According to William Seaman, Jr. (2000) an artificial reef is defined as "one or more objects of natural or human origin deployed purposefully on the sea floor to influence physical, biological, or socioeconomic processes related to living marine resources." The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) has the responsibility of managing the marine waters of Mississippi. In 1999 the Mississippi Artificial Reef Plan was put into place to guide the artificial reef development in Mississippi's marine waters and adjacent federal waters.
First known efforts at artificial reef construction off the Mississippi coast took place in the 1960’s with the deployment of automobile bodies in offshore waters near the barrier islands. In 1972, a unified effort between state and federal agencies began to construct artificial reefs in Mississippi. This effort was facilitated by Public Law 92-402. With this law World War II Liberty Ships were made available from the National Defense Reserve Fleet for the creation of artificial reefs in coastal environments.
The state of Mississippi received five of these derelict vessels. Through a coordinated effort between the Mississippi Marine Conservation Commission and the Mississippi Gulf Fishing Banks, Inc. (MGFB), a local non-profit fishermen's organization, these vessels were cleaned, stripped, and the hulls sunk on two permitted sites south of Horn Island. After the hulls were sunk, the permits were transferred to MGFB. Additionally, the funds acquired from scrapping these hulls were also transferred to MGFB for future reef development. The MDMR Artificial Reef Program is continuing to work closely with MGFB to promote conserve and develop reef habitat for Mississippi fishermen. These reefs are located offshore and range in size from 8 acres to 10,000 acres. Along with the Offshore Reefs the MDMR has numerous Inshore Reef sites accessible by small boats, piers, and wade fishermen.
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR), Mineral Management Service (MMS), and petroleum companies are also working together to utilize decommissioned oil and gas platforms for offshore artificial reef development. This program is commonly known as "Rigs to Reef." Building on Title II of the National Fishing Enhancement Act of 1984, the National Marine Fisheries Service published a National Artificial Plan which opened the door for Federal support for offshore artificial reef projects. Artificial reefs in Mississippi and adjacent marine waters are located and built to support and enhance recreational fishing. Properly located, constructed and managed reef sites can meet a variety of uses. All of these uses share the common purpose of enhancing the marine habitat for associated important sport fishes and other organisms.
Coastal Mississippi Public Access to beaches, recreational fishing and boating areas including description and location of piers, marinas and boat ramps is provided by the Department of GIS, Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District.
Shellfish Growing Areas (Western MS Sound Map)