Where is the best place for a retired battleship to spend the rest of its days as an off-duty vessel? For the US Navy, the answer is sometimes the bottom of the ocean, where the ships can become artificial reef habitats for fish—not to mention popular tourist attractions. But a growing number of environmentalists are worried about the ecological impact of purposely sinking a 563-foot naval destroyer like the USS Arthur W. Radford, which could potentially bring toxins or chemicals with it deep into the ocean, the Washington Post reports.
In coastal environments where old New York subway cars were sunk off of Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware, there’s no question that schools of black sea bass and triggerfish have successfully taken to the artificial reefs. The number of fishing trips in one area shot from 300 a year to 17,000. But tissue samples of seafood from another area where one naval aircraft carrier was sunk showed a spike in contaminants. The chemicals likely wouldn’t be harmful to humans unless a person was fishing sunken ships for his exclusive source of food, but a marine sanctuary expert says the uncertainty could be dangerous: "There’s no need to get any more artificial reefs done at this point, until we know the impact of what we’ve already done." (Read more Navy stories.)