Friends of RGV Reef sink old shrimp boat as part of habitat-building project

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Friends of RGV Reef sunk an old, 78-foot-long shrimp boat off the coast of South Padre Island on Friday.

Stripped of contaminants, the old shrimp boat is the latest addition to a massive, man-made reef located about 11 miles from the coast.

It's part of a four-year project to provide fish with a safe place to grow and reproduce.

"The trick here is, basically, starting the food chain," said Curtis Hayungs of RGV Reef.

After years of work funded and organized by volunteers, the pile of debris is now larger than South Padre Island.

"This is going to make a home for snapper, amberjack, a lot of reef fish," Hayungs said.

The years-long effort was made possible by Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef, a nonprofit organization committed to building and restoring fish habitat in the Gulf of Mexico.

"You want to have a lot of fish? You can't just attract them from elsewhere — because 'elsewhere' is short of fish," said Gary Glick of RGV Reef. "You've got to grow fish if you want to have a lot of fish."

The reef is designed to reduce the pressure on fish populations from predators and fishing vessels.

"What RGV Reef is trying to do is to increase the juvenile survivability of reef fish, primarily red snapper, in the Gulf of Mexico," Glick said.

As a result of their efforts, the snapper population is growing by an estimated 250,000 fish each year.

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