We build reefs

The Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA) has built more than 150 artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico since its beginning in l997, and it continues to be a leader in fish habitat research and development.

This effort to restore fish habitat in the Gulf of Mexico has its roots in south Georgia.

Ron Childs from Bainbridge, Ga., was fishing and diving in Mexico Beach in the 1980s and 1990’s when he decided to form an organization much like the Organization for Artificial Reefs (OAR) out of Tallahassee. While diving around Mexico Beach, he noticed that the old car bodies used as reefs were rusted out and gone. There were few reefs to speak of anywhere.

He got an attorney, Mike Trombley, to lay out the legal work for a legal corporation in the State of Florida, he went out and recruited a board of directors, a set of by-laws were written, officers were elected, and the rest is history.

Last year, the MBARA passed the $1-million mark in fund-raising and reef building.

The organization now has its own website, www.mbara.org, it has its own email newsletter, and a devoted team of volunteers who work monthly to dive on the reefs in order to maintain, manage and evaluate the effectiveness of each new reef. You can see videos of each reef on the website.

To get the organization going, Childs and five other men donated $350 each to help buy one of the first reefs, which was built and was called the Bainbridge Reef. It is still there today and offers great fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

The other Bainbridge men were Jimmy Harrell, Raymond Miles, Earl Nichols, Jimmy Hines and Steele Malone. Nichols also loaded 10 steel concrete truck mixers on lowboy trailers and carried them to Mexico Beach. They were sunk as reefs about 7 miles off of Mexico Beach.

The MBARA is now host to the annual kingfish fishing tournament held each year the weekend before the Labor Day weekend. It is scheduled for Aug. 27 this year. It now averages about 200 boats entered with thousands given away each year to the winners.

The organization has sunk shrimp boats, hopper barges, reef balls, reef maker pyramids, giant steel cylinders and digesters and much more. The fishing out of Mexico Beach is now some of the best in the nation. When you add the fishing and diving to the three miles of perfect beaches, a brand new ramp, an improved canal wall—Mexico Beach is truly a special place.

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