After delays attributed to governmental paperwork and the Corona Virus outbreak, it appears the efforts of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association to enhance area artificial reefs are about to come to fruition.
Association president, Captain John Lewis, has announced the vessels slated to be deployed on the Little Egg Reef Site have been cleared and may be leaving Norfolk for Beach Haven as soon as December 1.
Lewis received an email from Pete Clark, New Jersey reef coordinator, informing him that four items are being towed from Norfolk to Beach Haven including a 200-foot barge, two tugs, and a push boat. The three smaller vessels will ride upon the barge during the tow.
According to Clark the vessels have been cleared by the Coast Guard in Norfolk, Virginia, and have been cleaned twice to prepare for sinking. A tug boat has been chartered beginning December 1.
This deployment is the result of a lengthy process of the BHCFA and the youngsters in its Junior Mates Program. The reefs were originally constructed decades ago a few miles off the coast as habitat for various species of fish and a place for anglers to fish. Marine life grows on the materials attracting a wide variety of fish looking for food and habitat.
Over time the materials placed on the reefs sink in the sand and do not provide the needed structure. As a result, new materials are needed to supplement those original materials. The artificial reefs closest to Long Beach Island have not been enhanced for quite some time.
Teenagers in the Junior Mates learned of the reef situation and questioned what they could do to improve the situation. This humble beginning sparked a grass roots campaign which snowballed into an intensive campaign by the BHCFA. These efforts attracted the attention of concerned individuals and groups on the local and even national levels.
The group’s original goal to raise $100,000 to begin reef replenishment has been reached thanks to the efforts of the mates, local community involvement, and matching funds from the Ann E. Clark Foundation and the Sport Fishing Fund.
Helping to make the efforts possible immediately was the generous donation of $50,000 from the sponsors of the Sea Shell Club’s Striped Bass Derby last fall in Beach Haven. In addition, other local businesses have donated money including funds raised from a cocktail party at a private residence.
Enhancement to the reefs was first expected last spring, but unexpected delays including the nationwide virus have slowed down the time frame. It now appears to finally be happening.
Lewis has special words of praise for the Junior Mates participation in the project. “Kids today take a beating for various reasons. Our kids have adopted a ’can-do’ approach and worked their tails off to implement their ideas and dreams.”