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DOLPHIN: Okaloosa deploys 190ft artificial reef off Destin-Fort Walton Beach coast

On Wednesday, March 15, 2023, the Okaloosa Coastal Resource Team successfully deployed the vessel DOLPHIN in the Gulf of Mexico, making significant progress in their plan to establish Destin-Fort Walton […]

The DOLPHIN being deployed off the coast of Destin-Fort Walton Beach by the Okaloosa Coastal Resource Team (Kevin Dukes)

On Wednesday, March 15, 2023, the Okaloosa Coastal Resource Team successfully deployed the vessel DOLPHIN in the Gulf of Mexico, making significant progress in their plan to establish Destin-Fort Walton Beach as the dive capital of Florida.

  • Coastal Resource Manager Alex Fogg led the deployment, following the successful sinking of the MANTA on January 15, 2023.
  • The DOLPHIN is located at 30° 07.634’ N, 86° 24.131’ W

The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners had approved a 5-year plan on March 1, 2022, and allocated $2 million towards the acquisition of two large research vessels, the DOLPHIN and MANTA, as part of the first phase.

  • Both vessels measure approximately 190 feet and have been repurposed as artificial reefs to provide ideal locations for scuba diving, fishing, and essential habitats for various marine species.
The DOLPHIN being deployed off the coast of Destin-Fort Walton Beach by the Okaloosa Coastal Resource Team (Kevin Dukes)

The DOLPHIN, like its counterpart the MANTA, is a surplus research vessel previously used for oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. According to Fogg, the DOLPHIN is now the second largest vessel that Okaloosa County has sunk, and its deployment was the fastest they have ever had.

The vessel was sunk in 120 feet of water, approximately 16 nautical miles south of Destin, inside the LAARS A permitted area. According to Fogg, it took only 15 minutes to reach the bottom.

The DOLPHIN being deployed off the coast of Destin-Fort Walton Beach by the Okaloosa Coastal Resource Team (Kevin Dukes)

Fogg talked about the deployment during a Tourist Development Virtual event on Thursday afternoon.

“What’s really cool about the DOLPHIN is that it is really tall, so it’ll accommodate your beginner divers as well as your advanced divers with the top being at about 60-70 feet,” said Fogg. “But it’ll also be a really good place for fish to find a home, which makes a great place for people to go fishing as well.”

The DOLPHIN being deployed off the coast of Destin-Fort Walton Beach by the Okaloosa Coastal Resource Team (Kevin Dukes)

By making targeted vessel investments, Okaloosa County is increasing the density of unique, marketable artificial reefs and experiences, which aligns with their destination stewardship approach.

The addition of the DOLPHIN expands fish habitats and diversifies visitor adventures, creating intriguing underwater destinations for both diving and fishing enthusiasts.

The DOLPHIN being deployed off the coast of Destin-Fort Walton Beach by the Okaloosa Coastal Resource Team (Kevin Dukes)

9 Responses

  1. Sadly, no one wants to travel to such an out of the way place and take a two hour round trip to dive the wreck. Just like the Oriskany, it should be much closer to the coast.

  2. I’ll go check it out! We’ll both Dive and Fish it
    I do though prefer sites in more shallow water

  3. I wish it was a little closer and shallower. But I understand that larger fish are further out . And hopefully more wild life will be there

  4. I like the fact it out a little farther. Keeps the cheap charters and the part time divers away

    1. Huh? Isn’t everyone a part time diver? if you are a “full time” diver what are you doing diving this hunk? If you mean by making it a seasick ride out it will keep low time tourist divers away your correct! Not sure what the viz is typically like out there but overall it does not seem worth the ride to me.

  5. It would be nice to have some places to dive that are not so deep. Most recreational divers can’t go past 60 ft so we just get to hover and swim above but not peek inside.

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Community Comments

“1B................Let FWB grow.”
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“Amazing article!!! Jared Williams is an incredible writer and this article captures the incredible things happening in our community! Thank you Jared! Linda Dugan”
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“Awesome... The kind of people, that need a safe, affordable home for themselves and their families, without your judgment. .”
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“Curious who is funding Gregg Chapel so he can build cheap housing here. Curious what kind of residents he looking for to move here.”
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“This is extremely upsetting. I hope the parents of this young man sees this as a " Cry for Help" and move forward in getting him evaluated., into counseling with...”
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“Will the Hurlburt golf course be open?”
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“I really think this is a great idea. My only concern is what is planned at the base of the Destin bridge. I am not a proponent of any development...”
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“Traffic signals have a definite limit to how many cars an hour can pass under them. The signal system downtown has been beyond capacity since 1990. To increase capacity additional...”
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