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March 26, 1999

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

In 1998, the Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife constructed 130 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 1,251 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, obsolete military vehicles and specially designed concrete fish habitats known as Reef Balls. Reef deployment by material is as follows:

1984 - 1998
Rock 0 392
Concrete 5 173
Vessels 4 104
Tire Units 5 228
Army Vehicles 116 341
Other - 13
TOTAL 130 1,251

In addition to patch reefs, four vessels were sunk on New Jersey's Reef Site Network in 1998. 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 1998:

MAKO MANIA -- a 174' navy tanker sunk on June 16 on the Shark River Reef. Sponsored by the Greater Pt. Pleasant Charter Boat Association and Budweiser. The vessel was towed from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard to the reef, 16 miles offshore of Manasquan Inlet by the tug Okinawa of the U.S. Army 949th Transportation Corps. The vessel was sunk with explosives set by the State Police Bomb Squad.

ROTHENBACH II -- 165' navy tanker sunk on July 10 on the Great Egg Reef. Sponsored by Ron and Barbara Rothenbach, the tanker was towed to the reef from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard by the U.S. Army 949th Transportation Corps. The vessel was sunk with explosives set by the State Police Bomb Squad.

KING -- a 140' deck barge sunk on September 14 on the Sea Girt Reef, four miles offshore of Manasquan Inlet. The vessel was sunk by cutting holes in the hull to facilitate flooding.

OCEAN WRECK DIVERS VI-- 85' bow section of a tanker sunk on August 7 on the Sea Girt Reef sponsored by the Ocean Wreck Divers Club of Toms River. The vessel was sunk by cutting holes in the hull.

Obsolete army tanks make excellent reef structures as well. In 1998, 11 tanks were cleaned and prepared by the New Jersey Army National Guard at Fort Dix as a training exercise. Military tanks resemble 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.

Reef balls are a new addition to the Reef Program. They are igloo-shaped concrete domes that have many large holes for access of fish into their hollow interiors. Reef Balls are now being manufactured by inmate laborers at the Southern State Correction Facility in Delmont, Cape May County. The igloos measure four feet in diameter at the base and three feet high, and weigh about 1,400 pounds each. They are manufactured in fiberglass molds. Approximately 600 Reef Ball habitats are slated for ocean deployment in 1999.

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.