Local News

Artificial reefs create unique environment for divers and water life

Posted December 9, 2015

The waters off the North Carolina coast hide many treasures, especially for divers who explore its many shipwrecks.

The project, named after Jim Francesconi, who ran the North Carolina’s artificial reef program for nearly 15 years, will ensure divers can continue to enjoy them for years to come.

“It’s about 12 miles from Beaufort Inlet out to the site,” said Robert Purifoy, a diver who owns a shop in Morehead City. “It’s about six and a half miles from shore.”

Purifoy said he spends most of his time diving ship wrecks off the North Carolina coast.

For the past year, he’s been helping lead a movement to buy and sink two tug boats as part of an ongoing effort to maintain an artificial reef.

“It helps everybody. It helps the recreational fisherman by growing more fish,” Purifoy said. “It helps the divers by having more wrecks to dive on. It helps the commercial fisherman by generating more fish in the ocean.”

Jason Peters, an artificial reef coordinator for the state, said exploring shipwrecks is a unique experience.

“They’re cool to see on the bottom as a diver,” he said. They’re cool to see on your fish finder; they’re cool to catch fish off of, but they’re also neat to see go down. It’s a neat process.”

Peters said high relief—large wreckage that stands tall on the ocean floor—creates a welcoming material for underwater life.

“It takes about seven minutes for a fish to arrive on a new site,” Purifoy said. “Every seven minutes after that one new fish will arrive. And if you think about how many seven minutes are in a day, a week or year, that’s a whole lot of fish.”

Money for the project came from the dive specialty license plates, private fundraising and some state funding from marine fisheries.

The project is aiming to sink the two tug boats by early April 2016.

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