March 31, 1998

For more information contact:
Bill Figley at 609-748-2020

In 1997, the Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife constructed 102 new patch reefs on New Jersey's network of 14 ocean artificial reef sites which are spaced evenly along the coast from Sandy Hook to Cape May. A patch reef is a one-half to several-acre reef created by sinking a ship or placing a barge-load of other material on the sea floor.

"Since 1984, the state has constructed and deployed 1,117 patch reefs," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "Such efforts have greatly increased recreational opportunities for New Jersey's anglers and divers, while also providing much-needed habitat for sea bass, tautog, porgy and lobster."

The objectives of this program are to provide hard substrate habitat for marine fish and shellfish, new fishing grounds for anglers and underwater attractions for scuba divers. Ocean reefs are constructed from a variety of dense materials including dredge rock, concrete demolition debris, old ships and barges, concrete-ballasted tire units and obsolete military vehicles. Reef deployment by material is as follows:

Reef Material 1997 Reefs 1984 - 1997 Total
Rock 2 392
Concrete 1 159
Vessels 10 100
Tire Units 5 228
Army Vehicles 84 226
Other - 13
TOTAL 102 1,117

In addition to patch reefs, 10 vessels were sunk on New Jersey's Reef Site Network in 1997. Reef sites are large areas of sea floor, between one-half and four square miles in size and are located from 2 to 23 miles offshore in depths of 40 to 135 feet.

Following is a list of vessels sunk in 1997:

CAPTAIN ED SCHMIDIGER -- 165' navy tanker barge sunk on October 8 on the Axel Carlson Reef at LORAN navigational coordinates 26918.0/43447.9. Sponsored by Marie Schmidiger and Paul Donohoe.

BILLY D -- 80' tug sunk on the Shark River Reef on July 27 at 26797.5/43481.7. Sponsored by the Artificial Reef Association.

OCEAN WRECK DIVERS III -- 165' navy tanker barge sunk on October 8 on the Axel Carlson Reef at 26914.1/43435.1. Sponsored by Ocean Wreck Divers scuba club.

GOLDEN EAGLE -- 80' commercial trawler sunk on the Sea Girt Reef on December 19 at 26907.7/43511.1. Sponsored by friends of Eagle Pharo.

RESTORER -- 62' tug sunk on December 19 on the Sea Girt Reef at 26906.8/43509.0. Sponsored by the Artificial Reef Association.

JESSIE C -- 65' crew boat sunk on the Little Egg Reef on February 12 at 26922.6/43101.4. Sponsored by Caldwell Diving Company.

THE FISHERMAN -- 242' tanker barge sunk on the Sea Girt Reef on August 7 at 26905.8/43508.3. Sponsored by The Fisherman Magazine and Spentonbush Red Star Company.

LIBRA -- 195' gravel barge sunk on June 12 on the Ocean City Reef at 27017.1/42907.5. Sponsored by Hays Tug and Launch, and the Artificial Reef Association.

ROTHENBACH I -- 165' tanker barge sunk on June 11 on the Cape May Reef at 27019.8/42712.0. Sponsored by Barbara and Ron Rothenbach.

JERRY -- 42' tug sunk on the Garden State North Reef on September 15 at 26870.4/43197.5. Sponsored by the Artificial Reef Association.

Obsolete army tanks make excellent reef structures as well. In 1997, 85 tanks were cleaned and prepared by the New Jersey Army National Guard at Fort Dix as a training exercise. Military tanks are actually just like ships, consisting of a steel hull with an engine and fuel tank. The advantage of a tank over a ship is that the engine and fuel tank can be easily removed during the preparation process.

According to Division surveys, artificial reefs provide feeding areas and refuge from predators for certain species of marine fish and shellfish and attachment surfaces for mussels, barnacles and other organisms that form the basis of the reef food chain. Once marine life is established, reef sites attract anglers and scuba divers on party, charter and private boats.

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