One of the largest Artificial Reef projects in the Western Hemisphere is well underway. This massive project started with a vision, just three years ago, when longtime angler and local attorney, Peter Flood, joined forces with the Economic Task Force (ERTF) Chair, Diane Flagg, and members of the community to develop a ‘state of the art’ Artificial Reef Project to boost the local ecosystem and promote economic growth.
The first of thirty-six 500-ton reefs was constructed in the Gulf waters of Collier County in January 2015. By October 2015, all thirty-six 500-ton reefs had been deployed.
Utilizing a formula developed in a 2011 Florida Sea Grant study issued by the University of Florida, the ERTF business plan projected an annual level of economic return of $30 million upon the reefs reaching ‘maturity.’ The strategic plan considered the related business impact of the reefs. Boating, diving, incremental hotel accommodations – all would be positively impacted by the reef project and provide a significant boost to local tourism.
To ensure that the technical expertise was secured to support a project of this magnitude, the quintessential expert was contacted. ‘Dr. Reef’, that is. Dr. Heyward Matthews, the father of artificial reef development for more than 40 years, volunteered as a critical partner for the project. Dr. Matthews stressed the importance of creating habitat for marine life. Approximately 200 fish species, Atlantic Loggerhead, Green, and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles have been documented in the ten thousand islands; located between Marco Island and Everglades City. Much of the islands sea grass beds and mangrove bottoms serve as vital nursery areas to this marine life. As they migrate from the ten thousand islands, the artificial reefs will serve as a vital habitat.
The mission from the beginning was to build a world class artificial reef system without the use of taxpayer funds. The ERTF engaged the support of the City of Marco Island, the City of Naples, and Collier County – and these public agencies all successfully applied for a Gulf Seafood and Tourism Promotional Fund grant from British Petroleum (BP). Private donor funding, to couple with the monies secured from BP, was made possible through an agreement with the Community Foundation of Collier County.
Less than one week from the Artificial Reef deployment ceremonies on our gulf waters, Community Foundation of Collier County received a commitment of $100,000 from the Wasmer Family for the naming of the first of six legacy reefs; ‘Wasmer Reef’. “Following an introduction by Representative Kathleen Passidomo, Diane Flagg outlined an opportunity to significantly improve the ecology of our coastal waters and enhance our economy,” stated Martin Wasmer. “This project is a great fit for our long-term endowment history in Naples.”
In early March, Harold Foote donated $100,000. for the second legacy reef; the ‘Foote Family Reef’. Mr. Foote is a generous supporter of ecological projects with a favorable cost ratio.
Former Ambassador Francis Rooney secured the third legacy reef in July 2015, ‘Rooney Reef’, with his donation of $100,000.
In January 2016, Richard Talford donated the fourth legacy reef; ‘TOD SIROD Reef.’ ” The reef project will add value to our wonderful community and for me it’s a rewarding way of giving something back that will mean so much to many others,” stated Talford.
‘Jackson’s Fish Camp Memorial Reef’ became the fifth legacy reef donation in April 2016. One of the first fish camps in Naples history, Jackson’s Fish Camp, established in 1949, later became known as Jackson’s Gateway Harbor. It was located just east of Gordon Pass; where Windstar is currently located. The descendants of the owners of Jackson’s Fish Camp have donated the reef in memory of their mother and grandmother.
With their donations, the Wasmer Family, Harold Foote, Francis and Kathleen Rooney, Richard Talford, and the descendants of Jackson’s Fish Camp owners have the satisfaction of knowing their contributions will forever stand as a valuable legacy to our community. The reef names and locations will be placed on nautical charts worldwide…in perpetuity.
What do the movies Superman-Man of Steel, Titanic, James Bond 007 have in common with the Artificial Reef Project? The marine director of these films and professionals of Pure Image Productions have produced a documentary movie about the project; Paradise Reef.
Paradise Reef premiered on PBS on June 30, 2016 and is currently showing across the Nation. The film showcases the beauty of the Southwest Florida environment. The story, anchored by the Artificial Reef Project, follows the flow of water inland to the Gulf of Mexico. It shows the symbiotic relationship of the Everglades, the Ten Thousand Islands, and the Gulf. Extensive underwater footage by Andy Casagrande, world-renown cinematographer, shows the amazing growth and abundant marine life on the artificial reefs as well as interviews of Clyde Butcher, iconic Everglades photographer, Dr. Heyward Matthews, professor of oceanography and experts from NOAA, Rookery Bay, and many more.
The 56 minute documentary film, Paradise Reef, may be viewed online anytime at:
A short preview of the film can be seen at: https://vimeo.com/145743717
Mail a check payable to Community Foundation of Collier County, 1110 Pine Ridge Road, Suite 200, Naples, FL 34108. Enter Artificial Reef on the memo line.
Mail a Check: Community Foundation of Collier County, 1110 Pine Ridge Road, Suite 200, Naples, FL 34108. Make checks payable to Community Foundation of Collier County and enter “Artificial Reef Fund” in the memo line.
|Reef Name||Location||Date deployed||GPS coordinates|
|Wasmer Reef||10 nautical miles from Gordon Pass||1/9/2015||26.01.959N 81.58.527W|
|Foote Family Reef||17 nautical miles from Gordon Pass||2/15/2015||26:01.250N 82:06.548W|
|TOD SIROD Reef||13.5 nautical miles from Gordon Pass||3/13/2015||26:07.798N 82:02.310W|
|Jackson’s Fish Camp Memorial Reef||14 nautical miles from Gordon Pass||4/15/2015||26:03.709N 82:03.405W|
|Marco #1||16 nautical miles from Marco Pass||6/19/2015||25:41.740N 81:46.860W|
|Rooney Reef||26.6 nautical miles from Marco Pass||5/22/2015||25:54.230N 82:14.460W|