FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. -- Protecting southwest Florida waterways one artificial reef reef at a time is the goal of the city of Fort Myers Beach.
The city paid non-profit Ocean Habitats $10,000 to install artificial mini reefs throughout one canal in Estero bay in hopes of restoring the ecosystem.
50 artificial mini reefs were installed Thursday, but they aren't the only ones in the area. Two have been underneath Dolphin Inn’s dock since November 2018.
“The sea life has seemingly returned to this canal, because through the height of red tide there was very little life yet and now we are starting to see the tiny feeder fish and bigger fish,” said Sarah Beeler, Manager, Dolphin Inn.
Artificial mini reefs mimic a mangrove by providing a place for marine life to create an ecosystem.
“It helps those little guys get big enough, and have a decent chance of growing up to reproduce and it’s providing cleaner water for those animals to live in when they are growing up,” said David Wolff, President, Ocean Habitats.
Some marine life feed off harmful algae that turns into red tide and blue-green algae, “And they expel the water that doesn’t have any of that in there anymore, so they are removing some of the over abundance of what we got,” said Wolff.
The mini reefs are made out of polypropylene, a recyclable material that can live in sea water for up to 500 years.
“I am so excited about what they are doing with the artificial reefs to try and grow the environment and fish life back to what is was when we came down here years ago,” said Ted Catlin, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
There are a total of 1,100 artificial reefs in southwest Florida and 16,000 across the state.
Wolff says Mote Marine Laboratory is using ocean habitats equipment in its red tide research.