Expansion of State's Network of Artificial Reefs Will Provide New Marine Habitats, Promote Biodiversity and Restore Fishery Resources
Ongoing Efforts Will Bolster Long Island's Economy Through Increased Opportunities for Tourism and Recreation
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the deployment of materials to create a new marine habitat at Smithtown Reef as part of the state's ongoing efforts to develop a stronger, more diverse marine ecosystem and provide shelter for fish and other marine life off New York's shores. Smithtown Reef is a three-acre site located 1.6 nautical miles northwest of the Stony Brook Harbor entrance in Long Island Sound, with depths up to 40 feet. Through the largest artificial reef expansion in state history, this milestone supports the Governor's efforts to bolster Long Island's tourism and fishing industries.
"The deployment of materials at Smithtown reef is a significant step forward in our efforts to create new habitats for New York's diverse marine life to thrive," Governor Cuomo said. "Our commitment to protecting the biodiversity of New York's shores is unwavering, and through this comprehensive initiative, we will provide new habitats for a variety of coral and fish, and support a growing tourism industry that brings thousands of anglers and travelers to Long Island's pristine waters every year."
"With world-class fishing, boating, and tourism, Long Island's blue economy drives job creation and investment," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who led today's artificial reef deployment. "New York is committed to investing in the future of Long Island with this significant expansion of artificial reefs, the largest in our state's history. We recognize that a healthy environment is a catalyst for economic development on Long Island. Enhancing the aquatic ecosystem along the shores of the Long Island Sound will provide new habitats for marine life and expand recreational opportunities."
As directed by Governor Cuomo in April, and with unprecedented, multi-agency coordination, recycled materials from the Department of Transportation, Canal Corporation, and the Thruway Authority are being used to develop New York's artificial reef sites, including Smithtown Reef. Two, 40-foot decommissioned Erie Canal vessels and 75 tons of recycled materials from deconstructed Department of Transportation projects were deployed today to the Smithtown Reef as part of the historic expansion of New York's network of artificial reefs.
Construction of New York's first artificial reef dates back to 1949, and this latest initiative marks the state's first coordinated effort to stimulate the full environmental and economic benefits of artificial reefs. The artificial reef expansion will increase the biodiversity of habitats for a variety of fish and crustacea, promote biodiversity and environmental sustainability, and boost Long Island's recreational fishing, sport fishing, and diving industries. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation manages the state's 12 artificial reefs, which include two reefs in Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay, and eight in the Atlantic Ocean.
New York's marine resources are critical to the state's economy, supporting nearly 350,000 jobs and generating billions of dollars through tourism, fishing and other industries. More than 500,000 anglers in the region will reap the benefits of this initiative, supporting the region's growing marine economy which accounts for approximately 9.7 percent of Long Island's total GDP.
In May, the Governor announced the inaugural deployment at Shinnecock Reef, which included recycled materials from the Tappan Zee Bridge project, Department of Transportation, and New York State Canal Corporation. State agencies began deploying barges of Tappan Zee Bridge recycled materials and decommissioned vessels that have been cleaned of contaminants. In total, 43,200 cubic yards of recycled Tappan Zee Bridge material, 338 cubic yards of steel pipe from DOT, and 5,900 cubic yards of jetty rock will be submerged. The materials are being added to Smithtown, Shinnecock and four additional reef sites that will be enhanced this year, including Moriches, Fire Island, Hempstead, and Rockaway.
Materials used for the reef expansion are being strategically placed and built out of hard, durable structures such as rock, concrete, and steel pipes, and usually in the form of surplus or scrap materials that are cleaned of contaminants, which may impact sea life before being recycled on the reef sites. Once materials and vessels settle to the sea floor, larger fish like blackfish, black seabass, cod, and summer flounder, move in to build habitats within the new structures, and encrusting organisms such as barnacles, sponges, anemones, corals, and mussels cling to and cover the material. Over time, these recycled structures will create a habitat similar to a natural reef.
Artificial reef construction is part of Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, an effort to improve recreational activities for in-state and out-of-state sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. Visit the DEC website for more information about the Artificial Reef Program.
The Governor's Artificial Reef initiative builds on the state's record $300 million Environmental Protection Fund investment, $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act, more than $2 million NY Sea Grant program to mitigate Long Island brown tide, and actions taken to ban off-shore drilling along New York's coastline.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Governor Cuomo's innovative approach to expand New York's network of artificial reefs is a visionary plan that will create healthier, more vibrant and diverse aquatic ecosystems while bolstering the economies of Long Island's coastal communities through increased recreational opportunities for the region's sport fishing and diving industries. It's a forward-thinking plan that will benefit fish and fishermen alike and the latest example of the Governor's recognition that our environment and economy are inextricably linked."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, "I thank Governor Cuomo and the DEC for their cooperation on this critical project that furthers both the county and the state's commitment to protect New York's natural assets. By recycling and repurposing existing materials from DOT projects and two decommissioned canal vessels to support the Smithtown reef, we are putting into practice sustainable and forward-thinking economic and environmental actions that will directly impact our local recreational and sport fishing industries revenue."
Smithtown Town Supervisor Edward R. Wehrheim said, "We want to thank Governor Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Hochul for coming down to Smithtown today. We welcome them here with their staff and we are very excited here in Smithtown about the initiative with the reef being placed in our community. Our fishing and diving communities are extremely excited about it. We've had many conversations about it in town hall, so to see it here today is both environmentally and economically viable here in Smithtown and we're happy its happening."
A map, site coordinates and additional information on New York State's Artificial Reefs are available to plan trips to a New York State reef site.
Before visiting one of New York's artificial reefs, please be familiar with the current NYS Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations. View DEC's artificial reef building video on YouTube and learn more about our volunteer observation program here.
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