ECRA Mission Statement:

 

 "The Emerald Coast Reef Association is a Non-Profit [501 c3] Corporation Dedicated to Reef Building and Fishery Improvement.  Our Goal is to Increase Fish Biomass by Increasing Marine Habitat and Reducing Threats to the Fishery. "


Brief History of ECRA:

Jason
In March 2003, Jason Smith created a website and forum called the "Emerald Coast Reef Association (ECRA)".  By June 2003, a small group of members expressed an interest in deploying and researching artificial reefs. Jason Smith and Gary Parsons spearheaded the effort to turn ECRA into a "Non-Profit" organization which could obtain grants and donations in order to perform reef research.  In January 2004, ECRA received its designation as a 501 (c) (3) "Non-Profit" organization, and officially became the "Emerald Coast Reef Association Inc."

Since 2004, ECRA has deployed well over 100 Tons of reef material, including a 35 ft Tug (Monica Lee) and an 80 ft Barge (AJ's Carrie Ricks).  ECRA is active in the pursuit of reef permits in Florida State waters and the control of Lionfish (an invasive species).

 

Artificial Reef Building Program:


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In 2006, ECRA's Artificial Reef Building Program was started by Candy Hansard. She firmly believes that in order to create a sustainable fishery, we must build artificial reefs.  More Reefs = More Fish.  The seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico on the Florida Panhandle is 95% sand. Without Artificial Reefs, the Destin Area wouldn't be able to continue to sustain Recreational Fishing or the $6 Billion Dollar Annual Economic Benefit that recreational fishing brings to Florida's Economy. In her desire to improve the fishery, she also independently began a Private Artificial Reef Building program to help create habitat for fish that would not experience the level of pressure that the public reefs endure. This program benefits the entire fishery and the fishermen that have invested in their own private reefs. Every Artificial Reef takes pressure off other reefs and provides more opportunities for our marine ecosystem to thrive.

Lionfish Control Efforts:

  1. October 2010:  ECRA member reports the first sighting of a lionfish off the coast of Destin, FL
  2. Date:  ECRA (Candy Hansard) recommends removal of Lionfish Bag Limit and Fishing License Requirement
  3. Date:  FWC rescinds Bag Limit and License Requirement
  4. July 2012:  First Annual ECRA Lionfish Tournament
    1. ECRA establishes the "Don Gaetz Champion of the Fishery Award"
    2. Format:  One day tournament
  5. October 2013:  Second Annual Lionfish Tournament
    1. Format:  30-day tournament
    2. 1737 lionfish tuned in

ECRA Activities:

  1. Deploy Artificial Reefs to provide habitat necessary to create a sustainable Fishery

  2. Provide a Free Forum, open to the public, to provide education and information exchange

  3. Provide a forum for Members to exchange information

  4. Maintain a Public Artificial Reef Data Collection Forum

  5. Survey & Document Local Reefs

  6. Artificial Reef Research

  7. Maintain a Public Artificial Reef Data Collection Forum

  8. Participate in Fishery Meetings

  9. Sponsor Fishing / Spearfishing tournaments

  10. Sponsor Scuba Diver's Reef "clean-up"

  11. Sponsor Public Education:

    1. Guest Speakers for Okaloosa County Schools

    2. Hurricane Preparation for Boaters

    3. Reef Fish Identification

    4. Reef Fish Venting & De-hooking

    5. Artificial Reef Information & Education

    6. Lion Fish Awareness & Education

    7. Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Information

    8. Fishing Techniques

    9. Boating Safety

    10. Educational Opportunities for Divers

    11. Provide boat transportation for NaGISA research divers

    12. and more topics than we can list!

  12. Host Social Events to invite public participation

  13. Hosted a Reef Coloring Contest for Okaloosa County School Children (Over 450 entries!)

  14. Hosted an ECRA game booth for the Boy Scouts of America