Habitat Restoration

2020 Habitat Update

As an organization, CCA Florida continues to be extremely busy into 2020, leading a record number of habitat restoration and artificial reef projects around the state. Together with the Building Conservation Trust (BCT), CCA National’s habitat program and CCA Florida’s many partners, we are making a positive impact on habitat restoration and water quality. CCA Florida remains focused on ensuring all donated habitat funds are spent wisely on projects, where expected positive outcomes are the highest and the impact of poor water quality is at the lowest. Below, please review a summary of recently completed and/or ongoing habitat-related projects.

Addictive Fishing/CCA FL/UF/FWC Clam Restoration Project

CCA Florida teamed up with Capt. Blair Wiggins from Addictive Fishing, FWC and the University of Florida (UF) to restore clams in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL).  This is the first and only project of this type in the IRL.  The primary goal of this restoration project is to immediately initiate clam restoration in the IRL by repatriating hardy varieties of native clam species and assessing their survivorship under various environmental conditions.  The CCA Music City Chapter donated $10,000 to the project.  CCA also teamed up with UF and FWC and applied for grant funding for this project through the IRL National Estuary Program (NEP).  In May 2019, the grant was awarded in the amount of $103,322, and included a $105,591 match.

CCA and Addictive Fishing also organized a fundraising event at the Cocoa Civic Center in Brevard County on October 5, 2019. In typical Mogan Man style, Capt. Wiggins invited fishing guides and celebrities like Roland Martin, Shaw Grigsby, CA Richardson, Carter Andrews, Jim Ross, George Clark Jr., Bobby Lane, Josh Jorgensen, Lionel James, Mark Nichols, Dave Ferrell, and Matt Kechele, to name a few.  The event began in the morning with a kids fishing derby with the help of the guides and celebrities.  In the evening, the fundraiser included a banquet complete with a celebrity dinner followed by a raffle, a silent auction, and a live auction.  $28,552 was raised in one evening for the clam restoration project.

In March 2020, CCA, FWC and UF teamed up again and was awarded another IRLNEP grant in the amount of $122,020.  Including a $156,404 match, the total project award is $278,424.  To date, over $500,000 has been raised to fund this important habitat and water quality restoration project!  As if that weren’t enough, the Marine Resource Council (MRC) voted the clam project as Project of the Year at the 19th Annual MRC Conservation Achievement Awards Dinner.  The IRL clam team is currently planning the deployment of the first generation of over 4,000,000 clams back into the IRL this year. Please visit irlclamproject.com for more information.

Tomoka State Park Shoreline Stabilization

The objective of this project is to implement living shoreline techniques using planted mangroves, smooth cordgrass and oyster shell as recruitment substrate to restore an eroded area along the shoreline of Tomoka State Park.  Following last year’s donation of $6,625 to UCF to fund this new project, CCA Florida was once again busy volunteering time and boat support on this project in 2019. During various restoration events from February through June, CCA volunteers continued to help transport and deploy oyster bags and plants along this important shoreline in Ormond Beach.

Hernando County Ghost Ship Reef

In April 2019, the Hernando County Port Authority and Aquatic Services Division deployed a decommissioned concrete sailboat referred to as the ‘Ghost Ship’ within Bendickson Reef, located 20 nautical miles west of Hernando Beach.  The second phase of this project, funded entirely by CCA Florida, included deploying 30 concrete reef balls around and inside the vessel to stabilize the wreck site.  A total of 16,500 pounds of reef balls were deployed and almost 400 miles of travel were logged on the Gulf of Mexico as of May to complete this project.

Ghost Trap Rodeo (NOAA Marine Debris Grant Award)

CCA Florida and OceanAid360 completed six Ghost Trap Rodeo events throughout Tampa Bay in 2018-2019.  With the help of hundreds of participants, hundreds of abandoned ghost crab traps were removed from Tampa Bay along with over 18,796 pounds of other marine debris.  The abandoned crab traps are being recycled and donated to FWC, UNF, St. Mary’s Riverkeeper and the FDEP Aquatic Preserves to use for creating new oyster reefs in the Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach area.

City of Fernandina Living Shoreline Oyster Restoration Project

CCA Florida donated $5,000 towards this new project that began in the spring of 2019.  The project consists of deploying 1,500 linear feet of living oyster shoreline along the historic old town Fernandina waterfront.  Recycled crab traps donated from the Ghost Trap Rodeo in Tampa Bay and oyster shells will be used to provide substrate for living oyster reefs to propagate.  Through partnerships with local high schools and community groups, citizen scientists and community volunteers are being trained by local oystermen to construct and deploy the reefs and monitor the shoreline once installation is complete.

Nature Coast Biological Station (NCBS) Lone Cabbage Oyster Reef Fish Monitoring

CCA Florida donated $5,000 toward this fish monitoring project near Cedar Key.  The Lone Cabbage Reef, located in Suwannee Sound off Florida’s Big Bend coast, has been restored through a large-scale restoration project funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Project construction occurred July through October 2018 and restored nearly 3 linear miles of oyster reef using limestone and shell. Enhanced abundances of juvenile fish species have been recorded for restored oyster reefs, and these areas can provide prey items and refuge for juvenile fish and invertebrates. FWRI’s Independent Monitoring (FIM) program has collected long-term stratified random sampling data in the Cedar Key and Suwannee Sound areas for over 20 years.

In October 2017, NCBS began directed sampling along the reef tract to increase spatial coverage of the projected restoration site, as a collaboration with the University of Florida. Six sites along the reef have been sampled every month, using a 70’ center bag seine net. This gear-type is designed to target juvenile and small adult fish and invertebrates in shallow tidal flats with water depths less than 1.5m. Using the historic FIM data and the directed sampling data, they will assess the community structure and relative abundance of fish and invertebrates found along the reef before and after the restoration project. The restored reef may also enhance freshwater retention that could result in salinity changes that may also affect the nekton assemblages in the area. Overall, this study will provide insight into the short-term effects of oyster restoration on the nekton assemblages along Lone Cabbage Reef.

Brevard County Reefs

CCA Florida has an ongoing partnership with Brevard County to support their artificial reef program.  This year, CCA donated $2,000 to contribute toward their upcoming summer deployments.  As in years past, CCA also wrote a grant support letter on behalf of Brevard County for an FWC artificial reef grant in which they were awarded funding.  CCA Life Member Greg Harrison has been working on the Brevard artificial reef program for many years and has observed excellent invertebrate species growth on them as well as black sea bass, juvenile red snapper, crabs and large schools of baitfish.

Living Shoreline and Oyster Reef Restoration in Mosquito Lagoon

CCA Florida once again partnered with the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Marine Discovery Center on a grant titled: Living Shoreline and Oyster Reef Restoration in Mosquito Lagoon: Continuation of Successful Models and Successful Partnerships.  The grant was awarded in May 2019 in the amount of $88,585, along with an in-kind match of $88,106.  The funds are being used in 2019 to continue their highly successful oyster reef restoration and living shoreline stabilization in Mosquito Lagoon.  CCA also continues to provide volunteers and boat support for their program, with several events already completed in 2019.

John Michael Baker Memorial Reef – Two new artificial reef deployments were conducted during the 2018 summer off the coast of Broward County in memorial of John Michael Baker, a member, avid diver and angler who passed away in a tragic boating accident in 2015.  The projects were led by members of the Broward CCA Chapter, who secured a five-year permit from Broward County for an area just offshore of Fort Lauderdale between Oakland Park Blvd. and Birch State Park. The Broward Chapter has been working on another deployment on the shallow dive reef for early Spring, 2020.  The plan is to deploy 30 donated concrete structures for a total of 200,000 lbs. to the shallow dive reef in 70 feet of water.  The Broward CCA Chapter has a goal to conduct one deployment per year on the John Michael Baker Memorial Reef.

Indian River Lagoon Spotted Seatrout Acoustic Study – Year 3 of the seatrout acoustic study is set to kick off in 2020.  In 2018, CCA Florida donated $25,000 and a $57,000 in-kind match to the three-year study.  The studies broad objective is to determine spotted seatrout population spawning status and vulnerability to human and natural disturbance in the IRL.  Acoustic transects are conducted by CCA volunteer anglers using underwater microphones (hydrophones) as trout choral displays only occur when they are spawning.  Anglers recorded underwater sounds at pre-determined channel marker transects over a six-month period in Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin Counties. Capt. Dave Lear joined CCA Florida on the water on May 20, 2019 to conduct a series of acoustic transects for an upcoming article in TIDE Magazine.

CCA Oyster Recycling Program – CCA Florida is working hard to restore oyster reefs across Florida through its oyster recycling program.  It is estimated that 85% of oyster reefs worldwide have been lost due to over-harvesting and degraded water quality.  Through our oyster recycling program, oyster shells are collected from restaurants and stored and dried for at least six months at the Lake County Landfill, placed in oyster bags, and returned to the water to create new oyster reefs and/or provide stability for living shoreline projects.  Together with volunteers, CCA Florida already collected over 70 tons of oyster shells and returned 25 tons of these shells back to the water to create new oyster reefs.

Lemon Bay High School (LBHS) Prop Scar Restoration Project – The LBHS Marine Conservation Club is working on a sea grass restoration project near Catfish Creek in Charlotte County. The purpose of this project is to protect and restore portions of a local seagrass bed that have been damaged by vessel groundings utilizing science-based technologies; to study different methodologies for doing so; and to continue to monitor the site for educational and informational purposes.  This project is specifically designed for hands-on student experience, education, and for determining the efficacy of actively restoring areas affected by prop scars in Charlotte Harbor on the part of the Marine Conservation Club and supervised by the school’s science teachers.  They have applied for an FDEP permit to do prop scar restoration and it is close to approval. They will be purchasing the sedimentation tubes and shoal grass from Sea and Shoreline this year.  Their high school marine lab includes over 80 aquariums including a large touch tank and 2 aquariums over 3,000 gallons each.  CCA Florida donated $2,500 to assist with this project and will look to assist with finding equipment in the future as they expand to grow seagrasses.  LBHS has agreed to match CCA’s donation of $2,500.

Alongside our advocacy efforts, habitat restoration initiatives play a role in our state’s water quality and the health of our fisheries. We are proud to lead this work, and when coupled with other efforts, we know these projects will help lead to recovery.   If you have an idea for a habitat project in your area or would like more information on any of our completed projects, please contact Frank Gidus at fgidus@ccaflorida.org.

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