A study of the fish populations on the public artificial and natural reefs offshore Okaloosa County will be funded by a $450,000.00 grant from BP.
The grant was approved as part of the $57 million fund provided by the Deepwater Horizon settlement to promote the tourism and seafood industries in areas along the Gulf Coast impacted by the April 2010 BP oil spill.
The goal of the study will be to provide empirical data on the amount of sea life currently inhabiting the area’s reefs and to provide data on reef development. This information will help verify assumptions being made about the positive effects of the reef systems.
Early in 2013 the county will solicit proposals from companies to conduct a study on the sea life surrounding the reefs. This highly specialized and technical work will involve mapping and studying approximately 600 square miles of Gulf, primarily using side scan sonar and hydro acoustics, to study the reef populations.
The field work will take more than two months to complete with the data processing work being done over another four to five months. This information will provide the county with invaluable data to understand the limitations of existing reef resources and to help plan future projects.