In 1996, the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife constructed 107 new patch reefs on New Jersey’s network of 14 ocean artificial reef sites spaced evenly along the coast between Sandy Hook and Ocean City. A patch reef is a one half to several-acre reef created by sinking a ship or placing one barge-load of other material on the sea floor.
“Since the program’s modest beginnings in 1984, the state has coordinated the construction of more than 1,000 patch reefs,” said division Director Bob McDowell. “Such an extensive network of reef sites has greatly increased recreational opportunities for New Jersey’s anglers and divers, while also providing much needed habitat for sea bass, tautog, porgy and lobster.”
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 type is as follows:
|Reef Material||Reefs Built in 1996||Total Built 1984-1996|
In addition to the 107 patch reefs, five vessels were sunk in 1996. The “Michael DePalma,” a 70-foot deck barge, sponsored by captains and friends of Michael DePalma, was sunk on February 27 on the Wildwood Reef. The “Antares,” a 41-foot steel-hulled sailboat, donated by John Deckert, was sunk on April 19 on the Barnegat Light Reef. The “Colleen,” a 91-foot tug donated by Captain Sean Maubray and sponsored by the Greater Point Pleasant Charter Boat Association and Budweiser, was sunk on August 3 on the Axel Carlson Reef. The 165-foot former navy tanker, “John Dobilas,” sponsored by employees of McGraw-Hill Companies and the McGraw-Hill Foundation, was sunk on August 17 on the Garden State North Reef. The 99-foot tug, “G.A. Venturo,” sponsored by the Fisherman’s Conservation Organization, was sunk on October 17 on the Sea Girt Reef.
Each of the 14 reef sites consists of many patch reefs. In contrast, reef sites are large areas of sea floor, between one-half and four square miles in size that are permitted by the state through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Reef sites are located from 2 to 23 miles offshore in depths from 40 to 135 feet.
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 thousands of anglers and scuba divers on party, charter and private boats.