One of the first things you’ll notice when you wake up on the beach here is just how pristine the water is. While the Gulf of Mexico often sparkles emerald-green at a distance, up close near the shores of Anna Maria Island, the waters are frequently gin-clear, allowing you to see at least two or three feet deep to the sandy beach bottom.
Maintaining our beautiful beaches is obviously more than a local pastime—it’s a priority. But rather than complex manmade technologies tampering with the beach’s makeup, contemporary environmental efforts involve promoting healthy, natural ecosystems that are similar to the way the island would exist if humans hadn’t ever been here at all. In short, we help the beach look after itself.
One of the most recent efforts to maintain our pristine waters involves the installation of “mini-reefs” all around Anna Maria. The artificial reefs, which represent a partnership between the Center of Anna Maria Island and Ocean Habitats Inc., are about two feet by two feet by three feet and constructed to mimic mangrove and saltwater marshes. As such, they attract and shelter the types of fish and crabs that act as “filter feeders”; these animals eat bacteria and other microorganisms that otherwise can cause problems. The reefs ensure that generations of these valuable creatures have places to reproduce and grow into happy, healthy filterers.
The current reef project, set to be completed by the end of January 2020, will see 60 artificial reefs installed under docks all around the island, on both the bay and Gulf sides. In about six months, each mature reef will be home to more than 500 fish and crabs, which will be able to filter the harmful bacteria out of 30,000 gallons of water every day—or nearly 11 million gallons annually.
Come summer, those 30,000 gallons of prevention (60 times over) will be worth many more days and years of clean, clear water here on our little strip of heaven.