The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control sunk the Texas Star, originally outfitted as a floating casino, at a reef site 16.5 miles offshore of the Delaware coast at a depth of 86 feet.
Built in 1977 on a multi-purpose supply ship hull, the Texas Star was last worked as a commercial scallop catcher/processor vessel. It sunk into an ocean floor fish habitat that’s part of DNREC’s artificial reef program.
The area is relatively barren of features that can become fish habitat. Further offshore is an area that is being considered for future offshore wind projects that could also become marine life habitat around the turbine towers.
The sinking marked the reef program’s third deployment of a vessel in the last three years. The retired menhaden ship John S. Dempster Jr. was sunk on the Del-Jersey-Land Reef 26 miles off Indian River Inlet in early 2021, while a former Navy and later Army freighter and supply ship renamed Reedville when it too became a menhaden ship, was sunk onto Reef Site No. 11, known as Redbird Reef, in August 2020. All of them went down after the 2018 sinking of the retired Lewes-Cape May, N.J. ferry Twin Capes onto the Del-Jersey-Land Reef, second only to Reef Site No. 11 as a popular recreational fishing destination.
The Texas Star’s sinking was carried out by Norfolk, Va.-based marine contractor Coleen Marine, which has handled numerous reef deployments over the DNREC reef program’s existence at many of Delaware’s 14 permitted artificial reef sites.
The Texas Star joins the Dempster, the Reedville, Shearwater, Gregory S. Poole, and Atlantic Mist as former commercial fishing ships now residing on Delaware artificial reef sites. Shearwater, Poole and Atlantic Mist, which also saw service as military vessels, are all part of the Del-Jersey-Land Reef, which is roughly equidistant from ports of departure.
The Reedville was the first fishing vessel to be placed on Redbird Reef, so known because much of its structure consists of 714 retired New York City “Redbird” subway cars. Covering 1.3 square miles of ocean floor, other Redbird Reef structures include a 215-foot-long Chesapeake Bay cruise ship, 86 tanks and armored vehicles, eight tugboats, a fishing trawler, and two barges.
Also residing on Delaware’s artificial reefs is the longest ship ever reefed on the East Coast, the 585-foot destroyer ex-USS Arthur W. Radford, which was sunk in 2011 on Del-Jersey-Land Reef. The reefs are also home to more than 1,350 retired New York City subway cars that have helped comprise the reef system over the last two decades, including the site where Texas Star was sunk.
More information about Delaware’s artificial reef program can be found at de.gov/artificialreefs.