PONTE VEDRA, Florida — The ocean is an integral part of our planet's ecosystem. As we find more and more plastic washing up on the shore we need to make sure that the ocean floor is healthy.
Joe Kistel, Executive Director of TISIRI, is hoping to save the ocean floor by creating artificial reefs.
Under the sea, Starship Reef is now teeming with life-- just eight months after this huge project was finished.
"We’ve learned in the past by doing these projects, these aren’t new artificial reefs, have been going on for a long time now," Kistel said. "We’ve learned that placing appropriate structures underwater produces an area that allows certain animals to grow that couldn’t grow on a Cecil sandy bottom."
That means you can see sea urchins and tropical fish, along with grouper and snapper.
“Basically we have fisherman and scuba divers. They want to go, they want to catch fish, they want to see fish. And by creating these reefs habitats out there, we are doing that," Kistel said. "So we are basically creating a destination that can attract tourists, that can be the spot that local people can go and utilize and it’s pretty neat that we can create both a site that benefits the marine environment and creates an offshore destination pretty much using recycled materials."
Some of those materials came from Lamb's Yacht Center which was damaged in past hurricanes. "They decided they wanted to do a major overhaul and made the decision about the time we were planning this project," Kistel said. "And decided that they would tear down one of their massive concrete docks, and provided all that material to that reef project. So, what first barge load was entirely material from Lamb’s Yacht Center. Plus a few rocks that came in from California.”
Other materials came from Gate Precast which makes concrete structures for places such as stadiums.
"In about eight months of time underwater, the amount of life at these sites is amazing," Kistel said. "There’s just so much diversity, so much life. It was really neat to see. And that’s probably one of the most gratifying parts for me as a person helping to coordinate these projects, Is to see what you create over time. And to think that there’s this much life already in just 8 months is just really makes it fun to watch."
The two massive piles of concrete that create this Starship Reef site are located 12 miles east of Mickler's Landing. The area is open to the public, so grab your scuba gear or fishing pole and go check it out for yourself.
The $200,000 Project was funded by Shell Oil. In fact, the reef was named after their new technology supertanker. It's a super fuel efficient truck that runs partly off solar. It brought rocks and materials from San Diego to Jacksonville and only had to fill up once.