Sunday, March 30, 2008

2008 year for artificial reefs


The Daily Times
By Laura D'Alessandro
March 30, 2008

Navy ship could join subway cars on materials list

OCEAN CITY -- According to members of the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative, 2008 may be the resort's year for huge reef developments.

Marty Gary, a member of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service, said more than $1 million was invested into artificial reefs in the Chesapeake Bay last year and two developments are currently on the horizon for Maryland's Atlantic coastline.

"This could be a very exciting year for Ocean City," he said. "I think 2008 is the year of the coast between the subway cars and the Radford."

The Ocean City Reef Foundation is currently raising funds to sink New York City subway cars off the coast.

"We have got about two barge loads or close to that," said Greg Hall, the group's president. "We've raised $40,000 and the people have been wonderful about donations."

But as far as the Radford, a 600-foot Navy destroyer ship goes, Hall and Gary can only hope for the funds to be raised in time.

Hall said the Ocean City Reef Foundation is hopeful the state can acquire the Radford but they are busy with their subway car endeavor. Still, Gary is hopeful.

"I think the chances of getting the Radford are excellent," he said.

The project is being bid as a multi-state effort, combining funding from Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey to sink the ship in the Delaware Bay in an area designated "Deljerseyland."

The location is 30 nautical miles from the Ocean City inlet, 28 from the Indian River inlet and 32 from Cape May, N.J.

The spot chosen for the Radford is adjacent to a wreck called the U.S.S. Moonstone. Gary said the Moonstone is much smaller and the Radford will make the area even better for fishing and diving.

"If you take a vessel of this size and put it down on the ocean floor you will immediately get colonial organisms like mussel and anemones on there," Gary said. "And with that it becomes attractive to various fish species and they'll literally set up camp there."

He said fish such as black sea bass and flounder usually frequent the reefs, but one the size of the Radford has the potential to attract different species of tuna, amber jack and other large fish.

Though Hall thinks the cost is high, Gary said it is low compared to the recent investment in the Chesapeake. The total cost has been estimated at $600,000, split between three states.

"It could get higher," Gary said. "And there is a definite need from donations."

He hopes the state will receive large corporate donations to fund the project, but even individual donations can be made by visiting


Sunday, March 09, 2008

The lure of shipwrecks


Miami Herald
By Susan Cocking
March 09, 2008

scientists found a rich reef fish community thriving near three sunken freighters in 250-300 feet of water.

Anglers wouldn't have many bottom-fishing opportunities in the deep ocean waters off Broward County if there were no shipwrecks.

A three-year study by scientists at Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center revealed a rich reef fish community thriving around three freighters sunk in 250 to 300 feet of water -- compared with an almost barren natural rubble bottom nearby.

Researchers David Bryan and Kirk Kilfoyle used a miniature, camera-toting remote-control submarine, or ROV, operated by Steve Van Meter to count fish around the wrecks of the Bill Boyd, Papa's Reef and Caicos Express and on the adjacent ocean floor.

They found 615 fish of 42 species on the natural bottom, but nearly 51,400 fish of 65 species on the vessel reefs.

''We were the first to look at these wrecks with an ROV,'' Bryan said. ``We got to see things not many people have gotten to see. It was surprising we didn't find [nearly] anything on the natural bottom.''

Operating the VideoRay submersible with a joystick from the surface, the scientists found the wrecks were dominated by thousands of tiny, plankton-eating basses, which in turn provided forage for larger fish such as Almaco and amberjack, blackfin and gray snapper, and scamp grouper. The researchers also spotted some large Warsaw grouper and hogfish.

''We all wished we had a spear gun,'' joked Bryan.

Bryan and Kilfoyle concluded the deep shipwrecks do not appear to be attracting fish away from nearby natural habitat. Instead, they said, the fish congregating around the vessels are more similar to those found on the deep-water coral reefs of the Oculina Banks off Fort Pierce. Those reefs have high relief and are much more complex than the natural bottom off Broward County.

Said Nova marine biology professor Richard Spieler, who supervised the project: ``There's a strong possibility that the use of artificial habitat in deep water in places like Broward enhances the fishery.''

While the ships seem to increase reef fish productivity, the scientists said, they may also attract larger groupers that are typically rare in Broward County, making them more susceptible to hook-and-line and spearfishing.

Said Spieler: ``Ships can serve a purpose. They would serve a great purpose if you could restrict fishing on them.''

The $100,000 study was funded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Guy Harvey Research Institute, and NOAA Fisheries.