LITTLE EGG HARBOR – Old boats that were not being used anymore were given a new function – as part of an artificial reef system that will help preserve the shore’s environment.
According to an article by Stockton University news, a tugboat, push boat and barge were sunk on an artificial reef site in Little Egg Harbor.
Stockton University Marine Field Station Director Steve Evert observed the sinking of three boats for two hours. He was joined by several students in monitoring marine life that will be drawn to the reef habitat.
The first boat to go down was a push boat, then a 140-foot barge and finally a tug boat with boat horns blaring as a tribute to its sinking.
The primary sponsor of the Stockton University project is Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, LLC, in a partnership between Shell New Energies US LLC and EDF Renewables North America. The Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association and its junior mate program coordinated a fundraising effort to buy each of the boats.
According to the article by Stockton University, Evert said that through providing training for students the project would serve as a workforce development tool for the university’s hydrography program.
The hydrographic consulting firm ECHO81 along with R2 Sonic, a multibeam sonar manufacturer, are providing instrumentation, guidance and data collection protocols to the University’s researchers that will be seeing out images in the months to come.
Those images will include sonar scans of the ocean floor surrounding the reef sit and will also allow for a visual of how the sunken boats are positioned according to Evert. A current image has revealed that both smaller craft are lying beside the larger barge.
Stockton University Marine Science Associate Professor Mark Sullivan, will be working with students in scrutinizing the underwater footage. He was previously involved with research led by Peter Straub, who currently serves as dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, that collected ROV video data and helped to identify different species that use the Little Egg reef site as habitat.
Among those observing the reefing process were Bill Figley, the retired reef coordinator for the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, and John Lewis, president of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association. They watched from the deck of the R/V Petrel.
The boats sank on January 14 and joined dredge rock, cables, concrete, and heavy steel military vehicles. The reefs create a habitat and a location for recreational fishing and diving. It also gives sea bass and fluke and other species of fish a purpose for staying around the area. This all helps to support the local coastal tourism economy.
Ocean County Business Development and Tourism Division Director Dana Lancellotti wants all tourism partners in the county to be aware about local efforts regarding an important environmental program.
She noted the “recent progress made in the much-anticipated reef replenishment project. This effort has been so very long in the making and our friends at the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association and their Junior Mates have worked tirelessly to help raise the funds needed to make it happen.”
Lancellotti added, “imagine how awesome this educational experience is for the students who get to observe and study the development of a new underwater habitat and the sea life that flourishes as a result.”