MANASQUAN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Fishing along the Jersey Shore means big business, and to boost those profits, the state has partnered with local agencies on an artificial reef plan.
A 68-foot trawler named Austin slowly sank to the bottom of the ocean Wednesday to begin a new life as an artificial reef.
“Most of the coastline off New Jersey is flat, sandy bottom with not much features for fish. So we create these artificial reefs to create structure, habitat, and productivity,” Brandon Muffley of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Administration told CBS2’s Meg Baker.
After a hiatus of more than five years, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection re-launched the artificial reef program to enhance offshore habitats and draw in anglers and sport divers.
Old vessels and other materials used in artificial reefs provide surfaces for algae, barnacles, mussels, sea stars and sea fans to grow.
The Austin joins several other ships and treasures that make up the artificial reef just off the Manasquan Inlet. Six more ships will be sunk this year.
“We are going to keep doing that both for the ecology of the state – growing fishing, and the same time growing state economy,” DEP Commissioner Sgt. Bob Martin said.
Commercial fishing in the state is a $1.5 billion industry that provides more than 40,000 jobs. Recreational fishing brings in another $2 billion and 10,000 jobs.
Wednesday’s sinking of the Austin was dedicated to John Grady, a Brielle man who passed away from leukemia.
“They reef fished all the time out there so this is really fitting,” Agatha Grady said.
A cross signed by Grady’s loved ones was placed on top of the Austin, which is owned by Capt. Bill Ford.
“We are glad it’s going on the reef instead of going to the scrap yard or something,” Ford said.
All involved call the day a win – for the sea life and fishermen, the Grady family and the boat owner.