Coming Together to Build the Reef


Coming Together to Build the Reef

Red snapper swimming in the artificial reef. (Courtesy)
Red snapper swimming in the artificial reef. (Courtesy)

Gary Glick, president of the nonprofit group Friends of RGV Reef, said recreational red snapper fishing generates several times the economic force of commercial red snapper fishing. People who come to fish also spend money on food and lodging, gas, tackle, charter trips, etc.

Glick estimates that Friends of RGV Reef has spent about $400,000 on deploying reef material so far. The group has managed to do it for roughly $100 a ton as opposed to the more typical $700-1,000 per ton.

It takes a fishing village

“Contributions from multiple stakeholders and intensive management of the most efficient of the scientifically proven best practices have taken us far with what little money we have raised,” he said. “It’s making a virtue of necessity. We have a huge reef to fill and limited funds.”

Concrete ties wait at the Port of Brownsville for shipping out to reef site. (VBR)
Concrete ties wait at the Port of Brownsville for shipping out to reef site. (VBR)

Glick said the work so far wouldn’t have been possible without help. This has come from the Coastal Conservation Association-Building Conservation Trust, City of South Padre Island and Foremost Paving. Also lending hands are Max Nichols, the Port of Brownsville, South Point Marine and Texas International Fishing Tournament. The marine science department at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, among others, has also been instrumental.

EMR International Shipbreaking was a big help with deployments this summer, providing space for thousands of tons of reef material. It also loaded material onto a Vietnam-era landing craft for transport to the reef site. It was all at a reasonable cost, Glick says.

“We’ve got all the stepping stones of habitat in place,” he said. “Now we’ve got to raise money and figure out how to do it better next time.”

Seeing results

Glick said it’s taken three years of intense effort to get to this point. While it seems like it’s taking forever, the experts see the project moving rapidly.

“Marine biologists at UTRGV and Texas A&M at Corpus Christi and Galveston have already done several monitoring dives. They are telling us that the juvenile recruitment is phenomenal and we’re well on our way to that 60,000 to 240,000 snapper in two years,” Glick said. “We’re well pleased with our progress.”

Roxanne Harris, president and CEO of the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce, says her organization has been working closely with Friends of RGV Reef. She says local sport-fishing captains, boats and businesses are excited about the reef project.

“Although we don’t have hard numbers, certainly there will be increased interest in offshore fishing and particularly the red snapper,” she said. “The federal laws for red snapper are so restrictive, having habitat in state waters to attract fish and fishing tourists year round will be huge for us on South Padre Island.”

For more on the Friends of RGV Reef, read “Building Fish Habitats” from the Nov. 2019 edition of VBR.