In the overgrowing demands of our life, exploitation of our natural resources create a rising alarm on the long-term ecological survival. Apparently Florida’s new artificial reef program had raised the debate of economic prosperity versus ecological depletion. Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund is now being forced to fork over $1.3 million in grants to Naples, Marco Island, and Collier County, Florida. Information on the idea of purchasing and installing six 500-ton reefs the size of football fields, each with six smaller pyramid-shaped modules 8 to 12 feet high” 12-30 miles offshore funded by the three governments of Naples, Marco Island, and Collier County partnered with Community Foundation of Collier County and the Economic Recovery Task Force had created the hype of providing new jobs and big revenue. Due to the depleted reefs of Marco Island and the southern tier of Florida by natural disasters, fishes thriving in that region had been vulnerable to predators affecting the marine ecology which further affects the tourism revenue. Artificial reefs promised to be the solution for this crisis, as it can be recycled. According to Naples attorney and a local fisherman increasing fish population, will have an economic impact on the community by attracting more tourism.
The new artificial reef system has attractive programs to be launched such as diving industry and attract high-dollar national fishing tournaments. According to a 2011 University of Florida Sea Grant report, estimates say that the project should bring $30 million in revenue over the coming years by boosting eco-tourism, hotel stays, dining, shopping, fishing, diving, bait shop sales which seem to bring a huge economic prosperity. According to Nancy Richie, Marco Island’s environmental specialist, users of artificial reefs created 2,600 jobs that generated $253 million annually estimated by the reports, which brings new opportunities. Program objectives include enhancing the private recreational and charter fishing and diving opportunities; providing a socio-economic benefit to local coastal communities; increasing reef fish habitat; reducing user conflicts; facilitate reef related research; and do no harm to fishery resources, Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) or human health. The interesting part of the deal is no taxpayers’ dollars are to be funded for this project, and a donation of $100k could your name to fame by permanently displaying it. As the tourism facilities and entertainment grow, excess boating and fuel emissions could deplete the resources. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, the Florida State Representative who donated her unused campaign funds, feels this is the most significant public-private project they have ever done that is going to be an enormous benefit to the economy—both for the tourism industry and for residents.
Even though the advantages cited are catchy and improving the eco-tourism revenue, several drawbacks concern the question of ecological sustenance for long term duration.