The decommissioned destroyer, the USS Arthur W. Radford, in service since 1977, was towed to its final deployment in the Atlantic Ocean August 10th. The ship is being sunk as part of an artificial reef that is a cooperative venture between Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland for enhancing fisheries habitat. 

The Radford reefing venture flew a high-profile flag throughout time spent at the dock—as the country’s first multi-state reefing collaboration and more importantly as a boon for the economy of the three states through recreational fishing and diving and for the environment by providing valuable habitat for marine life. Studies have found that artificial reefs offer up to 400 times the food source for fish than is found on average ocean bottoms.  The 564 foot steel-hulled ships presence on the ocean floor will bolster the artificial reef by enhancing fisheries habitat, increasing marine biodiversity and productivity, and providing fishing and diving opportunities for decades to come. 

“But wait…there’s more!” New York’s subway cars also contribute to ocean wildlife 

The ex-USS Radford will have plenty of company. For more than a decade, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority has treated the Atlantic as its very own graveyard, tossing thousands of old subway cars off barges to the ocean floor. An environmental crime? Not hardly. The program creates habitats for marine life from Georgia to New Jersey and gives New York’s aging subway cars a vibrant (and free!) retirement home. In the Mid-Atlantic region, the ocean bottom is usually featureless sand or mud. Surplus subway cars and ships like the Radford make ideal reef material, because voids and cavities in their structure provide the perfect sanctuary for reef fish. 

Within a few weeks, blue mussels, sponges, barnacles and soft corals attach to the structure, and in about a year, the reef will be fully productive, resembling natural habitat. The continued development of these reefs supplies literally tons of ideal food for reef fish, which helps support commercial and sport fishing plus also attracts divers. Mike Zacchea, of Investment Recovery Association member firm MTA NYC Transit Asset Recovery, has been the official in charge of disposing of New York’s subway cars in this manner for over ten years.