2023 Highlights and 2024 Initiatives 

License Plate – CCA in coordination with the Florida Legislature, passed a bill to create a Conserve Florida’s Fisheries License plate. $25 of the purchase price for the license plate will go back to CCA and will be used for habitat projects, water quality projects, and restocking efforts in Florida’s coastal waters in the coming years.

Water Quality – Florida’s water quality continues to be CCA Florida’s highest advocacy priority. CCA Florida’s Water Quality Subcommittee continues to work on and monitor several resource issues around the state.  These include the following: Florida’s sewage system infrastructure, the Everglades, the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay, the Indian River Lagoon, the Caloosahatchee River basin, Pine Island Sound, Tampa Bay, the St. John’s River basin, and Florida Bay. We are pleased to see money being allocated from the Wastewater Grant Program for wastewater treatment improvements, including septic to sewer projects and projects to upgrade to advanced waste treatments and we will continue to monitor and work with the State on projects to fix Florida’s water issues. CCA is encouraged by the completion of the C-44 and continued support for the Everglades. We believe that more attention needs to be given to the water quality in the Indian River Lagoon.

Dolphin Fish – Continue to work with the FWC and the South Atlantic Council to re-examine dolphin management measures and calling on NOAA Fisheries to expend the resources necessary for the Council to make informed decisions on ensuring the dolphin fishery is healthy and sustainable.

Red Tide Affect – Work with FWC/FWRI to obtain updates to examine the impact of the red tide on inshore and offshore fisheries.

Red Snapper – Continue working with FWC, South Atlantic Council, and the Gulf Council to get better data and create longer seasons. Work towards State Management on the Atlantic and turn discards into landings.

Right Whales- Continue to work with NOAA regarding the proposed slow speed zones off Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Hatchery Program – CCA will continue its partnership with Duke Energy in cooperation with FWC to help rebuild redfish and trout stocks off the Florida’s Coast through hatchery efforts. Through the partnership we are also planting mangroves, spartina grass, and oysters to be used in shoreline stabilization projects.


CCA Florida’s ongoing habitat restoration work highlighted below continues to positively impact water quality, water clarity, and marine species around Florida. Since 2010 and in collaboration with the Building Conservation Trust, CCA Florida has contributed over $1.5 million and leveraged those funds with our partners to over $10 million in habitat projects statewide.

CCA/UCF Oyster Ring Making Event – On Sunday, January 22, 2023, CCA Florida, Mud Hole Custom Tackle and 56 volunteers teamed up with UCF to create 370 oyster rings, which will be used for oyster reef restoration in the Mosquito and Indian River Lagoon. Oyster rings have been proven to be extremely effective in recruiting “baby” oysters to restore damaged reefs and provide a vital habitat that filters water too. In fact, after one year, the 370 rings will provide a home for approximately 29,600 oysters. At the end of the second year, those 370 rings will contain more than 59,000 oysters that will continue to grow, filter the water and provide outstanding habitat.

CCA Oyster Shell Recycling Program Expansion – On October 16, 2023, we made history as CCA Florida and friends celebrated the ribbon cutting ceremony of the first permanent CCA Florida recycled oyster shell storage site. Two 100-foot by 30-foot concrete pads were installed for storage of our recycled oyster shells. Special thanks to the Lake County government, Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks, the Clermont Oyster Bar, SteelWorx, ConcreteWorx, DZ, CCA Clermont Committee, and Lake County Solid Waste Management. DZ Block donated 65 yards of concrete to the project and Concrete Worx/Steel Worx donated all labor, site work and finishing work. This site will store and dry out oyster shell for future restoration projects around the state.

Hemp Key Mangrove Project – In November, CCA Florida and Duke Energy teamed up with volunteers from the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and Southwest Florida Reefs to plant mangroves and clean hurricane debris on Hemp Key in Pine Island Sound. 200 black mangroves and 50 white mangroves raised at the Duke Energy Mariculture Center were donated and planted to provide shoreline stabilization, marine habitat, and storm protection.

Bob Burton Memorial Reef – On July 10, 2023, the Bob Burton Memorial Reef was successfully deployed off the coast of Delray Beach with the family and CCA in attendance. Bob Burton was a CCA Life Member from Palm Beach, Florida and was one of the most active volunteers CCA has ever known. He served on a couple different fisheries management panels and would attend every CCA board meeting and pretty much every CCA statewide event. Everyone that knew Bob knew that if you fished with him, he would make you join CCA! The memorial reef was deployed approximately ½ mile off Delray Beach in 65 feet of water. Many thanks to the Palm Beach County Environmental Resource Management Department, McCulley Marine Services, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the many donors for making the project a success.

In 2022, CCA Florida supported the Palm Beach County FWC artificial reef grant for this project. The grant application was submitted on April 22, 2022 and was awarded in August 2022. The deployment plan included a large memorial structure of Bob built by a local marine artist, surrounded by several piles of large limestone boulders. The limestone boulders were deployed in early June 2023. In addition to the $60,000 FWC grant funds received, CCA Florida has raised an additional $40,545 for this project.

CCA/UCF Oyster Ring Making Event – On March 19, 2023, CCA Florida volunteers and UCF students created 187 oyster rings for Mosquito Lagoon habitat restoration. The rings are incredibly efficient at restoring oyster reefs by attracting oyster larvae called spat. They will be deployed on damaged and restored oyster reefs this summer. Since 2007, UCF’s oyster reef restoration program, under the leadership of Dr. Linda Walters, is responsible for more than 17 million new oysters in the Mosquito Lagoon. CCA Florida is very proud of our involvement with UCF to help improve water quality and marine habitat in such a vital ecosystem.

IRL Living Shoreline Restoration – On April 2, 2023, volunteers from CCA Florida, Marine Discovery Center teamed up with UCF to enhance over 500 linear feet of shoreline using concrete “volcanoes,” mangroves and spartina grass. The “volcanoes” are made with the same proven oyster-attracting method for creating oyster rings, but on a much larger and heavier scale. The “volcanoes” are used to absorb wave energy and reduce erosion while the mangroves and spartina help anchor the shoreline, together, providing excellent habitat for fish and wildlife. Life members Greg Harrison and Tom Emge even stayed late to help professor Dr. Linda Walters and her husband Paul deploy 100 oyster rings to enhance a restored oyster reef. And during the deployment, the volunteers spotted seagrass on several occasions, indicating a definite return.

CCA/UCF Mangrove Educator’s Workshop – In August, 2023, CCA Florida along with the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program provided boat support for the 15th annual UCF Mangrove Educator’s Workshop in Canaveral National Seashore. Volunteers included 30, K-12 teachers from six Central Florida counties, including Orange, Seminole, Volusia, Brevard, Polk and Lake, and nine support staff. CCA Florida donated the buckets used by the teachers to collect red mangrove propagules from Mosquito Lagoon that will be planted and grown out by their students. This spring, UCF will collect the mangroves from the schools, which will be used for shoreline restoration projects in future years. This educational and fun project for the children has added over 15,000 vital mangroves in the Mosquito Lagoon that filter water, stabilize shorelines and provide predator protection for juvenile fish.

CCA Florida & Duke Energy Donate $100,000 to the Indian River Lagoon Billion Clam Initiative – CCA Florida, Blair Wiggins Outdoors, the University of Florida Whitney Lab and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have been partnering on clam restoration in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) since 2018. Since that time, over 25 million clams have been restored in the IRL. At a recent clam fundraising event and BBQ on October 27, over 200 guests helped raise funds for the upcoming IRL Billion Clam Initiative that was officially announced at the event. This new initiative will utilize new methodologies and technology to significantly increase the amount of clams being deployed. A patented, modified agricultural drone owned and operated by Blue Ocean Quest will be used to deploy clams in exact locations and densities and at a much faster rate than spreading them by hand. In a second surprise announcement, Duke Energy and CCA Florida each donated $50,000 to this important initiative and presented a check onstage for $100,000. While the long-term goal is to deploy several billion clams, all of the funds raised at the event will be used for the first deployment of 100 million clams in two locations in the IRL as part of this new initiative. Many thanks to the CCA Music City Chapter for donating $10,000 in seed funding to help kick-start this project in 2018!

CCA Turtle Bay Oyster Reef – 3rd Deployment – On May 25, 2023, CCA Florida completed its third deployment of the Turtle Bay Oyster Reef project by installing an additional 22.5 tons of recycled oyster shell at the site. Since 2021, a total of six dump truck loads of CCA-recycled oyster shells have been deployed on the reef. Special thanks to Clermont Oyster Bar, Ingman Marine, Abbott Construction, Lee Reefs, Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association (GICIA), Capt. Jay Withers, Oyster Boys Conservation and Lake County for their continued support on this project. The oyster reef continues to boost water quality, enhance marine fisheries and improve recreational angling in Charlotte Harbor. A 4th deployment is scheduled for the spring 2024.

CCA/Duke/UF Living Shoreline Master Plan for Cedar Key Old Fenimore Mill – CCA Florida and Duke Energy collaborated with the University of Florida (UF) on a new living shoreline project in Cedar Key. Due to severe shoreline erosion near Old Fenimore Mill, a living shoreline stabilization project was proposed by UF. CCA Florida and Duke donated 250 reef balls, 100 mangroves and 900 large tufts of Spartina grass (Spartina patens) to the project valued at over $20,000. To date, the Spartina grass, mangroves and a few reef balls have been placed in a couple of different temporary locations but these have all been up the beach to try and capture sand, not in the final reef locations. Permits to place the actual reefs are still in progress and UF is awaiting the 60% design and the permitting process.

CCA/Northeast Florida Realtors Clam Project – On October 25, 2023, CCA Florida and 15 volunteers from the Florida Realtors deployed over 90,000 clams in the northern end of Mosquito Lagoon. The Florida Realtors brought volunteers from Jacksonville and Orlando, including their president. As always, thanks to Dr. Todd Osborne and the University of Florida Whitney Lab, Blair Wiggins Outdoors, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for our ongoing partnership on this project. The Florida Realtors and CCA Florida each contributed $5,000 to the project.

IRL Coastal Community Cleanup TournamentOn September 9th, 2023, CCA Florida supported Ocean Aid 360’s Coastal Community Cleanup Tournament in the Indian River Lagoon. Boaters and anglers, jet skiers, paddlers and shoreline walkers searched local waters for trash and were awarded big prizes for their findings! STAR Director Leiza Fitzgerald and Assistant Director Andrea Gillespie gathered more than 240 pounds of garbage, and in total, more than 5,000 pounds of marine debris and plastics was collected by tournament participants. CCA Florida supplied over $1,000 in prizes for the event.

Cedar Key Coastal Cleanup – CCA Florida partnered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, SeaGrant Florida, University of Florida, OceanAid 360, and the Cedar Key Aquaculture Association for a much-needed coastal cleanup in Cedar Key. The event took place on June 10, 2023 at the Cedar Key Marina. Volunteers brought trash and marine debris to an offshore barge and to an onshore dumpster near the marina for disposal.

CCA/Indian River Land Trust Impoundment Solar Aeration Project – CCA Florida partnered with the Indian River Land Trust (IRLT) on efforts to improve Indian River Lagoon health and the health of iconic fish populations. To that end, we have been working towards modifications of management techniques in mosquito impoundments, which serve as important nursery habitat for juveniles of popular fish species such as tarpon and snook. During warmer months when the impoundments are isolated from the IRL and become stagnant, dropping oxygen levels and rising sulfide levels can become dangerous for fish and other aquatic organisms such as seagrasses. CCA Florida and the IRLT undertook a pilot project that uses a solar-powered aerator in a Land Trust-owned impoundment to reduce stress on and prevent loss of fish and seagrasses. CCA Florida contributed $4,000 and the IRLT matched that to get the project fully funded. The solar aeration system was installed on June 14, 2023 by CCA and IRLT volunteers. If this system proves its effectiveness within the impoundment, this technique can be used in other IRLT-owned mosquito impoundments throughout the Lagoon in Indian River County to improve the health of important nursery habitats for fish and seagrasses.

Southwest Florida Regional Artificial Reef Workshop – On March 8, 2023, CCA Florida was proud to present on new artificial reef initiatives at the Florida Sea Grant and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Southwest Florida Regional Artificial Reef Workshop in Palmetto, Florida. These workshops aim to bring together artificial reef coordinators, managers, researchers, industry experts and other interested stakeholders to discuss new research, provide regional updates for Florida’s Southwest region, and inform statewide initiatives. This one-day workshop was held at the Manatee County Extension Office in Bradenton.

Key West Marine Debris Rodeo TournamentOn September 13-15, 2023, CCA Florida supported Ocean Aid 360’s Coastal Community Cleanup Tournament at the Key Haven Public Boat Ramp in Key West. Boaters and anglers, jet skiers, paddlers and shoreline walkers searched local waters for trash and were awarded big prizes for their findings. More than 10,000 pounds of marine debris and plastics were collected by tournament participants. CCA Florida supplied over $1,000 in prizes for the event.

St. Joe Bay Sea Urchin Roundups – On May 6, 2023, CCA Florida partnered with FDEP’s Central Panhandle Aquatic Preserves, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the St. Andrews and St. Joseph Bay Estuary Programs on a Sea Urchin Round Up on St. Joseph Bay. An overabundance of sea urchins (Lytechinus variegatus) continues to destroy turtle grass beds through overgrazing. The Roundups involved volunteers assisting State-agency scientists collect and relocate sea urchins from active grazing fronts. The animals are collected and released in deeper areas of the bay at a distance from grazed areas. The weather was perfect and volunteers collected over 10,000 urchins. On September 9th, the FDEP and FWC hosted its sixth sea urchin roundup event in St. Joseph Bay. During the event, 25 volunteers collected roughly 1,500 sea urchins. CCA Florida was proud to also support this event.

CCA/UNF Living Shoreline Oyster Reef Project – CCA Florida partnered with the University of North Florida (UNF) Coastal and Marine Biology program and the Northeast Florida Association of REALTORS (NEFAR) to develop an experimental “Living Shoreline – Oyster Reef” project in northeast Florida. This project is intended to rebuild historical populations of Eastern oysters by providing suitable habitat for oyster spat to settle and grow. The project began in May 2023 by constructing 18-24 cement-based substrates known as pervious oyster shell habitat (POSH) units. POSH units are similar to reef balls and castles, structures that are constructed from concrete and occasionally include small amounts of embedded oyster. These structures have been shown to be more effective in the development of living shorelines than typical alternatives, such as the use of recycled crab traps containing loose oyster shell, because they provide a greater amount of surface area for oysters to colonize.

The POSH units will be deployed later this year in sites where historic oyster beds once occurred within the University’s 1,050-acre property in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the William C. Webb Coastal Research Station. Following POSH deployment, UNF will conduct monthly monitoring to determine the rate of settlement of new oyster spat on the units. They will also conduct monthly assessments of sediment dynamics in front of and behind the structure to examine their effect on erosion as well as examining monthly changes in water quality and invertebrate/fish abundance. CCA Florida donated $10,000 and NEFAR donated $17,568 to this project for supplies/labor for the construction of the POSH units and monthly monitoring (boat use fees, fuel, supplies).

CCA/UCF Ongoing Restoration Partnership in Mosquito Lagoon – CCA Florida is continuing its ongoing partnership with Dr. Linda Walters and the University of Central Florida (UCF) restoring oyster reefs and living shorelines in Mosquito Lagoon and the surrounding area. CCA Life Member and Habitat Committee Chairman Greg Harrison has been assisting UCF students and volunteers on almost a weekly basis. CCA Florida also recently donated a Power-Pole to the UCF Coastal and Estuarine Ecology Lab for use on one of their boats that is used for this restoration work, along with donations towards materials and supplies. CCA regularly provides volunteers, funding and boat support for the UCF restoration events throughout the year, total over 15 projects this year alone.

Veterans Unite for Conservation Oyster Ring Event – CCA Florida was proud to support the inaugural Veterans Unite for Conservation: Operation Mission Coastal Renewal habitat restoration workshop at University of Central Florida (UCF) this summer that honored our veterans. Veterans, UCF students, volunteers from the Central Florida Offshore Anglers Fishing Club, and CCA mustered to create 160 oyster rings that will be used for oyster reef restoration.

CCA/University of North Florida Restoration Project – CCA Florida teamed with Dr. Kelly Smith, Associate Professor of the UNF Biology Department, on a joint CCA/UNF coastal oyster restoration and marsh restoration project.  The project locations included Shell Bluff in St. Johns County, and Kingsley Plantation in Duval County. CCA Florida contributed $4,633, which included lift nets and fish monitoring supplies for this coastal wetland restoration project. In addition to the funding, CCA members worked with UNF on the construction of modules for the project. The oyster shells were graded and collected at GTMNERR Middle Beach. The initial cement coating and POSH construction took place at UNF on July 6th and 7th.

Brevard County Reefs – CCA Florida has an ongoing partnership with Brevard County to support their artificial reef program. CCA donated $3,000 toward their 2023 summer reef deployments and 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. CCA Florida is also currently working with Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department on a new nearshore artificial reef 2.5 miles off the coast. They recently had the site surveyed and will begin permitting soon. More details will follow.

Seagrass Restoration SW Fork of the Loxahatchee River – CCA Florida teamed with the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Sea & Shoreline on a newly permitted pilot seagrass restoration project. The purpose of this project is to permanently restore 1.61 acres of native seagrass, consisting of Halodule wrightii and Ruppia maritima. The project is located in the Jonathan Dickinson State Park (Hobe Sound, FL) in the Northwest Fork of the Loxahatchee River, a tributary to the IRL. CCA Florida contributed $29,360 to this $100,000 restoration project.

Wildlife Florida/CCA IRL Eelgrass Restoration – CCA Florida partnered on a new eelgrass restoration project along the St. Lucie River with Wildlife Florida (STAR Sponsor) and FWC. A formal vote from the Habitat Committee voted in favor of funding $10,000 towards this project. On May 23, 2023, volunteers and staff from CCA planted the eelgrass in an oxbow off the St. Lucie River, as this area has slower moving water and has a lot of nice shallow areas for plants. FWC estimated that 0.35 acres was planted within the oxbow including 100 fence exclosures and 500 4” eelgrass pots. The eelgrass fence exclosures will stay in place for 3-6 months to prevent foraging and allow it to establish.

Sarasota Bay Watch Clam Restoration – This past summer, CCA Florida donated another $10,000 to Sarasota Bay Watch (SBW) to sponsor the restoration of 100,000 clams back into Sarasota Bay.  This is the third year that CCA Florida has contributed to this program. SBW is working to restore clams and scallops to the bay with these important filter-feeders that play a critical role in mitigating poor water quality.  They actually eat red tide and other algae, sequester carbon, filter up to 10 gallons of water per day, and provide food for other marine life. In total, each of the 300,000 clams are over 2-inches in size and according to Dr. Bruce Barber, Executive Director of the Gulf Shellfish Institute, a single 2-inch clam filters out 50,000,000 red tide organisms per day.  That equates to 1 trillion organisms per day for the 300,000 clams. CCA Florida will continue working with SBW on clam and scallop restoration into 2024, and we will be the Title Sponsor of the 2024 Scallopalooza event in February.

CCA Delnor-Wiggins Mangrove Planting – On December 12, 2023, CCA Florida staff and volunteers joined together and planted mangroves at the Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples. Volunteers from Duke Energy Florida, CCA Florida, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Division of Recreation and Parks, Sunshine Ace Hardware and Lee County Electric Cooperative teamed up to plant 500 red and black mangroves across a 4,400-square-foot portion of the park, an area struck by catastrophic storm surge from Hurricane Ian. The mangroves were grown and donated by the Duke Energy Mariculture Center and CCA Florida. Additionally, Sunshine Ace Hardware donated the shovels to aid in the restoration project.

CCA Brevard Zoo Power-Pole Donation – On September 28, 2023, CCA Florida met partners the Brevard Zoo and Restore Our Shores at the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute to donate a brand-new Power-Pole Pro Series II for their conservation boat and restoration efforts in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL). While onsite, we had the opportunity to observe their new seagrass nursery, part of the new IRL National Estuary Program Seagrass Nursery Network to build restoration capacity for IRL seagrasses.

Vertical Oyster Garden at Marker 24 – On January 9, 2024, CCA Florida staff and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits volunteers participated in a Vertical Oyster Garden (VOG) making event in Orlando. Together, the participants created 70 VOGs in preparation for deployment at Marker 24 Marina in Merritt Island. And on January 17, 2024, CCA Florida and ABC joined Marker 24, Capt. Alex Hughey, Capt. Bouncer Smith, and Derek and Cory Redwine to deploy the VOG’s in the Banana River along the Marker 24 dock. VOGs are oyster shells strung together that are intended to hang below docks. VOGs support marine habitat by attracting oyster larvae, fish and other marine life along with improving water quality.

Deep Stim III Vessel Deployment – The R/V DEEP STIM III, a 239-foot former seismic research vessel, was successfully deployed on the ocean floor on January 30, 2024 off the coast of Destin-Fort Walton Beach. CCA Florida and the Building Conservation Trust were proud to contribute $65,000 towards this Tri-County partnership project between the Tourist Development Councils in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach, and Walton County, as well as other dedicated partners including the Emerald Coast Reef Association and South Walton Artificial Reef Association. The total project cost for the acquisition, cleaning, and towing was $750,000 split by the counties and CCA. The DEEP STIM III (30° 03.035’N, 86° 17.758’W) will now be accessible to recreational anglers and divers and is resting at a depth of approximately 135-feet at the bottom and approximately 65-feet at the top of the wheelhouse.

St. James City Vertical Oyster Gardening Project – On January 24, 2024, CCA Florida staff and the Lake Highland Preparatory School lacrosse team made 100 Vertical Oyster Garden (VOG) ropes at the CCA headquarters in Orlando. The VOG’s were made from recycled oyster shell from our oyster recycling program in Lake County. On January 30, 2024, the VOG’s were delivered to St. James City in Southwest Florida and will be hung from private docks in the area. CCA Florida is also looking into having a state university incorporate a scientific research study into the project.