What’s 47 feet long, weighs 25 thousand pounds and is shaped like a horseshoe crab? It’s the newest addition to the state’s artificial reef network.

The Art As Reef Project, headed up by marine biologist, Scuba instructor, and artist Christopher Wojcik, in partnership with the Blue Ocean Institute, has fabricated the first in a series of sculptural pieces to be deployed onto the ocean floor. The sculpture will literally “live” on the bottom of the sea for hundreds or even thousands of years and act as an artificial reef. It will attract fish, crustaceans, and encrusting organisms of all sorts.

Wojcik says “the sculpture will be placed 80 feet down below the surface of the water. The cost so far is up to $96,000 and we’ve gotten a lot of help from family, friends, supporters and even local chambers of commerce. Brielle has been great.”

Wojcik was able to combine his two passions together – both art and the ocean. He worked alongside two other artists, Mark Giampietro and Matthew Lees, and based the design off the crab he purchased on EBay. Together with the steel barge, the total weight is around 113,000 pounds.

Wojcik adds “I firmly believe in the artificial reef program and the benefits to recreational fishing and marine life. It was an engineering challenge and an art challenge. I gotta tell you I’m really excited about this.”

The merits of artificial reefs have long been recognized. They provide vertical structure in areas that are generally bare, which reduces the fishing pressure in popular areas and offer refuge for juvenile fishes and invertebrates. They also have a positive economic impact on the local recreational fishing and SCUBA diving industries.

The surface of the structure also provides an attachment surface for filter feeders like blue-mussels, which help clean the water of algae blooms caused by fertilizer run-off from rivers and storm drains. The horseshoe crab was chosen because it is a perfect shape for a reef, containing a large area of protected habitat beneath and a relatively large surface area on which encrusting organisms can grow.

The shape of a horseshoe crab is designed by nature to withstand ocean currents and waves so the reef should stay put on the bottom of the ocean for many years to come.

The sculpture will be located off the coast of Mantoloking in Ocean County. Weather permitting, it will be lowered tomorrow morning bright and early.

For more information and to see photos of the sculpture, visit artasreef.com