footprint where it was deployed to a depth of 3 inches.

That reef is situated south of the mouth of Weeks Bay.

The P. Grey Cane Jr. and Fish River Reefs were originally constructed using oyster shell in 1996 and 2001, respectively.

“The Marine Resources Division appreciates our continued partnership with CCA to increase habitat and fishing opportunities in coastal Alabama. We hope to continue these efforts in the future with CCA and other groups as well,” said Chris Blankenship, director of the Marine Resources Division.

Russell Cunningham, chairman of CCA Alabama, said the reef enhancements were another opportunity for recreational anglers to give back to the resource and ensure that there is a quality fishery for future generations.

“We are extremely proud of this effort and look forward to working with our partners at MRD on more projects to ensure that the citizens of Alabama will always have access to the healthy marine resources we cherish,” Cunningham said.

CCA Alabama contributed $80,000 toward the project, which was matched by MRD’s Sport Fish Restoration funds provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Over the years, some oysters have been observed within the reef footprint, but they have not settled in large enough numbers to maintain high quality fish habitat and as such the reefs had degraded.

Blankenship said the lack of natural replenishment prompted the Marine Resources Division settled on using crushed limestone rock for this round of enhancement.

“Recent surveys of theses reefs taken by Marine Resources staff assisted with the identification of areas needing extra material and helped to make the project more efficient,” Blankenship said. “Although the rock does not have as much complexity as oyster shell, the material should last much longer.”

These are the latest habitat enhancement projects undertaken by CCA Alabama and MRD.

In September 2011, the state announced a partnership to complete the massive Bayou Cour Reef in Bon Secour Bay. The Bayou Cour Reef is a 34-acre reef located about one mile north of the Intracoastal Waterway in the Bon Secour Bay arm of Mobile Bay.

That $163,000 project was made possible with funds from MRD, a $55,000 donation from the CCA Building Conservation Trust, and through donations from other sources, including CCA Alabama’s license tag program.

In 2013, a $390,000 effort to install or restore seven artificial reefs in state waters was made possible by a $100,000 contribution by the CCA Building Conservation Trust, a $50,000 contribution from CCA Alabama, and $240,000 in funding from MRD.

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