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WWII-era vessel sunk off Delaware, New Jersey coast

 Zuni/Tamaroa under tow departing Coleen Marine shipyard, Norfolk, Va., for her final East Coast voyage bound for Delaware waters. (photo courtesy DNREC/The Sportfishing Fund)

Zuni/Tamaroa under tow departing Coleen Marine shipyard, Norfolk, Va., for her final East Coast voyage bound for Delaware waters. (photo courtesy DNREC/The Sportfishing Fund)

The former Navy tugboat Zuni which took part in the battle of Iwo Jima is now part of the artificial reef in the Atlantic Ocean.

More than 70 years ago, the Zuni took part in the amphibious landings on the island of Iwo Jima during the final months of World War II. After the war, Zuni was renamed Tamaroa and served as a Coast Guard cutter, eventually taking part in daring rescues during 1991’s “Perfect Storm,” that struck New England and spawned a book and movie.

On Wednesday morning, the ship arrived at its final resting place 26 miles off the coast of Lewes, Delaware and Cape May, New Jersey. The ship is the latest addition to the Del-Jersey-Land reef. The reef is an artificial habitat designed to attract fish, and in turn, draw boaters, anglers and divers.

“Our reef system has grown steadily through DNREC’s dedicated efforts and strong partnerships with federal agencies and our neighboring states,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin in a statement. “Reefing Zuni/Tamaroa is another good investment in Delaware’s conservation economy, both enhancing outdoor recreational opportunities and benefiting marine life.”

The reef sits about 125 feet below the surface and includes a former Army freighter Shearwater, the minesweeper Gregory Poole, and the 563-foot destroyer U.S.S. Arthur W. Radford. The destroyer is the largest vessel ever to be used as an artificial reef on the East Coast.

Because of the number of cavities and areas below deck, vessels like Zuni/Tamaroa are ideal to be used as artificial reefs, according to Delaware reef coordinator Jeff Tinsman. “Not long after the sinking, the fish will start to come inside her hull and decks to seek protection from predators and bottom currents.” Tinsman expects blue mussels, sponges, and barnacles to attach to the ship, providing food sources for lots of aquatic life.

Delaware paid the majority of costs to acquire the ship and prepare it for sinking. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Sport Fish Restoration Fund also provided help. The effort was also supported by The Sportfishing Fund.

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