Artificial Habitats Working Group

Group Photo of Artificial Habitat Working Group Members

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

Meeting Schedule

  • Tuesday, July 7
    9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
    Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
    35 East Quay Road
    Key West FL 33040
    Draft Agenda (pdf, 44 kb)

  • Wednesday, July 8
    9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
    Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
    35 East Quay Road
    Key West FL 33040
    Draft Agenda (pdf, 44 kb)

Draft Recommendations

The following was passed by vote of working group members on July 8, with 19 in favor and 2 abstentions:
Draft Recommendations for Sanctuary Advisory Council Consideration (pdf, 30 kb)

General Resources


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