Florida Man Campaigns to Build "World's Largest Underwater Peace Sign"

Online project funding site Kickstarter is full of first novels and comics and bands trying to tour. But what about the starry-eyed hippies out there looking to donate some of that Whole Foods salary to a good cause? If you're one with the earth, the ocean, or even just love The Little Mermaid a bit too much, the Peace Reef Project is for you.

Launched September 26 on Kickstarter, the Peace Reef Project was created by Florida resident Peter Wolfson. Its goal: to build the world's largest underwater peace sign off the coast of Florida, in the waters near Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

The Peace Reef will be 200 feet in diameter and will serve as a living peace sign. In addition to the visual concept, the reef will create a marine life habitat and promote responsible marine management. The state of Florida's coral life prompted Wolfson, a former New Times employee who's spent most of his professional career in sales, to try to enhance the underwater environment.

"I got my diving certificate when I was 13," Wolfson said. "The waters were beautiful, and the ocean and coral reefs were amazing. Now on the outside of the sand bed by Alligator Reef, you go out there and it's all broken-down coral, there's no color... there's fish-wire wrapped around everything. It's depressing. That's why I got into aquaculture in the first place."

Aquaculture -- also known as fish or shellfish farming -- refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Coral reefs cannot form on open sand beds, which is all that is left in areas where the reefs have been destroyed by anchors from fishing boats and extraction of corals for use in saltwater aquariums, according to Wolfson. Natural coral reefs need a hard surface such as limestone rocks on which to grow.

"[Aquaculture] is very eco-friendly because it curtails the destruction of reefs in Fiji and Haiti, where they literally stick dynamite in the reefs, blow it up, ship it to the Port of L.A., and sell it to stores," Wolfson said. "It's bad for the economy and bad for Haiti and Fiji's reefs."

The project will be constructed from natural limestone rock and will serve as a model of how to cost-effectively rebuild natural reefs while maximizing the benefits to the environment. Almost immediately upon completing construction, life will start colonizing and growing on the limestone. Wolfson says if funding goes well, the reef will be completed in about eight months.

The process of constructing the reef requires a lot of labor and underwater diving, Wolfson says. Once completed, the Peace Reef will hopefully become a tourist destination, taking pressure off the natural Florida Keys reefs.

"It gives people another destination. You won't have thousands of people every day going to the same reefs, touching the coral, stepping on it, and throwing boat anchors on it," Wolfson said. "You can come to my spot, have a great time, and help out."

As of Thursday, October 3, The Peace Reef Project had 14 backers pledging $3,146 of the $50k goal. Wolfson says he needs the Kickstarter support and funding to move the thousands of pounds of rock. Upon completion, the Peace Reef will be submitted to The Guinness Book of World Records as the "World's Largest Underwater Living Reef in the Form of a Peace Sign." (According to our research, it will also be the only underwater living reef in the form of a peace sign.)

"When we put it down at first it's going to be stark white," Wolfson said. "As time goes by, and the algaes and sponges and corals start growing on it, it's going to darken up and turn different colors. It's going to be very cool...I'm going to build that peace sign no matter what."

To pledge to the living aquaculture Peace Reef Project, visit the Kickstarter campaign by Nov. 18 to become a backer. Minimum donations start at $1, and $10 and up gets backers a selection of different reward packages.

-- Shelly Davidov

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