'Mini reefs' installed to bring area waters back to life while helping reduce harmful algae
If mangroves are the oceans’ rain forests, producing and sheltering abundant life, then sea-walled canals and shorelines are its deserts.
A Florida nonprofit is aiming to change that. Ocean Habitats Inc., kicked off its “Thousand Reef Challenge” on Friday at Fort Myers Beach’s Fish Tale Marina, where owner Al Durrett has bought 40 of the "mini-reef" units to place beneath his floating docks.
Made of polypropylene panels (think the U.S. Postal Service’s mail totes), tubes and rope, the lightweight-but-sturdy structures quickly become attractive real estate for teeny critters like sea squirts, barnacles and oysters that move in and begin attracting bigger critters like crabs and gamefish. Once fully populated, the crustacean/tunicate team inhabiting each unit can filter between 18,000 to 90,000 gallons of water a day, said founder David Wolff, but the average is about 30,000. The $250-per-unit cost comes with a tax deduction, Wolff said, because Ocean Habitats is a 501(c)(3).
If area homeowners and businesses take him up on his challenge, it will amount to cleaner water for the region, he said. “One thousand of these mini reefs on average would be filtering somewhere around 30 million gallons of water every single day. That’s almost 11 billion gallons a year,” Wolff said. “They would also be helping to produce 300,000 native fish and 200,000 native crabs, shrimp and crustaceans.”