About Friends of RGV Reef
Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to building and restoring fish habitat, including nursery reefs, to put fish back in the Gulf of Mexico.
RGV Reef was founded in 2015, out of growing concern for the Gulf of Mexico’s marine life decline. Our Gulf’s ecosystem is threatened by a variety of ills, primarily habitat loss.
RGV Reef is funded by individuals, conservation groups, family foundations, businesses, fishing tournaments, grants, and state and local governments. By folks like you, folks interested in giving back to the Gulf
The largest industrial scale artificial nursery reef in the Gulf of Mexico
What is the RGV Reef?
RGV Reef is a result of a vision to build an marine ecosystem 13 miles northeast of the South Padre Island Jetties.
What has resulted is basically net-less aquaculture driven by creating of cradle to adult fish habitat for reef fish, primarily Red Snapper. It also turns out that when you get it right for all the life stages of Snapper, you have made a great reef for all the fish. Worms, shrimp, and turtles, too. At 1650 acres, it’s the largest artificial reef off the Texas Coast, and certainly the most complex. The large size is to accommodate the very first industrial scale reef fish nursery in the Gulf, maybe in the world.
This is also the only Reef off the Texas coast that is being built with graduated stepping stones of increasingly complex and taller habitat to carry multiple species of fish through their life cycles. With the material put down in 2017, the One Gulf consortium which is A&M Galveston, the Harte Research Institute in Corpus and UTRGV estimated that we carried 240,000 snapper from juvenile stage to adults from 2017 to 2019. In the winter of 2020, we doubled the size of the nursery reef.
Quick FAQ's about the RGV REEF
- RGV Reef was supposed to take decades to finish and $20 million. This was predicated on the normal Reefing contracts through the state or the federal government that put material in the water for about $1000 a ton. Through great persistence Friends of RGV Reef Has secured donated deep-water port frontage with rail siding from the Port of Brownsville, donated professional services, donated equipment, donated management, donated site prep. The majority of our material is recycled concrete railroad ties from the BNSF Railroad, with additions of donated broken concrete from local contractors, mainly Foremost Paving. With these donations Friends of RGV Reef deploys material at a fraction of normal costs.
98.6%of the bottom of the Golf is a flat featureless sand/mud plain, devoid of food, and swept by unceasing currents. Baby reef fish need a small rock to hide behind and rest, get out of the current, and turn food into body mass. That rock allows them to turn inside and escape faster straight line speed predators. If the cover is complex and there is just the right size hole, they can escape predators (see video). Additionally currents swirl around these rocks, disorienting the juveniles prey. The break in the current also pulls organic matter out of the passing water column, increasing food for microbes, allowing marine invertebrates, crustaceans, and filter feeders to proliferate. It provides a hard substrate for oysters, algae and barnacles to grow on. Low relief reef bumps juvenile survivability, and increases the bottom of the marine food chain. Camera trap video on RGV Reef’s Low relief reef also show Kemp’s Ridley turtles nesting and foraging for their favorite food, small swimming crabs.
Mid relief reef structures are offering small to mid sized cracks, crevasses and holes. The next step in the habitat ladder required to carry multiple species and fish at different points in their life cycles to adulthood. Mid relief reef is the teenagers game room, offering sanctuary for the approximately hand-sized to 14 inch fish. It provides great protection for juvenile reef fish like red snapper, grouper, bait fish, trigger fish and many other species that provide food for reef fish, pelagic fish and endangered sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. These structures consist primarily of concrete railroad ties, a multitude of other cement structures, including a few reefing pyramids. These fish use these structures to forage, escape predation and mature to adult size fish.
High Relief reef provides habitat for mature reef and pelagic fish. It also provides current breaks important to forage fish as they grow and move offshore. For example, on the Big Pile, 32′ high, currents wedge nutrient rich water up into the photic zone, creating a down current plankton bloom, feeding a resident school of menhaden, forage fish for large predators.
Our Mission is to put fish back in the Gulf of Mexico by restoring lost nursery reef, and then providing graduating sized stepping stones of complex habitat to carry multiple specie through their life stages.
President of Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef
Director of Technology, Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef
Treasurer, Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef
Secretary, Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef
Dr. Richard Kline
Associate Professor in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
The RGV Reef
Artificial reef project targeting snapper population.