Habitat Restoration

2020 Habitat Update

As an organization, we continue 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 our many partners, we are making a positive impact on habitat restoration and water quality.  We remain focused on ensuring that all donated habitat funds are spent wisely on projects where the impact of poor water quality is at a minimum, and where expected positive outcomes are the highest.  Read below, and find a summary of habitat-related projects recently completed and/or ongoing.

Addictive Fishing/CCA FL/UF/FWC Clam Restoration Project – The IRL Clam Restoration Project began in 2017 after Capt. Blair Wiggins contacted CCA Florida to discuss his concerns for the demise of clams in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL).  A few months later, CCA Florida was invited to team up with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the University of Florida Whitney Laboratory (UF) on a grant submittal for the project, the first of its kind in the IRL. The primary goal is to initiate clam restoration by repatriating hardy varieties of native clam species and assessing their survivorship under various environmental conditions. Although the grant was not awarded, The CCA Music City Chapter stepped up and donated $10,000 to the project along with donations by Addictive Fishing sponsors.

CCA and Addictive Fishing also organized a fundraising event at the Cocoa Civic Center in Brevard County on October 5, 2019, and was it a huge success. 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.  Over $30,000 was raised in one evening for the clam restoration project.

CCA, UF and FWC applied for the grant again the following year and in May 2019, the grant was awarded in the amount of $103,322, and included a $105,591 match ($32,140 match by CCA).  And on June 26, 2020, CCA Florida, Capt. Blair Wiggins and Addictive Fishing, FWC and UF joined together for a historic clam planting in the IRL. The event marked a crucial milestone for the IRL Clam Restoration Project as nearly 60,000 additional clams were deployed, totaling almost 2 million clams for the area. Special thanks to the CCA staff and volunteers who helped make the event possible. Please visit irlclamproject.com for more information.

Sean Gucken Memorial Reef – On June 29, 2020, CCA Florida joined the Building Conservation Trust and Yamaha Rightwaters™ to successfully deploy nearly 200 tons of high-quality concrete about 5 nautical miles off Anna Maria Island to create the Sean Gucken Memorial Reef.  Since 2017, CCA Florida has spearheaded the Sean Gucken Memorial Reef project, in an effort to honor its late member who unexpectedly passed away that same year. Gucken, from St. Petersburg, a revered angler, free diver and spear-fisherman, was also a devout advocate for protecting Florida’s waters and marine resources. The deployment is a tribute to his passion and the Gucken Reef will continue his legacy by helping create new fisheries and habitats.

The concrete was deployed on the Manatee County “Bridge Reef,” a pre-permitted artificial reef site roughly .25-mile long by .25-mile wide. The concrete reefing materials were donated by Port Manatee and Westra Construction and CCA Florida, BCT and Yamaha secured all the funding for the project. The Bridge Reef is located west of Anna Maria Island, 27º°30 55.44 / 82º 49 1.56 central point.  A separate tetrahedron memorial module for Gucken will be deployed on the Bridge Reef in a private ceremony later this year.  The module is 10’ at the base by 8’ tall and has a bronze plaque engraved with the following: “Sean O. Gucken, May 30, 1962 – September 3, 2017, CCA member and protector of the health, habitat and sustainability of Florida’s marine resources.  Avid sportsman and steward of marine resource conservation programs. Strong advocate for anglers and divers responsible access to Florida waters.”

Broward County Oyster Restoration Study – The CCA Broward Chapter under the direction of Mike Lambrechts, and CCA Florida are pioneering a science-backed approach for its pilot Oyster Restoration Program. This study is designed to provide important insight about the condition of waterways in the Fort Lauderdale area of Broward County for possible future oyster restoration.  This study is not designed to, nor will, fix the current water quality issues, but will gather important data including salinity, temperature and oyster species to identify areas that may sustain healthy oyster growth. Dr. Ian Zink with the University of Miami is assisting with the research component of the project as well as oyster species identification.  The information collected will be a vital resource going forward, as no such data currently exists. The vision is to ultimately locate suitable areas to seed oyster growth and kick- start reproduction again, ultimately, adding natural filtration to help restore water quality.

In the spring of 2020, volunteers placed 100 Oyster Catcher™ patties and rope on almost 100 docks in the Ft. Lauderdale area. Mike was instrumental in getting the owners of these privately owned docks to not only let CCA hang the patty, but also take photos of their patties once a month and email to CCA.  The 100 Oyster Catcher™ patties were donated by Dr. Neils Lindquist with the Sandbar Oyster Company in North Carolina.  The patties were strategically placed to span the intertidal zone that a local oyster would naturally experience. Water temperature, salinity measurements along with tidal stage and tidal flow observations are recorded monthly.  This study is ongoing and will continue until at least the end of 2020.

Fantasy Island Secretary of the Interior Visit – On June 19, 2020, CCA Florida joined U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt for a special event commemorating the success of the Fantasy Island habitat restoration project in Tampa Bay.  Secretary Bernhardt joined JD Dickenson, Brian Gorski and Frank Gidus from CCA, Peter Clark from Tampa Bay Watch, and FWC to tour the island to learn more about this highly successful project.  After the tour of the island, Secretary Bernhardt held a press conference with CCA standing behind him at the Williams Park Boat Ramp. He announced $32.8 million in grants with an additional non-federal match of $21.9 million for states and communities to support outdoor recreation and help boaters keep our waters clean. The funding comes from the Clean Vessels Act program and the Boating Infrastructure Grant program, both of which provide much-needed funding to communities to build and maintain facilities that help boaters keep our rivers and streams clean.  The funding is also earmarked for construction, renovation and maintenance of marinas and other boating facilities for outdoor recreation.

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 – Following last years’ successful grant partnership between CCA Florida, UCF and the Marine Discovery Center ($88,585, along with an in-kind match of $88,106), CCA volunteers continue to assist with the restoration work in 2020.  The grant funding is being used to continue UCF’s highly successful oyster reef restoration and living shoreline stabilization in Mosquito Lagoon.  CCA continues to provide volunteers and boat support for their program, with several events already completed in 2020.

John Michael Baker Memorial Reef – On April 29-30, 2020, CCA Florida and the Broward Chapter deployed 25 concrete structures weighing 200,000 pounds over 2 days on the John Michael Baker Memorial Reef.  This is the third deployment of many, in memorial of John Michael Baker, a CCA member, avid diver and angler who passed away in a tragic boating accident in 2015.  The projects were led by members of the CCA Broward Chapter for a permitted area just offshore of Fort Lauderdale between Oakland Park Blvd. and Birch State Park in 70 feet of water.

Phoenix Reef – CCA Florida is working with Lee County, Ingman Marine and the Charlotte Chapter to plan the second deployment on the Phoenix Reef.  The first deployment was successfully completed on November 30, 2018 in approximately 50-feet of water (26° 45.582’, -82° 28.443’).  Ingman Marine has generously stepped up again and donated $10,000 towards the second deployment with a goal of adding to the reef annually to make it one of the largest reefs in southwest Florida.  Lee County plans on deploying approximately 1,000 tons of clean concrete on the Phoenix Reef this year with CCA.

CCA Reef – MBARA – The CCA Reef was deployed on Friday, July 17th in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Mexico Beach.  In partnership with the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA), the reef was deployed in 80 feet of water at the pre-permitted artificial reef site known as Sherman Site.  The CCA Reef is located approximately 10.5 miles west-southwest of the Mexico Beach Canal at 29° 54.750, -85° 37.633.  Six Florida Limestone artificial reef modules (8′ high x 10’ triangular base, 5,000 lbs each) and one Grouper Reef, steel reinforced concrete/limestone (5′ high x 9′ long x 6′ wide, 7,000 lbs) were deployed.  Based on other nearby MBARA reefs, the CCA Reef is expected to provide new habitat for red snapper, gray snapper, gag grouper, amberjack, and various other marine species.


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.

Indian River Lagoon Spotted Seatrout Acoustic Study – 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 record underwater sounds at pre-determined channel marker transects during the spawning season 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 article in TIDE Magazine.  Year 3 of the seatrout acoustic study has been delayed because of COVID-19 but will resume at the appropriate time.

CCA Curtis Bostick Reef
CCA Florida is extremely excited to share details regarding the deployment of the Voici Bernadette, creating the newest artificial reef in St. Lucie County. The CCA Curtis Bostick Reef, consisting of the 180-foot steel vessel seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was deployed on Saturday, June 23, 12 nautical miles southeast of the Ft. Pierce Inlet at approximately 27°23.485’N, 80° 02.124’W. Hundreds joined the offshore deployment.

Bostick was a devoted angler and conservationist. In addition to his many years of direct involvement in the federal fisheries management process, he was founding member of CCA Florida and took key leadership roles in both the state and national organizations. He was a founding member of the board of the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and most recently served as treasurer of the Center for Sportfishing Policy.

The steel ship will serve as the primary reef structure, with high profile sides that will mimic the pinnacles of the Oculina Banks deepwater coral reefs unique to the Treasure and Space Coasts. In addition, the ship will contain over 200 tons of concrete, donated by Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), which will help to stabilize the vessel in an upright position in approximately 100-feet of water.

“We understand the many benefits of artificial reefs, to our fisheries, our economies and our members,” said Brian Gorski, CCA Florida Executive Director. “With our partners, we’ve deployed three artificial reefs similar to this structure in the state since last year and we’re looking forward to more.”

The total project cost of over $100,000 is being supported by partnerships, including CCA Florida, CCA’s Building Conservation Trust – the national habitat program of CCA, 5Fin Clothing, the CCA Music City chapter, St. Lucie County and MMPS Environmental, Inc.


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.

Updated 7/22/2020


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