Artificial habitats can include diverse items such as scuttled ships, reef balls, statues, construction material, lost fishing gear and structures used as fish or lobster aggregation devices. NOAA analyzes proposals for placing any structures on the seafloor on a case by case basis evaluating the projects goals and consistency with policies and regulations.
The 2011 Condition Report discussed artificial habitats and artificial reefs; however, during the scoping process several members of the public commented that the regulatory and permit process was unclear and NOAA needed to provide a better understanding of the science of artificial habitats. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries published the Science Review of Artificial Reefs in 2012 which highlighted some science gaps for determining ecological pros and cons when evaluating deployment of new structures in the ocean to function as artificial habitat.
The Sanctuary Advisory Council provided some initial recommendations at the October 21, 2014 meeting and later formed the Artificial Habitat working group as the council felt the issue needed closer examination and wanted to bring in outside expertise. In July 2015, the Artificial Habitat working group developed draft recommendations to pass on to the Sanctuary Advisory Council for consideration at the August 18, 2015 meeting.
Original Workplan Objectives
- Determine need for clarification of artificial habitat / reef policies and procedures.
- Determine need for potential “control” site for ecological research on artificial habitats.
Note: Updated and expanded working group objectives can be found on the Artificial Habitats Working Group page.
Relevant Advisory Council Meetings
August 18, 2015:
Agenda (pdf, 21 kb)
Presentations on Artificial Habitats
October 21, 2014 Presentation: SAC 2012 Work-Plan Items: Actions for Review and Recommendation (210 kb)
October 21, 2014 Pre-Meeting Packet: Sanctuary Advisory Council Regulatory and Zoning Alternatives Development Work-Plan Actions for Review and Recommendation (4,464 kb) discusses Artificial Habitats in Section 1.3 (pp 22-3) and in Appendix II.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (1,404 kb)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (3,168 kb)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (621 kb)
The following Motion was passed October 21, 2014: Resolution of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council Addressing Artificial Habitats for Analysis in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (pdf, 97 kb).
The following Motion was passed August 18, 2015: Resolution Advancing the Artificial Habitat Working Group Recommendations for Consideration in an Updated Sanctuary Management Plan (pdf, 107 kb).
Note: See also the Artificial Habitats Working Group page for more background information on the development of these recommendations.
Priority Workplan Items
- Shallow Water Wildlife and Habitat Protection
- Coral Reef Ecosystem Restoration
- Ecosystem Protection: Ecological Reserves, Preservation Areas and Wildlife Protection
- Artificial Habitats
- Permit Procedures and Adaptive Management
- Study Areas and Boundary Modifications
- Personal Watercraft Tours / Fishing Conflicts
- Water Quality
- Fishery Management Coordination