Outside the barrier islands of coastal Georgia, the continental shelf slopes gradually eastward for over 80 miles before reaching the Gulf Stream and the continental slope. This broad, shallow shelf consists largely of dynamic sand/shell expanses that do not provide the firm foundation needed for the development of reef fish communities, which include popular gamefish such as groupers, snappers, sea bass, and amberjack. Offshore substrate largely consists of fine sand and silt where only about 5% of the adjacent shelf features natural reefs or "live bottoms", most of which occur more than 40 miles offshore.
Georgia’s offshore artificial reefs have been constructed to address a growing “bluewater” fishery targeting tunas, wahoo, and dolphin. Most of these reefs are located 6-23 nautical miles (nm) offshore in 30'-75' water depths, but two experimental “deepwater” artificial reefs have also been initiated in 120’-170’ water depths 50-70 nm offshore, and three "beach" artificial reefs have been established in 15'-30' water depths 2-4 nm offshore. Georgia’s natural reefs are based on rock outcroppings, not coral, and the biological community that establishes itself on manmade reef materials is very "natural."