The Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation (ARHF) is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization founded in 2014 whose vision is to Enhance and Sustain the Marine Environment in Palm Beach County, Florida. Founded shortly after the tragic accidental diving death of 26 year old Andrew “Red” Harris off the coast of Jupiter, Florida, the Foundation is putting its energy and its resources into building concrete artificial reef cells and placing them in the sport fishing and diving waters near Andrew’s home.
Our initial project involves the placement of 40 artificial reef cells in 88 feet of water off the coast of Jupiter, Florida during the summer of 2015. There are plans for two more projects, including the placement of a up to 100 additional artificial reef cells in 45 feet of water off the coast of Juno Beach, Florida during the summer of 2016, and the placement of a 200’ to 300’ ship adjacent to our first placement site once a funding commitment has been secured or the necessary funds have been raised and an appropriate ship is available for purchase.
All three projects will achieve key social and environmental objectives of benefiting the local community:
Create New Habitats:
The Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation works with a local manufacturer to construct large, concrete artificial reef modules for placement in the waters offshore of northern Palm Beach County in depths appropriate for sport fishermen and SCUBA divers. The Foundation is initially building reefs with these reef cell modules, whose supply and logistics we can control. In the future we plan to also use “materials of opportunity”, including retired ships and concrete pilings, culverts and bridge debris. We will create vibrant new habitats that will take pressure off of the natural reefs, promoting the rebounding of the local marine environment and enhancing and improving the local economy.
The new reefs will be built on offshore sites that are currently vast underwater sand plains. The Foundation will continue to build productive new reefs on unproductive sites off the shores of northern Palm Beach County as we grow and develop our funding sources. The Foundation’s goal is to help the marine habitat keep pace with the increasing pressure on it from a variety of destructive influences including population growth, pollution, invasive exotic species and lack of education and appreciation for the value of our marine resources.
Advance the Science of Coastal Habitat Restoration and Marine Fisheries Conservation:
Traditional man-made habitat structures have generally been limited to sinking scuttled ships, obsolete equipment, and previously purposed concrete items. None of these artificial reefs look natural and many appear out of place in the marine environment. Many currently engineered artificial reef designs appear geometric, symmetrical and uniform; these shapes usually conform to the limitations of their fabrication method and usually emphasize ease of construction or deployment rather than compatibility with any natural aesthetic. Even reefs built from piled limestone boulders usually look like a pile of rocks and, given the mass of material used, these rock piles produce very few opportunities for habitat or colonization.
Our uniquely designed reef cells maximize the productive capacity of the artificial reef by providing many interconnected cavities and internal surfaces exposed to sunlight and water current. The ratio of overall surface area and interconnected interior space to the amount of material used and the minimum sea floor area occupied is the highest of any artificial reef design. The size and spatial organization of the interior voids are designed to provide a specific habitat environment favored by a wide range of varied and diverse marine organisms.
The unique reef cell designs, rising eight feet from the sea floor, will create highly functional reef structures that will quickly begin to look like Bahamian coral heads.
An 8 foot concrete reef cell module being prepared for loading onto a transport vehicle for placement in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jupiter, Florida.
An 8 foot concrete undulated reef cell module. Notice the stacking of layers of this module.
Foster Habitat Conservation and Stewardship:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) stated that artificial reefs divert pressure from natural reefs while still allowing visitors to enjoy diverse marine life (as found at www.floridakeys.noaa.gov/artificial reefs/effects.html). Because many of these anglers, divers, and snorkelers are eco-tourists who utilize local boat charters, hotels, restaurants and other amenities, artificial reefs can have a positive impact on local economies. In such an instance, the artificial reef would be considered a win-win for the economy and the environment. According to Alan Richardson, Chair of the Organization for Artificial Reefs based in Tallahassee, FL, he estimated that for every dollar spent locally on artificial reefs, $138 comes back into [local] communities (as found at www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2014/06/08/new-artificial-reefs-placed-franklin-wakulla-coast/10191743/).
The Foundation’s work with the Jupiter High School Environmental Academy will help teach a new generation of local divers and fishermen how they can help enhance and preserve our local marine environment.
Educate Coastal Communities on the Value of Conservation:
The Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation has partnered with a local writer and a local illustrator to create and promote the “Professor Clark the Science Shark” second grade reading books. The books are written to teach kids and their parents marine environmentalism while they read their new favorite books together.
In the first series of three books, Andrew “Red” Harris is “Clark”, the shark’s connection to the human world as they partner to improve the local marine habitat. Kids love the books and parents quickly love the interest in reading and the learning the books stimulate in their children.
Additionally, the Foundation has partnered with the Jupiter Community High School Environmental Academy and has held two “volunteer days” where students participate in artificial reef building. The Foundation plans to expand our educational outreach to include other local environmental academies and university programs as we grow and develop.