Artificial Habitats Working Group

Participants in the 2015 Artificial Habitat Workshop take time out for a group photo.

Artificial habitats 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 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 and then formed the Artificial Habitat working group, as the council felt the issue needed closer examination and felt the need to bring in outside expertise.

Advisory Council Lead - Joe Weatherby


  • Review the history and current status of artificial habitat permitting, placement, use, and monitoring in the Florida Keys.
  • Share area agencies' definitions of artificial habitat/reefs, and clarify how sanctuary regulations and mandates apply to artificial habitat/reefs.
  • Discuss how the interests of the sanctuary and of user groups intersect with the issue of artificial habitats, exploring how both potential benefits and impacts connect to those interests.
  • Review a science synthesis completed in 2012, and identify and prioritize remaining research needed to assess the benefits and impacts of artificial habitat use in the sanctuary.
  • Discuss strategies for addressing research needs using the existing artificial habitats in the sanctuary.
  • Discuss leveraging partnerships, outside expertise, and other sources of external funding to support artificial habitat research and planning in FKNMS, given the sanctuary's resource limitations and mandates to protect natural habitats.
  • Brainstorm potential approaches and actions the sanctuary and user groups can pursue both to clarify the permit process and to improve permit compliance.
  • Explore considerations for the future of artificial habitat in the sanctuary.
  • Identify how the sanctuary, researchers, and user groups can continue to share information on artificial habitats to inform research and management in the sanctuary and beyond.


Advisory Council Lead - Joe Weatherby

Advisory Council Representatives:

  • Tad Burke, SAC Charter Fishing Flats Guide
  • George Garrett, SAC Citizen at Large – Middle Keys
  • Don Kinkaid, SAC Diving – Lower Keys
  • Shelly Krueger, SAC Research & Monitoring
  • Elena Rodriguez, SAC Diving – Upper Keys
  • Bob Smith, SAC Diving – Lower Keys
  • Mimi Stafford, SAC Citizen at Large – Lower Keys
  • David Vanden Bosch, SAC Citizen at Large – Middle Keys
  • Dr. Dave Vaughan, SAC Research & Monitoring

Community Experts:

  • Dr. Kenneth Banks, Broward County
  • Dr. Jim Bohnsack, NOAA – National Marine Fisheries Service
  • Kathy Fitzpatrick Artificial Reef Coordinator, Martin County
  • George Frankel, Eternal Reefs LLC and Genesis Project
  • Jon Hazelbaker, Salvage Diving Hall of Fame, Advisory Board member Florida Keys Community College Diving Program
  • Dr. Phil Kramer, The Nature Conservancy
  • Dr. Bill Lindberg, University of Florida
  • Anne McCarthy, Continental Shelf Associates
  • Keith Mille, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • Jeff Neidlinger, Deep Blue Diving
  • Davis Poole, Eternal Seas
  • Laurie Poole, Eternal Seas

FKNMS Staff Lead: Joanne Delaney

For advisory council meeting archives visit: Current Year or Previous Year Archives.

Draft Recommendations

The following was passed by vote of working group members on July 8, with 19 in favor and 2 abstentions:

General Resources


Note: The following documents serve as the key to the above maps by providing the artificial habitat site location and description.