A new offshore scuba diving and fishing destination, approximately 28 miles off the Atlantic coast of the Mayport area of Jacksonville, has been created by intentionally sinking two large ships to create an artificial reef.
“This unique vessel recycling effort provides an extended, alternate life for the ships while benefiting the ocean environment and creating a recreational attraction,” said Joe Kistel, reef project coordinator and underwater cinematographer at Kistel Media.
A retired Navy tugboat is now the Jimmy Dales Reef and a custom sailboat, that was never fully built, is the Greater Jax Kingfish Reef. The ships were sunk in an artificial reef permit zone known as Harm’s Ledge, where the seafloor depth is 90 feet. Given the size of the vessels, divers can reach the highest point of the new reef around 60 feet below the ocean surface.
These are the first ships to be scuttled off the Jacksonville shoreline since The Spike was deployed in 2009, and it is now a flourishing ecosystem. Jimmy Dales Reef and the Greater Jax Kingfish Reef were intentionally placed near The Spike in hopes that the vessels will create a similar ecosystem.
Countless natural and intentionally created reef sites lie off Jacksonville’s coast, forming an unexplored haven for fishermen and underwater adventurers. Divers can spot a variety of fish, including red snapper, Atlantic spadefish and seabass. Fishermen are most likely to catch snapper, cobia and greater amberjack near the reefs.
“We expect these new reefs to be swarming with a variety of marine life in a short period of time. The longer a ship is underwater, the more diverse the ecosystem it helps create becomes,” said Kistel. “It is going to be a great spot for divers to explore and fisherman to patiently wait to reel one in.”
The project took over two years to plan and execute. The vessels had to be prepared to an environmentally friendly state by removing plastics, fuel, lubricants, wiring and fiber glass insulation. In addition, the vessels were modified to allow ocean water to fill the ships and enable sinking in a safe and controlled fashion. Camera mounts, for “Sink-Cams,” were also added to capture the climatic sinking moments from aboard the vessels.
More information about the numerous reefs off the coast of Jacksonville is available on the Visit Jacksonville website.
This project was made possible through the support and efforts of many individuals and local businesses including Mobro Marine, Jacksonville Marine Charities, Greenland Biomass and the North Florida Marine Association.
About Kistel Media
Kistel Media is a visual media content creation and consulting operation specializing in underwater and conservation outreach initiatives.