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Sarasota Sportsmens Association Donates $5,000 to SBEP for Artificial Reefs

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The Sarasota Sportsmens Association (SSA) donated $5,000 recently to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP). The donation will support the artificial reef program in Sarasota Bay supported by SBEP, Sarasota County, Manatee County, and other partners. SSA has donated $50,000 to support the program since 2003.

SSA has served local members for 19 years. The nonprofit supports outdoor events and activities while providing education opportunities focused on fishing, youth education, good sportsmanship, conservation, and public safety.

The SBEP and its partners established the local Artificial Reef Program in 1996 to replenish hard bottom habitat that was lost from dredge and fill operations in prior decades. More than 5,000 artificial reef modules and other materials like concrete culverts have been deployed in Sarasota Bay to attract fish species. Reef Innovations manufacturers the prefabricated reef modules, also known as reef balls. Once deployed, the reef modules provide a substrate for soft corals, filtering bivalves, and crustaceans, which in turn support a variety of game and non-game finfish as well as shellfish.

One of the reef balls off the Venice Inlet has a special plaque acknowledging SSA as a major contributor to the region’s Artificial Reef Program.

In 2006, Mote Marine Laboratory began a two-year project to monitor five reef sites on behalf of the SBEP. The findings resulted in the development and deployment of modules of various sizes to enhance the habitat choices for native fish species in their earlier stages of development. They include gray snapper, gag grouper, sheepshead, and stone crab. The effort has increased the biodiversity of Sarasota Bay.

A study by the University of Florida reports artificial reef deployments throughout the state has had a significant impact on the economy by enhancing fishing, boating, scuba diving, and other recreational activities. The study also noted strong public support for the use of public funds toward the development and maintenance of artificial reefs in Florida waters. Approximately, 2,700 artificial reef modules are located off 34 coastal counties in Florida.

Photo Source: SBEP