by LISA MACNEIL
On Saturday, July 20, 2019, the local SCUBAnauts dove the site of the A.H. Richardson Reef to remove tires that served as the foundation for the artificial reef, that began construction in 1977. Tires as reef material have since been determined to be harmful for marine life. The SCUBAnauts also retrieved abandoned crab traps, discarded fishing line and rope.
Additional dives are planned to retrieve more tires, as the carrier boat on this trip reached capacity.
“We’re basically trying to fix the mistakes of the past,” Hernando County Aquatics Manager Keith Kolasa said as the team cleared the vessels for the evening. Off to a good start, the team collected 19 tires on this trip. The required permits only allow retrieval of tires that are not home to live corals.
The SCUBAnauts are a team of students between the ages of 12 and 18 interested in Marine Science. This team was led by Dr. Cathi Campbell of The Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research (ACCSTR) at the University of Florida, SCUBAnauts CEO Paul Foisy, SCUBA Instructor Katie Shoultz, and Keith Kolasa.
Port Authority Member Chuck Morton was also onboard with the team. Morton is currently raising funds for future dive projects by selling t-shirts featuring the artwork of SCUBAnaut Trevor Ray. The design features The Ghost Ship at the Bendickson site, with its surrounding landscape. Ray used his artistic talent underwater, rendering the drawing with a pencil and paper specialized for the task.
The Richardson Reef is located roughly 4 miles ESE of the Bendickson Reef, where The Ghost Ship was added to the array of tanks and concrete structures earlier this year. In addition to the tires, the reef is also comprised of debris from the original Sunshine Skyway bridge, which collapsed in May of 1980 after being struck by a freighter.
The most notable tire reef is the Osborne Reef, constructed off the coast of Fort Lauderdale in 1972. Bound together with metal fasteners that eventually rusted and broke apart, the result was damage to and destruction of natural coral reefs, and a 35-mile area of migrating tires. The costly cleanup began in 2001 and has involved multiple agencies. Cleanup efforts are still ongoing.
Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research (ACCSTR) at the University of Florida: https://accstr.ufl.edu/
GPS coordinates for the Richardson Reef: Latitude 2830.5, Longitude 8255.8.