Build Your Own Reef
De Alessi notes that:
private ownership of marine resources can be a very effective conservation tool. In the United States, however, private rights to the seabed are virtually nonexistent. Some clandestine artificial reef creation went on as early as the 1920s, but never on a large scale. Then in 1984, Congress passed the National Fishing Enhancement Act, which encouraged the states to construct artificial reefs. And they did, using everything from old tires, coal ash blocks and automobiles to decommissioned ships and oil rigs.
Alabama and Florida allowed private groups to develop underwater reefs to enhance marine ecosystems. By creating reefs secretly, private developers can maintain exclusive use of reefs that become “public” when created. Only the reef creators know where they are, so know where to go later to catch the fish that will be attracted to the new fish-friendly artificial habitat.
Delaware’s “luxury condominiums for fish” were created by dumping old NYC subway cars offshore. But as usual, the lack of property rights at popular state attractions is causing trouble.
The reef, named after New York City’s famous Redbird subway cars, now supports more than 10,000 angler trips annually, up from fewer than 300 in 1997. It has seen a 400-fold increase in the amount of marine food per square foot in the last seven years, according to state data.
Popular recreational attractions, when privately-owned, have various ways of preventing conflict caused by overuse. Fishing clubs in Scotland limit acces to popular rivers and streams. Instead of fishing licenses issues by U.S. states, Scotland clubs manage supply and demand. Here is story of “Fishing on the River Tweed.”
In Washington, Oregon and other states, popular destinations can be overcrowded:
An estimated 300 boats plied the Willamette River Friday between Gladstone and Willamette Falls after two days of excellent fishing for spring chinook salmon at Oregon City. … (Oregon Live source)
New Jersey, Delaware, and other states with popular artificial reefs could limit use to those who have purchased permits. In addition, states could allow private organizations to develop reefs and let them control access for fishing and scuba-diving.
New marine natural resources offshore could reduce strains on established reefs, plus add opportunities for recreation. States used to taxing everything that moves can extend their reach to tax everything that swims.
Florida has sunk some some $20 million into artificial reefs over the last 30+ years (state and federal funds). I wonder if Florida and federal revenue from recreation or environmental benefits at these reefs have covered that expense?