More algae blooms and red tides are affecting the grassy coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. David Wolff, founder of Ocean Habitats Inc., recognized the need for natural solutions in the 1990s, when he built the first Mini Reef, a structure that can be placed under docks in coastal waterways and canals that supports plant and ocean life. But the world wasn’t ready for the idea and money ran out by 1998. Wolff pursued other businesses, which he recently sold before returning to his Mini Reef project out of concern for the Gulf Coast. Now, more than 4,000 Mini Reefs are installed in the region, filled with mussels, barnacles, and oysters that clean the water.
Wolff explains the different sizes and placement options for the Mini Reef, which is available in several sizes to fit together like Lego blocks under a dock. Once populated by plants, crabs, shrimp, and other life, a small reef can filter about 30,000 gallons of water a day. Homeowners have purchased most of the installed Mini Reefs. Cities, nonprofits, and the EPA are now engaged in assessments of the idea for use in coastal recovery projects. Mini Reefs cost between $237 and $687. The company also makes The Fish Crib, a freshwater lake and pond model that helps young fish stay safe as they mature. It can support up to 300 fish each year. OceanHabitats products work in any coastal area but will mature more slowly in cold water.
If you don’t live along a coastal waterway but would like to help install Mini Reefs, Ocean Habitats has set up a tax-deductible donation page. Contributions will be used to offset the cost of reefs for nonprofit and community projects.
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