The Miami Dade Reef Guard Association (Reef Guard) was founded in 2010. It’s been a highly eventful first year for this non-profit organization.
Who would have predicted that a venting session between a few marine enthusiasts at a local dockside watering hole would roll into waves of change off the shores of Miami Dade County? As they expressed frustrations over the amount of reef damage from boat anchors and lack (or loss) if underwater habitat from environmental impacts as well as overuse, they noted that as individuals their concerns were not being heard by local government agencies. What if they pooled resources and created an organization to help get the word out? With that, Miami Dade Reef Guard Association (Reef Guard) was born. Their mission: fostering the protection of coral reefs by creating and maintaining artificial reefs and mooring buoys for recreational users.
It’s worth noting that the officers of Reef Guard are not your average marine enthusiast’s. One holds a masters degree in underwater archaeology, another, a masters in marine biology, in addition a lawyer and dive instructor.
Plans were formulated to obtain grants and funding from the Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM), the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), along with private contributions to start the process. The response was very positive. Both DERM and DEP allocated resources to the projects. Moving forward, Reef Guard worked with DERM to evaluate and prioritize sites for the installation of 22 mooring buoys. And the Ophelia Brian was sunk to assist in diverting diving and help relieve fishing pressure from the natural coral reefs in the area.
Over the year Reef Guard officers and trustees have sponsored several community service events – workshops for fish surveys and lionfish eradications, talks to inform local boaters and divers about the new buoys, and lectures revolving around the local waters at elementary schools, the Seaquarium and Coast Guard locations. The president, Mike Beach, has even lobbied senators in Washington to vote in favor of the Shark Conservation Act, which passed on December 20, 2010 and is currently before President Obama for approval.
For ongoing fundraising they have a medallion project similar to other marine conservation groups with $10.00 for a yearly medallion or $200.00 for a lifetime medallion. All funds go to buoy maintenance or artificial reef projects.
To celebrate the one-year anniversary of sinking “Ophie”, join them on Friday, December 31st for a commemorative dive to see how she has changed. There will be a “medallion hunt” where, for a $5 donation, you can have a chance to win a lifetime medallion. A great way to end 2010! For more information, visit their Facebook page.
Looking to 2011, Reef Guard plans on continuing along the same course with community service events, workshops, lectors and working closely with DERM and DEP on a connectivity project that will enhance both inshore juvenile habitat and offshore habitat for adult species by using boulders to better connect the wrecks scattered in the Belcher Barge Wreck Trek.
The inaugural year of Reef Guard had seen many great strides forward for the local waters of Miami Dade County. The officers and trustees feel like the ocean is their second home. They want to protect it for future generations and are looking for more divers and boaters to get involved. For more information, check out www.rjdiving.com or call 305-861-6277.