Later this month 10 barges of Tappan Zee Bridge material, 11 canal vessels, a barge of steel pipe and four barges of jetty rock will arrive off of Fire Island where they will help to expand the 744-acre artificial reef located 2 nautical miles from shore.
That material is part of more than 43,000 cubic yards of clean, recycled Tappan Zee Bridge material and 5,900 cubic yards of jetty rock that is being used for the largest expansion of artificial reefs in New York state history. The expansion comes as part of an effort to improve New York’s marine life while also boosting Long Island’s recreational and sport fishing industries.
“Our oceans, fisheries and healthy estuaries are at the heart of our maritime culture,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said. “Restoration efforts and programs to increase biodiversity such as this are invaluable to life on Long Island, our sustainability and our future.”
A Long History of Artificial Reefs
Creating artificial reefs to increase marine diversity is nothing new. Construction of New York’s first artificial reef dates all the way back to 1949. And the first artificial reef in the U.S. dates back even further to the 1830s in South Carolina. Today, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation manages New York’s Artificial Reef Program, which includes two reefs in the Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay, and eight artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean.
Built out of hard durable structures, the reefs are thought to increase marine biodiversity by improving existing habitats for marine life, which can stimulate a productive aquatic ecosystem. The hope that is after the structures settle barnacles, corals and mussels find homes in the structures as do larger fish including cod, winter and summer flounder and black sea bass.
“The marine environment is harsh and our artificial reefs collapse with time. To remain productive, the reefs must have materials added to them every few years,” said Rocket Charters President and New York’s Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Representative, Capt. Tony DiLernia. “By adding to these reefs, the amount of fish available will increase and family fishing outings will be successful.”
The marine economy makes up 9.7 percent of Long Island’s total GDP and throughout the state New York’s waters support roughly 350,000 jobs.
The Expansion of New York’s Artificial Reefs
While the expansion of the Fire Island Reef will be the largest drop of material New York state is working to expand several of the artificial reefs around Long Island, including the Shinnecock, Moriches, Fire Island, Hempstead and Rockaway reefs on the South Shore, plus Smithtown Reef in Long Island Sound.
On May 31, 2018, barges dropped nearly 900 tons of recycled Tappan Zee Bridge material, decommissioned New York State Department of Transportation project materials, and decommissioned ships including a tugboat, at the Shinnecock reef which stretches for 35-acres.
By the end of the summer at least six artificial reefs will be expanded with the possibility for more in the future.