How Sunk Battleships are Converted into New Ecosystems

shoal of fishPhoto:
Image: Arthur Koch

What to do with decommissioned naval ships? Scrap them and make a quick buck? Well, at least one possible use for them is to create artificial reefs, just as the Cayman Islands intend to. The Caribbean diving haven will soon be scuttling the 2077 tonne USS Kittiwake to their shores, once ownership of the vessel is transferred from the US Maritime Association to the government.

shipwreck reefPhoto:
Image: Tierra Maya

The 251ft Kittiwake has been anchored for years amongst the ‘ghost fleet’ of decommissioned vessels at Fort Eustis, Virginia. Built in 1945, the ship made numerous voyages between the United States’ east coast, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean in support of submarines and to conduct rescue missions for the US Navy. The vessel should attract large schools of fish to the deserted cabins and halls; much like the Russian destroyer sunk in 1996 by the Cayman Islands and now decorated in sponges and coral, whilst attracting a lot of divers.

fish on reefPhoto:
photographer unknown

It may seem odd to be sinking boats intentionally, but it’s not a new idea. In Florida, there is a shipwreck heritage trail, with notable wreck sites from Key Largo to Key West. While some were sunk unintentionally, others have intentionally given themselves to the sea. The result is a wreck trail believed to be home to some 55 varieties of delicate corals and nearly 500 species of fish – recycling and reuse at its very best.

Source 1, 2

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