The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released a permit application to expand seven of the State’s 12 existing artificial reef sites and create four new sites. The application is now up for public review and comment.
The reef expansion and new artificial reef sites are expected to provide additional marine habitat in New York’s waters to support recreational and commercial fisheries and bolster industries such as tourism and diving, that rely on healthy marine ecosystems.
In Governor Cuomo’s 2020 State of the State address, he committed to doubling New York’s existing reef acreage by expanding seven of the State’s 12 existing sites and creating four new artificial reefs in Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean by 2022. Currently, New York’s existing artificial reefs cover approximately 3,389 acres. This proposal would expand New York’s reefs by an additional 3,423 acres for a total of 6,812 acres.
In April 2020, DEC finalized a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) for the Artificial Reef Program to address advancements in science and expertise relating to artificial reef development. The SGEIS proposes expanding, creating, and continuing use of reef sites along New York’s shores. The first Generic Environmental Impact Statement and Artificial Reef Plan was developed in 1993.
The Notice of Complete Application posted in DEC’s Environmental Notice Bulletin and the DEC website starts a 30-day public comment period on the proposal to grow the State’s Artificial Reef Network. All comments should be provided in writing to Sherri Aicher, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, SUNY @ Stony Brook 50 Circle Road, Stony Brook, NY 11790-3409, 631-444-0403 by January 15th, 2021.
Artificial reefs enhance the environment by creating a biologically diverse area that provides food and shelter to a range of marine organisms. Artificial reefs are built out of hard, durable material (structures) such as rock, concrete, and steel, and usually in the form of surplus or scrap materials cleaned of contaminants before being recycled on the reef sites. Once materials settle to the sea floor, larger fish like blackfish, black seabass, cod, and summer flounder move in to utilize the habitat, and encrusting organisms such as barnacles, sponges, anemones, corals, and mussels cling to and cover the material. Over time, these recycled structures become habitat similar to a natural reef and provide increased saltwater fishing and scuba diving opportunities to the public.
New York’s marine resources are considered a critical part of the state’s economy, supporting nearly 350,000 jobs and generating billions of dollars through tourism, fishing, and other industries. It accounts for about 9.7 percent of Long Island’s total GDP according to DEC.
Photo of Blackfish and black sea bass viewed by scuba diver at Moriches Reef by Rob Schepis, provided by DEC.