Four explosive charges set by a U.S. Navy demolition team rip holes in the hull of
the Morania Abaco on the Atlantic City Reef. (Photo by Ray Fisk)
Old vessels make excellent artificial reefs. They provide high profile structure for pelagic fish, low profile structure for demersal fish, as well as surface area for the attachment of mussels, barnacles, tube worms and other food organisms. Shipwrecks have been the basis for the state's bottom fisheries which feature sea bass, tautog, ling, cod and pollock. and for recreational scuba diving activities. The New Jersey coast has a large number of shipwrecks, estimates range from 500 to 3,000. These wrecks are the result of 200 years of maritime disasters and enemy submarine operations during World Wars I and II.
Despite the variety of shipwrecks available to anglers and divers, these aging structures are deteriorating, breaking up and sanding over. The Artificial Reef Program is providing a new supply of shipwrecks, within easy range of the state's ocean inlets, that will become increasingly more import ant in the future as the old wrecks disintegrate.
Only steel-hulled vessels are acceptable for sinking on artificial reefs. Wooden vessels are not dense enough to stay in place on the sea floor and are quickly torn apart and scattered by storms. Floating on the surface, wooden debris poses a serious threat to navigation; on the bottom, uncharted debris tears up nets and dredges of commercial fishermen. Even thick fiberglass hulls, which do not deteriorate in saltwater, are broken into pieces by storm surges on the bottom.
Sinking a ship on an artificial reef is not simply a matter of towing it off shore and blowing a hole in it. There are many laborious and expensive steps that must be taken before a derelict vessel becomes a new home for fish.
First, the vessel must be cleaned of pollutants arid pass a U.S. Coast Guard pollution inspection. Cleaning usually entails removing all loose floatable debris, such as wood, paper, containers, compressed air cylinders and mattresses, and draining and flushing of engines (if they are not removed), fuel tanks, cargo tanks, hydraulic lines and bilges. After cleaning, the next step is to vent all internal watertight compartments and bulkheads to ensure that the vessel floods without trapping air and sinks properly.
The Francis S. Bushey, a 250-foot coastal tanker, is eased to its final anchoring by
the tug Ocean Prince. Note the marker buoy off the port bow. (Photo by Ray Fisk)
The Pauline Marie, a 165-foot freighter, dives bow-first to the sea floor 90 feet below.
On some vessels, parts of the superstructure have to be cut down so that once sunk on a reef, they do not protrude above the navigation clearance requirements imposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Most of New Jersey's artificial reefs have minimum clearance requirements of at least 50 feet over the highest point of any reef structure.
Another step in preparing a ship is to remove the propellers or secure the prop shafts to make sure the shaft packings do not leak during towing. An anchor or heavy piece of steel or concrete and a length of chain, cable or nylon line at least twice as long as the water depth at the reef site are needed to hold the vessel in position while it sinks. After the slow tow from port to the appropriate reef site, the vessel is anchored in position, making certain that it is within the reef site boundaries and at the correct depth.
Sinking can be accomplished with explosives or by opening engine room sea cocks. In the case of the 165-foot cargo ship Pauline Marie, a licensed contractor set off three small charges along the keel, opening up 2-foot diameter holes and sinking the vessel in 10 minutes. The 265-foot tanker Morania Abaco, was sunk by a Navy Explosives Ordinance Disposal team in one hour. Two other tankers, the 247-foot sister ships, Francis S. Bushey and A.H. Dumont, as well as several tugs and barges, were sunk by cutting 2-foot square holes through the hull above the water line and then opening the sea cocks. Sinking in this manner usually takes one to three hours.
Schematic drawing of a typical coastal tanker. Such plans are used to determine
where bulkheads should be cut and explosive charges set.
Whichever method is used, the goal is to do as little structural damage to the vessel as possible. This will allow the new wreck to survive many more storms and increase its effective life on the ocean bottom. By leaving the ship intact, its immediate fish productivity is reduced. The flat surfaces of the hull do not offer many hiding places for fish and lobster. But as deterioration proceeds and the wreck begins to slowly break apart, its productivity for marine life and anglers will increase. Thus, a new shipwreck is like a time capsule with its best results delayed, but prolonged over a 50- to 100-year time span.
From A Guide to Fishing & Diving New Jersey's Artificial Reefs
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 1989
The sinking of the Captain Bart was one of the most
spectacular of the recent reef deployments, in 2000.
Source: David Kelby
On June 17 the second of five excess barges was towed from the SSES dock on its way to a July 16 sinking in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
The YON-97, YO-230, YW-127, YOGN-8 and YOG-58 were once used by SSES as mobile fuel oil systems to meet the requirements of test site operations. With the installation of a new fuel farm, these barges were no longer needed. Under PMS 308's SINKEX Program, the barges were excessed, and all will eventually meet the same underwater fate as the YON-97 ( sunk in June 1997 ) and YW-127. This barge was turned over to the New Jersey Fish and Game Commission for use as an artificial reef. New Jersey's shore experiences a lot of erosion. Artificial reefs help preserve the shores, as well as provide a place for sea life to escape the tidal action and look for food.
Before being turned over to the New Jersey Fish and Game Commission, the YW-127 was made environmentally friendly. During the first quarter of FY-98, the barge went through a cleanup process to ensure no PCB contamination or oily waste and sludge remained. The cleanup involved a total rip out of the flanges, the gaskets around the duct work and hatchways, the cable, and all the wiring. The tanks and bilges were also cleaned.
The detailed disposal process is led by Code 363, the Philadelphia branch of the Facilities and Model Fabrication Department. Assisting with the June 17 tow, were Robert Cairns (91412), Edward Featherer (91414), George Huber (91412), Ronald Marino (914), Andrew Pasinski, (91412) Michael Sweeney (91412), David Tryon (91415) and James Winter (91412), who all served as line handlers.
"Once we transfer ownership of the barges to New Jersey through GSA, the state handles the actual sinking of the vessels," said David Kelby (363), who managed the cleanup and turnover of the excess barges. The sinking is sponsored by private individuals and corporations. No tax dollars are used. For more information contact: Mary Zoccola at ZoccolaMA@nswccd.navy.mil or (301) 227-1165.
from Navy records
There is a great deal of controversy over the use of subway cars as artificial reefs. There shouldn't be. Subway cars are fish condos. They are the perfect size and shape to provide homes for all sorts of fishes, as well as large attachment areas for other organisms. The fact that they come complete with large door and window openings is even better. Most reef materials, such as ships and barges, improve with age because they open up, allowing easier access to the interior. Indeed, some of the most barren reefs I have seen are those that are completely intact, since they offer little shelter.
The durability of subways cars is also criticized. While no one would expect a subway car to last as long as a ship or an Army tank, they last long enough. Even lightweight cars seem to have a useful life of 15-20 years; heavier cars would be expected to last longer, and the latest batch of stainless-steel cars, well, who knows how long those will last? A point in favor of their lighter construction is that these cars are less prone to sink into the sand.
Subway cars have been "reefed" in three separate events:
The PATH cars are the first and oldest experiment with subway cars, sunk in 1990. These cars are of very lightweight construction, yet are still over 50% intact after nearly 20 years in relatively shallow water. Only six PATH cars were ever used as reefs.
The Redbirds began the controversy, sparked mainly by a particular environmental group that was completely out of line, and later proven to be entirely wrong. The damage was done, however, as after all the fighting, New Jersey got only a small fraction of the cars it was originally slated for. On the plus side, many of those cars went to Delaware, which built a huge reef out of them not far from our shores.
The Redbirds are of much sturdier construction than the PATH cars. If the PATH cars are still upright and useful after nearly 20 years, I would expect the Redbirds to last even longer. After several years on the bottom, most Redbirds show no signs of deterioration at all. New Jersey has approximately 250 Redbirds; Delaware has around 600.
The latest batch of subway cars to be used as reefs is the stainless-steel Brightliners. What is there to say? These cars are even more heavily-built than the Redbirds, and rust-proof stainless steel ! How long they will last is anyone's guess, but 30 years or more for those in deep water would not be an unreasonable estimate. Deployment numbers for the Brightliners should be similar to the Redbirds.
And to think the whole thing was almost derailed by one wrong environmental zealot !!!
The Artificial Reef Program used four types of obsolete Army armored vehicles as artificial reef materials off the New Jersey coast. These were cleaned at local military bases, loaded onto barges for transport, and pushed off at their final destination. Once the Army had disposed of its excess inventory, the program ceased, around 1999. The Artificial Reef Program has sunk almost 400 tanks all together, far too many to list them here in this website. The Reef Program sells charts that list all the locations.
M60 tanks undergo a thorough cleaning before use as reefs
By far the most numerous sunken tanks are APCs, or Armored Personnel Carriers, aluminum-bodied Vietnam-era M113 models ( and really not tanks at all ). Other Army vehicles used as artificial reef materials include light and heavy tanks and armored cranes. Tanks were also used off Long Island.
M113 Armored Personnel Carrier
hull length: 15 ft, weight: 13 tons
The M113 is an armored personnel carrier family. It was first introduced in 1960, developed the from the M59 and M75 which were designed by Ford and Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Co. in the late 1950s. It is a tracked vehicle capable of amphibious operation in lakes and streams, extended cross-country travel over rough terrain, and high speed operation on improved roads. The M113 family has many variants that are used in a variety of combat and combat support roles, with approximately 80,000 units having been produced.
The M113 was the first modern "battle taxi," developed to transport infantry forces on the mechanized battlefield; it requires a crew of two and can carry an additional seven infantry. Its main armament is a single .50 Cal heavy barrel machine gun, with secondary armament consisting of a single .30 Cal machine gun. The M113 is built of aircraft quality aluminum which allows it to possess some of the same strengths as steel at a much lighter weight (the vehicle weighs approximately 13 tons). Its low weight allows the use of a relatively small engine to power the vehicle, a 2-stroke six cylinder Detroit diesel, as well as allowing the vehicle to carry a large payload cross-country and to be transported by aircraft.
The M113 has a 300 mile range and a maximum speed of 40 mph. The upgraded M113A3 has added spall suppression liners, armored external fuel tanks, a more powerful engine and transmission, and mounting plates for the optional bolt-on aluminum armor.
The M113 has very light armor, insufficient against modern ammunition and weapons. The M113 basic armor can easily be penetrated by anti-tank missiles like the Russian RPG-7, and even by heavy machine gun fire. During the Vietnam War, this APC was considered such inadequate protection that most American soldiers rode on top of the vehicle since they considered it suicidal to ride inside. Most of the M113s which are still in service are upgraded with add-on armor, reactive armor coats and sandbag protection. However, they are still lightly protected compared to modern APCs or IFVs such as the M2 Bradley.
Side-scan sonar image of a group of APCs on the bottom.
All appear to be upside-down.
M551 "Sheridan" light tank / reconnaissance vehicle
hull length: 20 ft, weight 18 tons
The M551 Sheridan tank was designed in the early 1960's, as a need arose for U.S. forces needing a light tank. Constructed of aluminum armor, it is extremely fast, using a 300 hp Detroit Diesel engine and cross drive transmission. It mounts a steel turret and an aluminum hull. It was air transportable and fully amphibious with the screen around the sides raised. The main gun fired a 152mm standard projectile or a missile. It packed a lot of punch for a small tank. A similar gun was also used on the M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle. It is equipped with nuclear, biological, and chemical protection for the crew of four men. This enables it to fight in almost any climate or situation. The vehicle has seen combat use in Vietnam, Panama and Desert Storm, and it is used today for training in the California desert by the Armored Force Opposing Forces training center. Weight is 34,900 lbs. Top speed is 43 mph. It was built by the Allison Division of General Motors.
The M551 Sheridan was developed to provide the US Army with a light armored reconnaissance vehicle with heavy firepower. The main armament consists of an 152mm M81 gun/missile launcher capable of firing conventional ammunition and the MGM-51 Shillelagh antitank missile ( 20 conventional rounds and 8 missiles ). Due to problems with the gun-tube-launched antitank missile, the Sheridan was not fielded widely throughout the Army. The gun would foul with case-less ammunition, gun firing would interfere with missile electronics, and the entire vehicle recoiled with unusual vigor when the gun was fired, since the 152mm gun was too big for the light-weight chassis. The Shillelagh missiles were evidently never used in anger. In addition to the main gun/missile launcher, the M551 is armed with a 7.62mm M240 machine gun and a 12.7mm M2 HB antiaircraft machine gun. A Detroit Diesel 6V-53T 300hp turbo-charged V-6 diesel engine and an Allison TG-250-2A power-shift transmission provide the Sheridan's power. Protection for the four-man crew is provided by an aluminum hull and steel turret. Although light enough to be airdrop-capable, the aluminum armor was thin enough to be pierced by heavy machine-gun rounds, and the vehicle was particularly vulnerable to mines.
Initially produced in 1966, the M551 was fielded in 1968. 1,562 M551s were built between 1966 and 1970. The Sheridan saw limited action in Vietnam, where many deficiencies were revealed. The missile system was useless against an enemy that employed no tanks, though the Sheridan saw a lot of use towards the end of the war because of its mobility. Sheridan-equipped units participated in Operation Just Cause in Panama (1989), and was deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield. As projectile technology advanced, the Sheridan's potential declined and it was phased out of the US inventory beginning in 1978. The M551 was last used by the 82nd Airborne Division. Some 330 "visually-modified" Sheridans represent threat tanks and armored vehicles at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.
An M113 APC is knocked tail-first off a barge into the water.
More M113s and M551s await sinking just behind.
M60 "Patton" main battle tank
hull length: 23 ft, weight: 58 tons
The M60 series tank succeeded the M47 and M48 Series. The improved design provided an increased operational range and mobility, required a minimum of refueling and servicing, and incorporated an improved main armament. A Continental V-12 750 hp. air cooled diesel engine powers the vehicle. Power is transmitted to a final drive through a cross drive transmission, which is a combined transmission, differential, steering, and braking unit. The hull of this vehicle is a one piece steel casting and is divided into two compartments, the crew in the front, and the engine at the rear.
The M60 Patton main battle tank is now primarily found in US Reserve and National Guard units, but served as the primary US main battle tank for two decades prior to the introduction of the M1. Developed from the M48 Patton series, the M60 was fitted with a 105mm main gun and manned by a four-man crew. Criticized for its high profile and limited cross-country mobility, this durable tank proved reliable and underwent many updates over its service life. Rarely has one vehicle type labored as the principle main battle tank for as long as the stalwart M60. The interior layout, based on the excellent design of the M26/46/47/M48, provided ample room for updates and improvements, extending the vehicle's service life for over four decades.
In the early 1950s, reports from British intelligence indicated the Soviets had developed a new heavily armored medium tank, the T-54. This new tank was armed with a 100mm gun, superior to the American M48 medium tank, which used an old 90mm main weapon developed in WWII. In response, the US developed a strategy to bring the M48 up a level to compete with the new Soviet tank -- the M60. Initially produced in 1960, over 15,000 M60s were built by Chrysler and first saw service in 1961. Production ended in 1983, but 5,400 older models were converted to the M60A3 variant ending in 1990. This tank saw action with the Israeli forces during the Yom Kippur War in both the Sinai and the Golan Heights.
Besides its main gun, the M60 series tanks are equipped with a 7.62mm M240 coaxial machine gun and 12.7mm M85 antiaircraft gun. Power is provided by a Continental AVDS-1790-2C 750 hp V-12 engine and an Allison CD-850-6/6A power-shift cross-drive transmission. The first M-60s retained a turret similar to the M-48, but had a revised hull with better ballistic protection. The M60 tank hull was designed with a unique rounded boat shape, made from five cast pieces that combine to provide excellent ballistic protection for the four crew and equipment packed inside.
The army ordered the M60 into production in 1959 and the first M60s entered service with U.S. Army units during the fall of 1960. Most of the initial production vehicles were sent to Europe to offset the Russian T-54, then coming into widespread service with Warsaw pact armies. While it was an improvement over the M48, especially in armament ( having a 105 mm gun, a much roomier M19 Commander Cupola and new road wheels ), the M60 was regarded as somewhat of a stop-gap measure. It has 750 hp. with a maximum speed of 30 mph and maximum range of 350 miles.
Used in Vietnam and Desert Storm, it proved itself to be a dependable vehicle in all areas of operation.
M578 Armored Recovery Vehicle ( crane )
hull length: 19 ft, weight: 23 tons
The M578 is a fully armored heavy recovery vehicle with an armored independently-operated cab and crane mounted at the rear of the hull near the rear of the vehicle. The hull, power plant, and running gear are similar to those of the M110A2 self-propelled Howitzer. It is used to recover mechanized equipment which has been bogged down, turned over, or become so disabled it can't be towed readily. It is also used by maintenance units for general repair and maintenance at repair yards or depots. The crane has a 30,000 lb., capacity, and it is outfitted with tools and equipment to be used on a daily basis. It has a crew of three men and weighs 54,000 lbs. Power is provided by a Detroit Diesel V-8 engine with 405 hp.
The M107 self propelled 175 mm gun and the M110 self propelled 8in (203 mm) howitzer were both characterized by rapid barrel wear and the need to be able to change the barrels frequently and simply. The US Army developed a crane for this purpose based on the tracked vehicle as the guns themselves. It has a turret with a boom rather than a gun barrel, and a winch which gave it a recovery as well as a lifting potential. This equipment, the M578, was issued to those artillery units using the guns during the 1970s. When the guns were withdrawn from service the M578 was re-designated a Light Armored Recovery Vehicle [VTR], used to recover damaged vehicles from the battlefield. The hydraulic crane is housed in a turret mounted at the rear of the chassis. A stabilizing spade hydraulically lowers from the rear. Used in both Vietnam war and Desert Storm.
M578 armored cranes being cleaned prior to sinking.
Story by MSgt. Bob Haskell
Photos by SFC Declan Callan
Don Cramer is an amiable old salt who has seen just about everything -- worn tires, stone slabs from the remodeled Benjamin Franklin Bridge, tug boats and part of an oil refinery -- deep-sixed off New Jersey to make salt-water havens for fish. Now the charter-boat skipper out of Stone Harbor, N.J., can add demilitarized Army tanks and armored personnel carriers to the material used to build and sustain artificial reefs a few miles out in the rolling Atlantic.
Reef Exercise, REEFEX for short, is a program spearheaded by the New Jersey Army National Guard intended to reinforce the sport-fishing industry off the mid-Atlantic shore -- from Long Island to North Carolina -- and help people like Don Cramer earn a living. He is a third-generation charter-boat captain who has been hauling fishing parties beyond the New Jersey horizon for 40 years in search of sea bass, blackfish, porgy and other species that thrive on the worms, snails and other organisms that grow on reefs.
Holsey Moorman is a brigadier general in the New Jersey Army National Guard who is convinced the armed forces have plenty of old equipment that is ideal for building these reefs and that the Guard and other government agencies have the muscle to drop it to the ocean floor where it can do the most good.
"You either cut it up for scrap or use it for something like this," said Moorman, New Jersey's deputy adjutant general, who learned about the program during a tour at the Pentagon. "Considering scrap metal is going for about $13 a ton, there is a lot more financial benefit from using it to help the sport-fishing industry."
Consequently, 181 M60 tanks, Sheridan armored reconnaissance vehicles and M113 APCs that new technology and the Army's downsizing have made obsolete were gutted for spare parts, drained of their polluting fluids and steamed squeaky clean at Fort Dix before being shoved from barges into 50 feet of ocean off the New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia coasts in August and September.
Members of the New Jersey Army Guard, primarily from the 119th Support Battalion, have worked on the reef project since 1994, said Lt. Col. Charles Harvey, the battalion's commander. "It's a good morale booster," said Harvey as tanks were being pushed from an ocean-going barge onto New Jersey's Wildwood Reef nearly five miles off Stone Harbor. "these guys work their tails off."
The New Jersey Guard heads the program, said Moorman, because Fort Dix has the only federally-certified facility for stripping and cleaning the tracked vehicles in the region. About 30 Guard members worked on this year's $1.3-million effort, which was funded by the Defense Department. Armored vehicles from Forts Stewart and Benning in Georgia and from Anniston Army Depot in Alabama were sanitized at Fort Dix and transported to barges at the Earle Naval Weapons Station on the New Jersey shore before being dumped off the mid-Atlantic coast.
The tanks and APCs are expected to form patch reefs where the water is green and rich in algae and plankton but where natural reefs do not exist. "Tanks have a relatively high profile. Triggerfish, bait fish and round herring will school up over high structures," explained Bill Figley, reef coordinator for the New Jersey Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife. The old military vehicles are the newest building blocks for artificial reefs that have been built off the Atlantic coast since the 1930s, Figley said. New Jersey alone has established 14 reef sites since 1983, using enough material to build a single lane highway four feet deep and 172 miles long.
Hundreds of sanitized military vehicles have been placed on reef sites off the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico during the last three years with the help of Army Guard units from Louisiana and Georgia as well as from New Jersey, officials explained. It takes four or five years for a reef to develop the thick layer of vegetation and the small animals to feed a lot of fish, Figley said. Fish, however, start to colonize, and hide from predators, within days after the old boats and tanks hit bottom.
The heavy armored vehicles' anticipated durability of 50 to 100 years is critical, said Figley. "We try to put down materials that aren't going to break apart," he explained. Once in place, the reefs can produce a lot of food. Those off New Jersey are sustaining up to 300 million pounds of mussels, he said. In some places there are 5,000 mussels per square foot.
Noble as this military machinery's final mission may be, armor soldiers get downright melancholy when the tanks that were designed to move and fire on land take a plunge beneath the waves. "I got down inside a turret to look around one last time back on land," lamented New Jersey Army Guard Maj. Ernest Huggard as six M60s from his former tank company were sent to their final resting places. "I guess they call it obsolete today," added Huggard, "but by our standards, five years ago it was the newest thing we had."
Reprinted from the US Army website
All manner of concrete, steel, and stone rubble from dredging, demolition projects, and other construction is used as artificial reef materials. This material is generally available at very low cost or free from construction companies who are more than happy to get rid of it. Transportation costs determine where this material is used by the Reef Program.
A hopper barge full of rock
Each year, millions of tons of concrete and steel debris are dumped into landfills in our state. This material is generated from the continuous demolition of aging buildings, bridges, road ways and piers. Now, the artificial reef program can use much of this material in a useful way to create marine fish habitat.
Chunks of concrete make ideal reef material. Concrete is dense enough so there is little problem with movement during storms and as it slowly ages it simply breaks down into sand and lime, two natural constituents of the ocean. A pile of concrete on the ocean bottom is a cheap imitation of a natural rock outcropping. providing a firm substrate for mussels and barnacles and all kinds of hiding places for sea bass. tog and lobster.
Acceptable demolition debris includes concrete, brick, stone, glass and heavy gauge steel. Unacceptable are materials of low density, such as corrugated sheet metal, aluminum arid plaster. The debris must be free of floatables - wood, plastic and containers. Fine particulate matter, which would include gravel, soil and granulated concrete, cannot exceed five per cent of the load by volume. As far as the fish are concerned, the bigger the pieces the better.
Rubble is transported to the reef site on large barges capable of carrying 3,000 to 5.000 tons of material. For slabs and boulder-sized chunks, deck barges are used; bulldozers push the material overboard. For smaller-sized chunks, less than a cubic yard. hopper or pocket barges which have a half- dozen or more hoppers, each with a trap -door bottom, are utilized. Once on the reef site, the doors are opened and piles of rubble drop straight to the ocean floor.
The strategy of making reefs with concrete rubble is to pile it up on top of itself. Because of its density, scattered pieces of concrete quickly subside and disappear into the sand bottom. Piling relies on the bottom layer providing a stable foundation and results in more structure jutting up above the bottom. To accomplish this, several barge loads of material are dropped at the same location.
From A Guide to
Fishing & Diving New Jersey's Artificial Reefs
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 1989
Front-end loaders push stacks of slabs, each weighing 7 tons, overboard.
A total of 4,700 slabs were consolidated into a six-acre area on the reef site.
The resulting jumble produced excellent catches of sea bass and porgy
two months after deployment.
Side-scan sonar image of concrete slabs, pilings, and debris.
Concrete reef material colonized by marine organisms and fish
Granite has a density of 162 lb / cu ft, or 12.3 cu ft / ton. 1000 tons of granite is equal to approximately 450 cubic yards, or a solid cube 23 feet on a side.
Limestone has a density of 125 lb / cu ft, or 16 cu ft / ton. 1000 tons of limestone is equal to approximately 600 cubic yards, or a solid cube 25 feet on a side.
By Bill Figley
Principal Fisheries Biologist
For the first time, early this summer 1999, New Jersey's Reef Program will place 600 designed fish habitats on its ocean artificial reefs. These designed reef habitats, called Reef Balls, were developed and patented by a company in Sarasota, FL. Reef Balls are made of concrete and resemble an igloo with lots of holes. The habitats are 4' in diameter, 3' high and weigh about 1,400 pounds. The many holes around the periphery provide access for fish, crabs and lobsters to the hollow interior of the undersea homes.
Through a cooperative project with Southern State Correctional Facility, Reef Balls are fabricated by inmate laborers at the facility located in Leesburg, Cumberland County. Fiberglass molds are used to cast the poured concrete. Each week, 30 new fish homes are manufactured and stored at the prison facility. By June of this year, the first 600 habitats will be trucked to the shore and transported by barge to an offshore, ocean reef site. The costs of molds, concrete and transportation are being funded through the Federal Aid to Sportfish Restoration Program, which provides funds generated from federal excise taxes collected on sales of sport fishing equipment to state agencies for fisheries management and enhancement programs.
A scattering of Reef Balls, with a subway car at upper-right
Up until now, the Reef Program was dependent upon materials of opportunity, such as rock, concrete debris and derelict ships, to build reefs. Now, with these designed Reef Ball habitats, the Reef Program can avoid the drawbacks associated with materials of opportunity and derive the maximum environmental benefits.
Reef Balls have been used around the world's oceans to build artificial reefs. The concrete structures, when placed on the featureless sandy sea floor off the Jersey coast, will provide new homes for a dozen species of reef fish, crabs and lobsters. The structures will enable reef inhabitants to hide and escape predation from larger ocean predators. The concrete substrate will afford a firm attachment surface for mussels, barnacles and other sea life, which in turn, will become food for reef fishes.
Reprinted from NJ Fish & Wildlife Digest 1999 Marine Issue
A tire unit is a structure built of old automobile or truck tires bound together with wire, usually in a pyramidal shape. These are sunk as habitat for marine organisms. As you may imagine, the tires provide numerous places for fish and lobsters to hide, and the rubber lasts a very long time. In fact, the rubber tires outlast anything that can be used to bind them, and it was found that tire units come apart over time. For this reason, rubber tires and tire units are no longer in use by the Reef Program. They have been superseded by concrete Reef Balls.
The barge Michael DePalma, piled high with huge truck tires prior to sinking.