Divers and fish to benefit from Little River reef addition

Sport divers and fish alike have a new structure to explore at a popular artificial reef site 10 miles off the coast of Little River.

Last week, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) sunk a 42-foot tugboat at the Little River Offshore reef site, also known as PA-02. Funded in part by the Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina (CCA SC), the new reef section is named the CCA-Little River Offshore Reef.

The Little River Offshore artificial reef site is one of the oldest in South Carolina, with its earliest structures added in the 1970s to provide fish habitat in an otherwise bare section of seafloor. Over the years, the reef has become one of the most popular diving sites in the state, and SCDNR has worked with the area’s active diving community to add numerous armored personnel carriers, barges and concrete culverts. One section of the site, dubbed Barracuda Alley, was created with the aid of Coastal Scuba dive shop of North Myrtle Beach and is a well-known dive-training site offering challenges for divers of all levels.

“This is now the fifth major artificial reef construction project we’ve completed with CCA’s assistance,” said Robert Martore, SCDNR artificial reef coordinator. “They’ve helped with nearshore reef deployments along the entire South Carolina coastline, and we hope to continue this partnership well into the future.” Coastal Conservation Association is an organization of strong state chapters comprised of avid recreational fishermen who have banded together to address conservation issues nationally and within their respective states.

Artificial reefs are man-made structures laid on the seafloor that provide a foundation for the establishment of productive habitat for marine life. They attract fish and other marine organisms from many levels of the food chain, and SCDNR has established dozens of artificial reefs off the coast of South Carolina to increase the amount of fish habitat and enhance recreational opportunities for saltwater anglers and sport divers.

SCDNR constructs artificial reefs out of a variety of recycled steel and concrete materials. In order to protect the surrounding marine environment, structures like boat hulls are methodically stripped and cleaned before being sunk.