Phil Chiocchio called the mini reefs “nature’s kidneys.” Crustaceans attach to them and then fish are drawn to them. The water quality generally improves outward of each mini reef in an area ranging from 5 to 7 feet.
In January, the City of Sarasota installed mini reefs under its docks at Ken Thompson Park on City Island. “You can go put your face under the dock and see for yourself [how they work],” Chiocchio said.
One set of Siesta homeowners who installed a mini reef about 18 months ago, he added, “have been thrilled. … Now the oysters are starting to line up on the shelf [of the device].” The woman recently “saw a baby manatee come up and hang around it,” he noted. “Baby shrimp are now moving around there, [too].”
However, he emphasized, “You have to have enough of [the mini reefs in the water] in the long run to really make a difference.”
A SKA member who lives on Avenida del Norte told Cannon and Chiocchio that he had installed a mini reef under a dock on his property and he has plans to put in a second one. He noted that another five or six homeowners on the street have alsoinstalled mini reefs.
Mini reefs need to be 24 inches deep under a dock. Also, according to county and state environmental regulations, the device can’t touch the bottom. Chiocchio called this an “antiquated rule” and expressed his disfavor of it.
If SKA Director Margaret Jean Cannon and Chiocchio can spark the interest of enough of the homeowners in the designated project area, then they would set-up a webpage where they would post regular updates about the initiative. Chiocchio added that they also would create a YouTube channel, so people could watch the sea life in the mini reefs.
Chiocchio further noted that he had discussed the pilot program plans with Mote Marine Laboratory scientists who are part of the Sarasota Bay Fisheries Forum. “They said this would be an excellent way to see the effects [of the devices].”
Chiocchio is hoping the SKA initiative will lead to a grand celebration for the Grand Canal’s 100th birthday in 2025.
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