Have diving off Pensacola on your bucket list? Well, the Gulf Coast now has a new attraction.
A decommissioned 63 year-old tug boat named “Ocean Wind” was sunk recently off the coast of Pensacola to set up an artificial reef.
The 87 foot, 141-ton veteran work boat was scuttled about 10 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship settled 87 feet on the ocean floor, according to Escambia County officials.
The new reef is just the latest addition in a series of recent efforts by the state and county to incentivize deep-sea sports fishing and recreational diving. 10 years ago, the USS Oriskany was sunk 22 miles south of Pensacola in more than 200 feet of water. The Oriskany is the largest artificial reef in the world.
Organizers hope the new reef will continue the growth of the local diving and fishing industry. According to state officials, Escambia County’s Artificial Reef Program has an annual economic benefit of more than $150 million and supports nearly 2,350 jobs.
When in place, the reef will provide an ecological safe haven for Gulf wildlife and recreational opportunities for anglers, snorkelers and divers.
“We have a lot of anglers and divers that come out to enjoy the reefs,” said Javon Lloyd, spokesman for Escambia County. “The reefs also support habitat for marine life and our ecological resources.”
The tugboat was purchased by Escambia County and partially funded by private donations. The county paid $45,000 for the vessel and $8,900 was donated from private businesses, mostly from fishing charter and diving companies.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC, funded the cleaning, preparation, towing and deployment costs through a grant from the State of Florida special legislative appropriation bill for artificial reef construction.
The coordinates of the new reef: (latitude/longitude: N30 degrees 10.990’/ W087 degrees 12.025’).