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‘Mini reefs’ being installed around Southwest Florida

June 27, 2018
By CJ HADDAD (cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com) , Pine Island Eagle

A remedy for Southwest Florida waters may have arrived via an artificial reef system developed by Ocean Habitats Inc.

Founder David Wolff, raised in North Fort Myers, created the "Mini Reef" to improve water quality and marine life across the state and beyond.

"This gives people a chance to make improvements to the environment themselves," he said. "You don't have to wait for changes to be made by government or city officials, you can do something in your own backyard."

Constructed from fiber-glass, PVC pipe, polypropylene rope and crab-trap floats, a Mini Reef can grow more than 300 fish per year, grow more than 200 crabs per year and clean more than 30,000 gallons of water per day.

The device floats under your dock out of sight, all there is to do is sit back and enjoy the benefits of cleaner water and marine life growth.

"We're constantly getting calls about how much clearer the water is where we install these reefs," Wolff stated. " People can't believe the amount of fish activity near their docks."

More than 50 types of fish have been spotted in or around reef install sites, not to mention blue and stone crab.

More than 150 filer-feeders such as sea quirts and oysters grow on the reef, which in turn, attracts all kinds of species you might not normally see.

"It's sort of like a food chain," Wolff said.

He first established Mini Reef in Marco Island in 2014, where his idea flourished and made a positive impact.

Wolff has installed hundreds of habitats in 35 cities across Florida and in the Bahamas.

The unit lasts for 10-plus years, and changes can be seen over the first few months.

Mini Reef will reach peak-proficiency in three years time.

Cape Coral is tailor-made for these systems with its more than 400 miles of canals.

Wolff said he has already installed at least 20 units here.

"The impact it could have on the Cape is mind-blowing," he said. "If we had thousands of these units here, it could be one of the most biologically productive places in the world."

With the vast number of canals in Cape Coral, along with diminishing water quality from the Caloosahatchee, Mini Reef could provide a serious solution to cleaning up our water.

"People want to make a difference," added Wolff. "The interest for Cape residents is increasing. Neighbors see them-word spreads quickly. Kids and grandkids can sit on the dock and catch fish."

The problem with canals is the lack of tidal flushing, as well as surrounding land uses that can lead to poor water quality.

Because they are lined with waterfront homes, reestablishing a natural habitat is next to impossible.

Docks and seawalls don't produce the same habitat values and water quality benefits as salt marshes and mangroves.

These reefs produce an environment that can produce life and creates a culture of prosperity for aquatic creatures.

Wolff studied marine biology at The University of Southern Florida and initially worked on the concept in the late '90s.

Funding for the project dried-up, so he decided to pursue a career in real estate.

Years later, he sold off his businesses to pursue something he had a passion for.

Wolff took on the idea once more, went through trials and tribulations, but finally found the right formula.

"We knew we got it right after Irma," Wolff said. "All of our reefs we installed were perfectly intact-of course some of the marine life was gone, but they'll come back. The structural part of the reef was undamaged."

Mini Reef works in salt, fresh and brackish waters for fish.

Wolff said they are working on a freshwater specific unit.

Ocean Habitats also offers the Mini Reef Plus, which he says grows more than 600 fish per year, more than 2400 crabs per year and cleans more than 50,000 gallons of water per day.

Mini Reef is 24 inches wide, 36 inches long and 24 inches deep, with the Mini Reef Plus being 48 inches wide-all other dimensions are the same.

The $250 price tag ($450 for Mini Reef Plus) includes delivery and installation, with a portion of your payment being tax deductible.

Ocean Habitats, Inc is a federally recognized 5013 non-profit organization.

For additional information or to place an to order, visit www.oceanhabitatsinc.com.



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