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, 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.
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.”
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.
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.
I’ll go check it out! We’ll both Dive and Fish it
I do though prefer sites in more shallow water
So another reef using county money to put it in federal waters.
First thing I though was another place where only permitted vessels can go to fish
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
I like the fact it out a little farther. Keeps the cheap charters and the part time divers away
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.