Ocean Habitats, Inc. has developed an artificial habitat system that is called a “Mini Reef ” which establishes a micro ecosystem of aquatic life under existing boat docks. The mini reef mimics the environment that is normally found in the prop root system of mangrove trees. This natural environment was long ago removed from area waters when large scale coastal development took place in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Where once there were mangrove forests there are now man-made canal systems with seawalls and boat docks. This man-made world is designed to limit the amount of growth that takes place on in order to slow the rate of decay of all surfaces.
On May 18th, 2016, Ocean Habitats, Inc. with funding from the City of Marco Island, installed 25 mini reef habitat systems in a test canal on Marco Island. Since this installation, numerous residents have also purchased mini reefs so that now there are over 100 installed units in the canals of Marco Island. Each one of these mini reefs is developing its own ecosystem of life. First, small shrimp and baby fish use the structure as a safe place to avoid predators, but soon other residents move in. Over 150 different filter feeders like sea squirts and oysters grow on the mini reef and spend their days eating the green plankton out of the water passing by. A fully developed mini reef can on average clean all the plankton out of 30,000 gallons of seawater.
The goal of Ocean Habitats is to bring to life the canals of Marco Island and other coastal cities like it. It wants to restore some of the wildlife that has been lost to development and help improve the water quality in the canals of the island. If you would like to bring your dock to life, contact Ocean Habitats through its website oceanhabitatsinc.com or call the executive director David Wolff directly at 218-841-5932 to schedule the installation of your mini reef. A portion of the $250 cost is tax deductible as Ocean Habitats is a 501(c)(3) recognized non-profit.