The state DEC on Thursday announced the deliberate sinking of the vessel "Big Time," a 55-foot steel luxury Feadship cruiser built in 1956, on the Fire Island Reef as part of the state's ongoing efforts to expand New York's network of artificial reefs. Credit: NYSDEC

The Fire Island Reef just got stronger — big time.

A retired 55-foot luxury cruiser named "Big Time" is the latest steel hulk to be added to the reef as part of the state's effort to beef up Long Island's coastlines, state officials said Thursday.

"Deploying the Big Time on the Fire Island Reef is further proof of ongoing efforts to expand the state's network of artificial reefs, which benefit anglers, divers and marine life while providing a beneficial use for a wide range of materials like this vessel," state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement.

"Now part of the Fire Island Reef, the 55-foot steel Big Time augments local marine habitat and provides a new, big time spot for anglers and divers to visit, increasing opportunities for tourism off the coast of Long Island."

Big Time, a steel cruiser built in 1956, joins decommissioned rail cars and sections of the old Tappan Zee Bridge in more than a dozen human-made reefs off Long Island.

The state manages two artificial reefs in Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay and nine in the Atlantic Ocean.

Artificial reefs provide shelter for marine life and places for finfish and crustaceans to forage, officials said. They also improve marine biodiversity, stimulate aquatic ecosystems and improve environmental sustainability, they said.

That helps Long Island's marine economy by providing more opportunities for fishing and diving, officials said.

"More than 500,000 anglers in the region will reap the benefits of this new initiative, supporting the region's growing marine economy which accounts for approximately 9.7% of Long Island's total GDP [gross domestic product]," DEC officials said in a news release.

The Fire Island reef includes about 4,700 tons of jetty stone, 1,810 cubic yards of Tappan Zee Bridge materials, three steel barges from the state Canal Corporation, Erie Canal lift bridges, state Department of Transportation steel bridge girders, trusses and pipe, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers research vessel "M/V Hudson." Contaminants were cleaned from the material before they were added to the reef, officials said.

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