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The deployment of the Jeff Steele Memorial reef. Photo taken in 2009 by Kristy Hanlin provided the boats,” Joseph said. FWC blocked off segments of the Pass so the divers could get the work done safely. “We removed a lot of stuff from Lighthouse H ole. The jagged rocky edge makes it easy for so many things to catch, so the trash looked something like a transatlantic cable rolled up and hung on the ledge from years of fishing gear getting caught. We removed boat propellers, crab traps and bundles of fishing line and gear from the ledge,” Joseph said. After the first cleanup, he had an idea to drop a large cloth material to trap the trash, tie it at both ends and then cut it, release it and let it float to the surface. The cleanup was originally estimated to take 20 years to complete, but Joseph and his team finished the job in just four years. Joseph said he attributes everything they did in that timeframe to his good friend Rich Novak, a former University of Florida Sea Grant agent and avid angler 32 GASPARILLA ISLAND March/April 2017 who died suddenly of a heart attack while working on a study of bluefin tuna off the coast of North Carolina in 2004. Novak was a conservationist who helped bolster local fisheries and promoted safe boating in Charlotte Harbor. He led a project that resulted in the creation of two artificial reefs off Gasparilla Island. The undertaking involved the sinking of about 30,000 tons of concrete rubble from the old Interstate 75 bridge over the Peace River. “It was all his doing. I worked with him to assist in setting up a dive team, but he was the centerpiece of establishing those reefs,” Joseph said. When Novak passed away, Joseph applied to get the Gasparilla reef name changed to the Rich Novak Memorial reef, which exists about two miles out from Gasparilla Pass. He said the easiest part of adding to a reef is getting culverts and concrete materials for it,


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