Community helps FGCU program build artificial reefs to restore oyster habitats

By | September 8, 2019

LEE COUNTY

FGCU researchers and nationwide partners continue to look for unique solutions to Southwest Florida’s water crisis. The FGCU ice hockey team breeds ground for nature’s own water filters with broken hockey sticks. Once an environmental concern, these sticks become repurposed to help marine ecosystems in need.

The Rink2Reef oyster habitats waterways restoration program has 45 artificial reefs made with broken hockey sticks throughout Southwest Florida waterways to date, and Sunday community members helped the program build more reefs to restore oyster habitats.

Credit: WINK News.

“They’re carbon composite material,” FGCU prof. Dr. Mike Parson said. “So they don’t break down easily, so you’re throwing them in a landfill. And they’re just sitting there.”

The partnerships of the FGCU ice hockey team, FGCU’s marine school and NHL Green turns what was once trash into an environmental treasure.

“So what we’ve done is we’ve taken these broken hockey sticks and we’ve repurposed them, built these simple link-and-log structures,” said Bob Wasno, resource coordinator at FGCU’s Vester Marine and Environmental Sciences Research Field Station and volunteer coach for the hockey club. “And with these link-and-log structures tethered on our local docks, oysters are able to grow all over this vast area.”

Wasno said each oyster that grows on the artificial reefs can filter around 50 gallons of water daily.

“We estimate that 400 oysters can grow on a single unit,” Wasno said. “So 400 oysters times 50 gallons, we’re talking 20,000 gallons of water per day can be filtered when one of these is fully functional.”

Credit: WINK News.

Community members, FGCU students and staff gathered to continue building the artificial reefs.

“We wanted to tackle a project that was going to be important to the community as well as our neighbors, our customers and our businesses,” said Renee Hahn, member of Naples Area Board of Realtors Leadership Academy. “And what more is there than clean water?”

The project is also supported by Fort Myers City Council, which will spend $10,000 to build 40 reefs to be installed at city-owned piers. Councilman Fred Burson said he will also cover half the cost for residents in his ward who want a reef at their own piers.

“It’s just done to encourage all residents to do anything we can to help clean the water in the river,” Burson said.

The program is just getting warmed up: NHL teams and hockey clubs nationwide want to join the effort.

The artificial reefs built this weekend will be installed at new locations Saturday, Oct. 5.

“The word of mouth has gotten around,” Wasno said. “It’s a great little program.”

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