Environmental officials are partnering with a concrete company to help out the fishing industry in South Carolina. Ready Mixed Concrete Company announced last week that it would begin taking its leftover concrete and use it to build artificial reefs off the coast of South Carolina.
The company said it is ready to expand the project after a successful pilot program it had been testing in the Myrtle Beach area with help from the state Department of Natural Resources.
Ready Mixed, which is owned by Argos Company, had originally approached state officials for help recycling its unused concrete. “At the end of the day, they’d have trucks come back with leftover concrete,” said Bob Martore, who coordinates artificial reef construction for DNR, “They wanted to build something with it, rather than just dump it or throw it away.”
The cones are about four feet tall and are hollow inside. ““The process is simple and only takes about ten minutes of an employee’s time,” said D.A. Jackson of Ready Mixed, “Each cone uses about three cubic yards of concrete – about the amount left over in a mixer.”
Once built, the cones are placed along the bottom of the ocean, where corals and sponges eventually grow on them and form a reef community. Larger fish then gather in the reef in groups, and juveniles are able to survive from predators longer by hiding in the reef. Officials say the artificial reefs help South Carolina’s fishing industry, which might otherwise exhaust natural reefs off the coast. The artificial reefs can be close to shore (even under piers) or as far out as 35 miles.
The agency has traditionally sunk old barges and train cars to help create the reefs. However, Martore said the rising price of metal has slowed the practice, “As it’s become more and more valuable to scrap those, we’ve gotten fewer and fewer donations of any medal.”
However, he says concrete is a better material than metal, anyway, since it more closely resembles the limestone rock ledges off the Carolina coast.
There are 45 public fishing reefs offshore, but only about 2 percent of those reef bottoms have some sort of growth. The company has currently built 60 cones, but has the potential to build a dozen more each week. Martore said the sheer size of the permitted reefs means the process can continue well into the future.