Artificial Reef Projects

The Artificial Reef Program has been creating reefs since the 1970s. Many reefs are enhanced with the cooperation of local fishing clubs and reef organizations. These groups identify available materials, donate money, and provide input on the location for the enhancements.

Upcoming Projects

There are multiple inshore and offshore projects currently in permitting and planning phases. Stay tuned for upcoming projects including enhancements at AR-296, AR-298, AR-305 and AR-491. 

Multi-Year Projects

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Part of a multi-year effort with NCDOT that began in 2019, the disposal of the old Oregon Inlet bridge was completed in May 2022. This project included 68 barge loads of bridge material transported to eight different reef sites totaling approximately 80,000 tons of concrete.  This is the single largest artificial reef project in North Carolina.

The eight reef sites enhanced with portions of the demolished Bonner Bridge were:

  • AR-130
  • AR-140
  • AR-145
  • AR-160
  • AR-250
  • AR-255
  • AR-320
  • AR-340

This 75 acre project started in 2021 and is scheduled to be completed in 2023. In 2021, 18,000 tons of limestone marl were deployed. An additional 18,000 tons of limestone marl will be added in 2022.

The Artificial Reef Program partners with the Eternal Reef Ball Foundation to create “living reefs” with reef balls. These reef balls are made with the cremated remains of loved ones. Dozens of eternal reefs were placed on AR-360 off Topsail in previous years. AR-372 off Wilmington is the new Eternal Reef location. For more information, please visit the Eternal Reef Ball Project website

reef balls in the water

This project took place from 2017-2021. It's a 60 acre site that includes:

  • 25,000 tons of granite
  • 60,000 tons of limestone marl

deploying marl at the swan island oyster sanctuary

Recently Completed Projects

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AR-293 is a newly constructed 15-acre artificial reef located in Mouse Harbor near Pamlico Point. The first material placed on this reef site created a high-density field made up of 200 concrete reef balls and 100 3D-printed concrete reef units. The material was placed in the southwest corner of the site. 

deploying reef balls onto AR-293


Approximately 1,700 tons of concrete pipe and manholes were deposited at AR-305 on July 17, 2023. The pipe was deployed in a pile, creating a complex habitat. This material joins the 183’ USCG Spar and the 439’ USN Aeolus. With an average depth of 105 feet, this new pipe will provide many fishing and diving opportunities for the public.

pipes on a barge


Approximately 1,000 tons of concrete pipe (528 pieces ranging from 4-8' long and 24-60" wide) along with 170 Supra/Goliath Reef Balls were deployed in September. The pipe and Reef Balls join existing pipe and two vessels, including the Brian Davis Memorial scuttled in 2020. Reef Balls are deployed in a close-knit array and grow many types of sponge and coral. Fish use the reef balls and the organisms they support as both refuge and sources of food. The concrete pipe is deployed in such a way that it creates complex mounds of material ranging 2 feet to 10 feet in vertical relief in the water column. This habitat offers holes and ledges that attract many fish. Near the bottom of the pile, fish such as Gag Grouper and Flounder are found. Higher up the pile fish such as Black Sea Bass, Sheepshead, Grey Triggerfish, White Porgy, Spot-tail Pinfish, and Tomtates are common.

Reef ball on AR-368
Reef balls  and pipe on a nearby reef showing what the new material will look like within a year on AR-368.


532 Supra/Goliath Reef Balls were deployed in September, finishing the reef's multi-year enhancement. AR-165 is the Program's newest offshore reef with the first enhancements beginning in 2020 with the scuttling of an 80’ and 100’ tugboat America and American as well as 7,200 tons of concrete pipe. The 108' tugboat Valley Forge was scuttled in 2021. The tugboats offer high vertical relief to attract baitfish along with pelagic predators such as Greater Amberjack and Spanish Mackerel while the pipe and Reef Balls simulate rocky ledges that harbor benthic fish such as Gag Grouper, Black Sea Bass, and Grey Triggerfish.

Reef balls and pipe being transported to AR-165
Reef balls and pipe being transported to AR-165.


deploying concrete structure on reef

100 concrete reef structures measuring around 3’x3’ were deployed in May. The reef structures joined existing concrete pipe and reef balls. The reef is situated off the shores of the town of Bayview in the Pamlico River. Materials were purchased by CCA from Natrx, a Raleigh-based company who 3D printed the reef structures for this project, and the deployment of these structures was funded by a Sportfish Restoration grant.

AR-360 and AR-372

The Division participated in two memorial reef projects with external organizations - Veteran Memorial Reefs and Eternal Reefs. Each of these organizations place cremated ashes of loved ones in concrete reef structures or reef balls which are later deployed at a reef site. These resulted in memorial markers and reef balls placed at AR-372 off Wrightsville Beach and AR-360 off Topsail respectively. The deployments were attended by the families of the deceased.

AR-430 and AR-460

concrete pipes being deployed on reef

Roughly 3,000 tons of concrete pipe were deployed to AR-430 and AR-460. The concrete pipe was donated by the City of Wilmington, NCDOT, and various pipe yards around the state. On AR-430, the pipe joined four existing piles of pipe that were deployed in 2013, while on AR-460, the pipe joined a wide array of existing material including pipe, manhole sections, reef balls, and two vessels. AR-460 has been steadily enhanced since 1986.


The shallow Bogue Sound reef was further enhanced with 100 more reef balls.

artificial reef ball deployment


The reef was further enhanced with the sinking of the 108’ Valley Forge.


80’ and 100’ tugboats America and American were sank on the newly permitted AR-165. 7,200 tons of concrete pipe were also deployed. The tugboats offer high vertical relief to attract baitfish and pelagic predators while the pipe simulated rocky ledges harboring benthic fish such as grouper, sea bass, and triggerfish.


The Salvia, renamed the Brian Davis, is a 180’ tugboat sank on AR-368 in 70’ of water about 21 miles off Masonboro Inlet. The ship serves a memorial to Brian Davis, an avid free diver who drowned in 2017 while spearfishing. The project was, in part, crowd funded by family and friends of Brian Davis.


4 acres of habitat were built using golf ball sized granite on AR-197 just north of Roanoke Island. The material offers substrate for oysters to grow on as well as foraging habitat for popular inshore finfish.


The 98' tugboat Fort Fisher was phased out of service in 2017 and sank in 2018 on AR-320 in 50’ of water near the center of the reef. It offers high vertical relief which attracts larger pelagic fish and is a popular SCUBA spot.

sinking the tugboat fort fisher


Newly permitted, 96 reef balls were the first material to be deployed on this reef in Bogue Sound near the Atlantic Beach Bridge in 2018. Depending on tide, the site sits in roughly 10-15’ of water. The reef balls offer sheepshead and other species foraging opportunities while the relatively protected area makes fishing from smaller boats and kayaks easy and relaxing. At high slack tide, the site is great for snorkeling in the warmer months due to its shallow depth.

Deploying Reef Balls at AR-380


Newly permitted, 50 reef balls were the first material to be deployed on this reef in Bogue Sound near the Swansboro waterfront. This shallow reef is situated in a cut through in the marshes which act as a highway for popular finfish to travel through.

Deploying Reef Balls at AR-381