VENICE, LA / ACCESSWIRE / June 15, 2021 / The Defender, a decommissioned vessel previously operated on behalf of Omega Protein, was sunk off the coast of Louisiana last Friday, June 11 to serve as an artificial reef. Drone footage captured the reefing of the Defender, which will now become a marine habitat, promoting biodiversity and creating recreational fishing and diving opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Defender, which was owned by Ocean Harvesters and operated on behalf of Omega Protein, was donated to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) as part of its Artificial Reef Program. The program began in 1986 to utilize offshore oil and gas platforms that were slated for removal, threatening the marine habitats they provide to coastal fish. Since then, LDWF has reefed 407 oil platforms at 79 offshore reef sites. Vessel reefings have been much rarer; while the program had previously reefed a tugboat, the Defender is the first vessel reefed in Louisiana in almost 20 years.
“Wildlife and Fisheries is very excited about this project,” said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “The Defender will provide unique habitat for our fish, and a special opportunity for our anglers. Omega Protein has been a great partner and allowed us to take advantage of this moment to bring a different type of habitat to our fish and our anglers.”
Omega Protein has a long history of collaborating with state agencies and non-profit organizations to offer decommissioned vessels to artificial reef programs. The Company’s former fishing vessel Reedville was sunk off the coast of Delaware in 2020, the Barataria Bay was sunk off the coast of Mississippi in 2015, the Great Wicomico was sunk in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009, and the von Rosenberg was sunk off Mississippi in 2000.
“Omega Protein is committed to conservation in all aspects of our work, and that includes using retired vessels to build strong marine ecosystems,” said Tim Milligan, General Manager of Omega Protein’s shipyard. “We are excited that the Defender can continue to serve the people of Louisiana long after its days of operating at sea.”
The Defender shortly after the reefing process began last Friday, June 11.
The Defender was built by Halter Marine in Moss Point, Mississippi in 1977, measuring 164-feet in length and 40-feet across the beam. Originally named the Biscay Seahorse, the vessel worked as an anchor handling tug/supply ship for Zapata Marine, part of the Zapata Corporation oil and gas conglomerate founded by President George H.W. Bush. The vessel changed owners and names a number of times before finally being purchased by Omega Protein in 2016, acquired by Ocean Harvesters in 2017, and decommissioned for the reefing.
Artificial reefs provide hard surfaces where algae and organisms like barnacles, corals and oysters can attach and grow. This attached marine life then provides structures and food that attract fish, which in turn creates opportunities for fishermen and divers to visit the new marine habitat.
About Omega Protein
Omega Protein Corporation is a century old nutritional product company that develops, produces and delivers healthy products throughout the world to improve the nutritional integrity of foods, dietary supplements and animal feeds. Omega Protein’s mission is to help people lead healthier lives with better nutrition through sustainably sourced ingredients such as highly-refined specialty oils, specialty proteins products and nutraceuticals. Omega Protein is a division of Cooke Inc., a family owned fishery company based in New Brunswick, Canada.
The Company operates seven manufacturing facilities located in the United States, Canada and Europe. The Company also has a long-term supply contract with Ocean Harvesters, which owns 30 vessels which harvest menhaden, a fish abundantly found off the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The Company’s website is www.omegaprotein.com.
All fishing vessels formerly owned by Omega Protein are owned and operated by Ocean Harvesters, an independent company.
SOURCE: Omega Protein
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