Okinawa Artificial Reef, Pompano Beach, Florida, USA. Originally named LT 1970, the Okinawa was manufactured as a U.S. Army tugboat in October of 1953. It has a length of 32.6 m, with an 8.1 m beam across, and was renamed the Okinawa after the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. The Okinawa wreck was sunk on Aug 9, 2017, and became the 18th artificial reef (wreck) in Shipwreck Park offshore of Pompano Beach, Florida, USA. Even though it is a 390-ton displacement vessel, the Okinawa was spun 180 degrees on the ocean floor by hurricanes in 2017 and carried over 100 meters away from its original location. The storms also caused the wreck to list heavily to the starboard side. Luckily, most of the structural integrity of the shipwreck was maintained.
As seen in the photograph, an entire underwater community has developed upon the outside hull of the wreck. This includes species of encrusting corals, sponges, tunicates, hydroids, bryozoans, zoanthids, and macroalgae. Schooling fish (such as white and blue striped grunts, Haemulon plumierii and H. sciurus) use the artificial reef as a refuge area, while rogue predatory fish (such as the great barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda) use the wreck as a hunting ground. Overall, this is a balanced, vibrant coral reef community that has taken just over three years to be established. This example of nature's resiliency reminds us what is possible when adverse anthropogenic pressures are removed. (Photograph taken November 2020 by Chris Makowski, Coastal Education and Research Foundation (CERF-JCR), Coconut Creek, Florida, U.S.A.)