Heading offshore from any of Texas’s notable blue-water destinations is a trip, and on any given day anglers have the opportunity to catch everything from ling, snapper and grouper to mackerel, sharks and amberjack.
However, simply knowing what species are swimming out there is only half the battle. You’ve got to find them, too, but thanks to the state’s artificial reef program, there are multiple locations to target deep-water structure. The best part is, there are maps and GPS coordinates that will help you find your way.
The program, one of the largest efforts in the country, began in 1990 and features nearly 70 reef sites, mostly situated in federal waters that begin nine miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Those sites are divided into three categories: decommissioned drilling rigs (Rigs to Reefs Program), highway bridge materials and other types of concrete and heavy-gauge steel (Nearshore Reefing Program), and large marine vessels (Ships to Reefs Program).
Any old salt can tell you exactly why we’ve got these fish-attracting initiatives: the terrain of the Gulf is mostly barren and these structures help provide sustenance from the bottom of the food chain all the way to the top for hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates.
Multiple Texas-based projects, including nearshore reefs off Freeport and Matagorda, have benefited from millions of dollars in funding resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. These funds help compensate for lost human use of natural resources in the Gulf.
Those projects and others in prime fishing habitat have been aided in restoration led by state and federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees. In addition, a 155-foot former freighter was scuttled in 2014 about nine miles offshore from Mustang Island and Port Aransas.
The Kinta S was the largest ship to be reefed since the 473-foot Texas Clipper was sunk 17 miles off South Padre Island in 2006. The effort helped to enhance an existing site known as the Corpus Christi Nearshore Reef, which was composed of 470 concrete pyramids and several thousand tons of concrete culverts.
In addition to improving fishing opportunities, the reef is one of eight such sites that offer diving opportunities within nine nautical miles offshore.
The real boon to the overall artificial reefing initiative has been Rigs to Reefs, with multiple rigs donated in recent years by cooperating oil and gas companies. In addition to the physical infrastructure, these companies also have donated to the Texas Artificial Reef Fund half of their realized savings from not having to take the rigs to shore.
Those dedicated funds are used to finance research, administration, maintenance, liability coverage and construction of new reefs, providing a win for all parties involved. As a result, our state’s artificial reef program is self-sufficient, without relying on funds from public sources or agency revenue.
The artificial reefing program also has gained valuable scientific partners with researchers closely monitoring fish census and other data measures. Researchers from the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies used a variety of testing methods including diver-based surveys and ROV-based surveys to further describe just how important these structures are to one of the world’s most distinct and valuable ecosystems.
Information and nearshore reef maps: tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/water/habitats/artificial_reef.
Axalta Coating Systems, a leading global manufacturer, marketer, and supplier of liquid and powder coatings, has joined Ducks Unlimited, the world leader in wetlands conservation, as its newest corporate partner. Seeing the value of wetlands for all people and wildlife, Axalta has made a multi-year, $10 million commitment to Ducks Unlimited for wetlands conservation work.
“Axalta is an industry leader with its own branded products and services,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall. “With regard to conservation, Axalta is a sustainable company that understands the wetland habitat crisis along the Gulf Coast and around the Great Lakes. Through their generous support, we can make great strides in our international campaign to Rescue Our Wetlands.”
“People and wildlife benefit from projects that conserve wetlands and natural resources,” said Axalta Chairman and CEO Charlie Shaver. “Axalta is committed to using sustainable practices and manufacturing and to providing environmentally responsible products and application systems to our customers around the world. This includes expanding the availability of waterborne coatings, reducing the environmental footprint of our operations and helping our customers reduce theirs. With sustainability and conservation at the forefront of our business, we look forward to doing this important work with Ducks Unlimited.”
Axalta’s colorful coatings can be found on many products, including cars, commercial vehicles, ATVs, construction equipment, oil pipelines, buildings, furniture, household appliances, and playground equipment. The protective coatings help to sustain product life by deterring corrosion and adding years to vehicle and equipment life, thereby conserving resources. Sophisticated engineering produces coatings in sustainable ways and enables Axalta’s customers to save energy and reduce CO2 and VOC emissions.
Coatings protect oil pipelines from corrosive underground environments. Building façades, lawn furniture, and playground equipment rely on coatings to protect them from harsh climates. Electric generators run more efficiently when coatings insulate them from high temperatures. All of these features reduce maintenance costs, product replacement, and raw material use, which enhances sustainability. Now Axalta is directly helping protect and sustain North America’s wetlands as well.
DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt said the partnership with Axalta fits seamlessly with DU’s Rescue Our Wetlands campaign. “We will start with priority wetland projects under the umbrella of the Rescue Our Wetlands campaign, focusing specifically on the Gulf Coast and Great Lakes Initiatives,” he said. “Our biologists and engineers will deliver crucial restoration work in these important breeding, migration, and wintering areas, which are near some of Axalta’s major U.S. manufacturing facilities.”
Waterfowl wintering on the Gulf Coast will benefit from Axalta’s support. “We’re proud to support wetland restoration along the Texas Gulf Coast where many of our employees live and enjoy the outdoors,” Shaver said.
Through this partnership, DU will target threatened coastal prairie wetlands and marshes for restoration, enhancement, and maintenance. Among the projects slated for restoration work in 2016, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge’s Middleton Unit is on the list. The meandering bayous of Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge cut through ancient flood plains, creating vast expanses of coastal marsh and prairie bordering Galveston Bay in southeast Texas. The marshes and prairies are host or home to an abundance of wildlife, from migratory birds, to alligators, to bobcats, and more.
The management focus of the 34,000-acre refuge (and its companion refuges, McFaddin and Texas Point) is to protect and manage the coastal marsh for migrating, wintering and breeding waterfowl, shorebirds and waterbirds, and to provide strategic and crucial nesting areas for the neotropical migratory songbirds migrating across the Gulf of Mexico.
“Helping sustain natural resources is critical to Ducks Unlimited, Axalta, and the people we touch,” said DU Chief Fundraising Officer Amy Batson. “We see this partnership growing and developing into a significant force for continental conservation.”