Work has begun on a new artificial reef off the North Carolina coast. The 162-acre underwater site is located about 7 miles south of Oregon Inlet sea buoy off Dare County.
On Monday, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Program sank the 88-foot towing vessel American. The division plans to sink two additional tugboats, America (104 feet) and Valley Forge (110 feet) later this winter. 7,000 tons of concrete pipes will be added at the new reef site in early spring. The artificial reef will help attract marine life to a featureless ocean floor, said Jordan Byrum, the artificial reef coordinator with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
"We do some dive surveys and do some side-scan multibeam surveys that there's no shipwrecks on the site, no natural hardbottom. We want to put this on structureless sand that's good hard sand, that's not going to wash away... We want it to be stable and be there for a long time."
Byrum said the vessels and concrete pipes placed at the site will create spawning and foraging habitat for many commercially and recreationally important fish species like king mackerel, bluefish, black sea bass, and grouper. The artificial reef could also benefit some local businesses.
"These are great places for people to fish and dive," said Byrum. “A lot of the dive shops run trips to a lot of these wrecks that we’ve put there up and down the coast, running out of every inlet. A lot of charter captains fish out of these artificial reefs. A lot of folks take their personal boats out on the weekends and fish on the artificial reefs. That’s why they’re put there."
Construction of the new artificial reef, off the coast of Pea Island, is funded by a donation from TW's Bait and Tackle of Nags Head and a grant from the Coastal Recreational Fishing Licence. The N.C. Artificial Reef Program maintains 68 artificial reefs in estuarine waters and the Atlantic Ocean.