In 1995 the state of Delaware started to create artificial reef sites in the Delaware Bay and along the Atlantic Coast. These artificial reefs are important
because "durable, stable non-toxic reef materials can develop an invertebrate community which is hundreds of times richer than adjacent bottom, providing food and physical protection for reef fish such as tautog, seabass, scup, spadefish and triggerfish." Another benefit of the artificial reefs is that other fish and sea animals are attracted to fish that congregate around reefs (both real and artificial).
Making these artificial reefs even more crucial to Delaware ocean wildlife is the otherwise barren sea floor. "In the Mid-Atlantic region, where near shore bottom is usually featureless sand or mud," these artificial reefs which help sustain life are even more crucial to ocean wildlife in the region. "We have neither the natural rocky outcrops common in New England or the coral reefs of our Southeastern Atlantic Coast."
After 15 years, the Reef Program now boasts 14 permitted artificial reef sites in Delaware Bay and along the Atlantic Coast. "What are these artificial reefs?" one might ask. The qualifications for suitable reef material are broad: "anything old and afloat that will sink after it's been cleaned up, and anything cleanly discarded that can be resurrected as reef material once it goes down to the ocean floor." Old, unusable boats long past their prime can now experience a second life as part of a habitat for burgeoning ocean wildlife in the Mid-Atlantic area.
The largest site of sunken vessels and vehicles
in Delaware's network of artificial reefs is known as "Redbird Reef." The name is "a derivation of the retired New York City subway cars that comprise much of the reef." The reef system received its newest member in early March 2010 in the form of an aging towboat known as "The Sandy Point."
In early 2010 another Delaware reef site, "Site 10," received "its first deployment of reefing material in more than a year with the sinking of two barges whose length exceeded 100 feet and four sectional barges each approximately 25 feet long." One of the barges sunk at "10" was the retired Navy barge YC-725.
The newest artificial reef in the State network is known as the "Del-Jersey-Land Inshore Reef," or DJLIR. Later this year, this new site will welcome "the ex-USS Arthur W. Radford, a Navy destroyer, as the largest vessel ever reefed on the East Coast. The 563-foot-long Radford is expected to be sunk in early summer."
All in all, I think this whole artificial reef thing is a really cool concept. However, one concern does cross my mind. Is the otherwise barren ocean floor environment in the Mid-Atlantic region a natural occurrence? If it is naturally barren, I'm not so sure we should be bringing life to it.