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ATLANTIS: Okaloosa successfully deploys 125-foot vessel as new artificial reef off Destin-Fort Walton Beach coast

Destin-Fort Walton Beach has a brand new artificial reef to help enhance the local diving and fishing industries while also providing essential habitat to local marine species.
RMS ATLANTIS, the newest artificial reef in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, was sunk on June 29, 2023 (Alex Fogg)

On Thursday, June 29, 2023, the Okaloosa Coastal Resource Team successfully deployed a 125-foot vessel as an artificial reef off the Destin-Fort Walton Beach coast. The RMS ATLANTIS was built in 1979 and is a decommissioned offshore supply vessel that was used in the oil industry. 

Okaloosa County contracted with Marine Environmental Services LLC last year for the preparation, transportation and deployment of the RMS CYCLOPS and RMS ATLANTIS. RMS CYCLOPS was deployed this April approximately 4.24nm southeast of Destin East Pass in the newly permitted Okaloosa County Fish Haven 22. (State waters)

As of Thursday afternoon, RMS ATLANTIS was deployed approximately 8.14nm south of Destin Pass in the newly permitted Okaloosa County Fish Haven 21.

  • The new artificial reef was deployed in 78ft of water, which allowed for the vessel to maintain the permitted clearance of ½ the water depth.
RMS ATLANTIS, the newest artificial reef in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, was sunk on June 29, 2023 (Alex Fogg)

The main reason for deploying these vessels in state waters is that the county hasn’t had a state water vessel deployment since 2000 (Eglin Landing Craft), prior to the CYCLOPS deployment in April.

“A lot of the vessels out there in state waters are getting pretty old and breaking down,” said Coastal Resource Manager Alex Fogg. “The shallow water dive and fishing folks have been asking for some high-profile, large artificial reefs. They want spots that even the novice divers and folks with smaller boats can easily reach without going too far from the shore.  Plus, dive and fishing sites like this align with our destination’s mission to get kids and families introduced to the water culture.”

  • “Novice divers will find the highest point of the vessel easily accessible, making it a great diving experience,” added Fogg. “However, once the artificial reef matures, it will transform into an exceptional fishing destination. Its expansive structure makes it highly appealing to a wide range of reef fish species.”
RMS ATLANTIS, the newest artificial reef in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, was sunk on June 29, 2023 (Alex Fogg)

As with the CYCLOPS, the ATLANTIS does not have a ton of vertical relief (37ft tall, and 26ft wide), compared to its overall size. Fogg says that because of this, it will remain relatively stable in storms and in other rough weather that have demonstrated the ability to move vessels. 

The addition of RMS ATLANTIS continues Destin-Fort Walton Beach’s 5-year artificial reef plan that actually started with the purchase of the RV DOLPHIN and RV MANTA that were deployed earlier this year. 

RMS ATLANTIS, the newest artificial reef in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, was sunk on June 29, 2023 (Alex Fogg)
RMS ATLANTIS, the newest artificial reef in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, was sunk on June 29, 2023 (Alex Fogg)

“Initially, we had budgeted approximately $2 million for the RV DOLPHIN and RV MANTA. However, since we managed to stay well below budget, it provided us with the opportunity to acquire a couple of additional vessels,” added Fogg. “Our 5-year artificial reef plan included expanding the deployment of these vessels in our state waters, but we were able to fast-track that part of the plan to get them deployed sooner.”

If you’re looking to explore the new RMS ATLANTIS, here are the coordinates:

  • RMS ATLANTIS: 30° 14.561’ N, 86° 30.517’ W

Full list of reefs are here: https://www.destinfwb.com/explore/eco-tourism/artificial-reefs/

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