Two years after beginning efforts to replenish the Little Egg Reef off Beach Haven, the captains and mates of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association saw their efforts pay off on Thursday, January 14.
Captain John Lewis, Association president, oversaw three vessels sunk on the reef including a 140-foot barge, a tugboat, and a push boat. The boats were brought from Norfolk, Virginia, where they had been cleaned and prepared and sunk on the Little Egg Reef.
New Jersey’s artificial reefs were originally constructed decades ago 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 since 2005.
Teenagers in the Association’s Junior Mates Program learned of the reef situation and asked 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 was 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.
Enhancement to the reefs was first expected a year ago, but unexpected delays including the Corona virus and bureaucratic red tape slowed down the time frame.
The entire project was done under the watchful eyes of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection which assisted in moving the project along.
Within a short period of time marine, growth will occur on the sunken materials, providing recreational fishing activities for years to come.
Association president, John Lewis, had special words of praise for those assisting in the efforts, especially the Junior Mates participation. “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.”