The reef is 13 miles northeast of South Padre Island and encompasses 1,650 acres. Since 2016, the Port of Brownsville has provided a staging area. It serves as a central base of operations for both storing and transporting thousands of tons of materials. The reef uses these materials to create a complex, layered artificial reef nursery for fish in all stages of development.
“The deep-water frontage site at the port allows us to move materials cheaply,” said Gary Glick, president of Friends of the RGV Reef. “With the support of the Port of Brownsville, we’ve built the first industrial scale reef fish nursery in the Gulf of Mexico, and it will have a huge economic impact on the region that will be felt for generations.”
Serving More Than The Environment
According to an economic impact study published in 2018 by Aaron Economic Consulting, LLC. for the South Padre Island Economic Development Corporation, fishing and diving activity on the artificial reef is expected to result in:
- 537 jobs for Rio Grande Valley residents
- $45.6M economic output generated by the reef
- $13.9M in income to RGV residents
- $3.6M in state and local tax revenues
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, a Class 1 service provider at the port, has donated concrete railroad ties. These serve as reefing materials to create habitats for hundreds of species of fish, invertebrates and turtles. As of June 11, Friends have deployed 11,500 tons of concrete railroad ties donated by BNSF.
In October 2020, Friends thanked a premier ship recycling company at the port for both its support and volunteer efforts. Friends named a vessel scuttled for the artificial reef after International Shipbreaking Limited Vice President Captain Robert “Bob” Berry.
In addition to growing a hospitable habitat for marine life, the RGV Reef is expected to increase ecotourism to the area.