Ocean City, Maryland
The Ocean City Reef Foundation donated $1000.00 to support Building Conservation Trust and CCA Maryland’s ongoing volunteer efforts for Chesapeake oyster reef restoration work. OCRF is a nonprofit organization that was created in 1997. Captain Monty Hawkins, owner of the party boat Morning Star and president of the OC Reef Foundation, specializes in precision fishing of natural, shipwreck & artificial reefs off the coast of Ocean City, MD. He’s very active in his profession, attending many fishery meetings and chairing Maryland’s Artificial Reef Committee (MARI). A man of strong opinions, Captain Hawkins has committed endless hours to reef habitat restoration and teaching others about the value of habitat restoration. He lives by the belief that to improve fishing, we need to focus more strongly on habitat that’s gone missing and how to put it back.
Members from CCA’s Habitat Committee spent New Years Eve day helping Captain Hawkins do just that, building reefs 4 miles south east off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland. Eight volunteers took time out of their holiday celebrations to help load more than 200 concrete chimney blocks and flumes onto pickup trucks that transported the reef material to the Morning Star vessel moored the Ocean City Fishing Center. Once loaded, more than 12,600 lbs of concrete reef structure were hand deployed at one of the foundations existing reef sites that will continue to create coral reefs and habitat for tautog, flounder and sea bass. Throughout the morning, Capt Hawkins taught us the importance of placement and how building these reefs vertical with a lot of surface area allows growth on these objects to begin almost immediately while providing hiding places for many of the fishing species recreational anglers passionately pursue. In the early part of the lifecycle for marine life like oysters, mussels, and corals, they begin free-floating in the water until they find a hard surface to attach to. The artificial reefs soon become encrusted with the filter feeding critters, which serve as a food source and shelter for a wide variety of marine life. Captain Monty believes the oyster restoration work taking place in the Chesapeake bay by CCA’s Living Reef Action Campaign and other state organizations efforts also play a combined role in improving the oceans water quality by what is flowing out from the Chesapeake. Captain Hawkins gave volunteers that day an opportunity to see first hand that project work, like what CCA Maryland and Building Conservation Trust are doing, are much like what the OCRF is doing off Maryland’s coast, and if done correctly and left to develop, can have a global effect.
Volunteers are a vital and powerful force contributing significantly to the success of grass-roots habitat restoration work like CCA’s Habitat Committee is striving to continue developing. Whether its Reef Balls, Culvert Piping, or Chimney Flumes, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to conservation, nor is it possible to successfully conserve natural resources without buy-in from the people who are most closely connected to and rely on that resource, like commercial and recreational fishermen to government leaders, divers and scientists.
Like the Ocean City Reef foundation, CCA Maryland is a membership driven organization that is committed to restoring old habitat and creating new local marine habitat through the creation and monitoring of artificial reef systems, like we are doing with Stevenson University on the Living Reef Action Campaign. Much like Culvert Piping and Chimney Blocks and Flumes, CCA oyster reef balls are manmade objects that are strategically placed on the bay floor, in high current, to create fishing habitat. No matter where you live, there are things that you can do to help protect Chesapeake reef structure. From supporting Building Conservation Trust and CCA Maryland’s Habitat Committee with your time or money, to spreading the word about how important Chesapeake oyster reefs are, you are taking steps right now to become an advocate for habitat work.