The 45-foot steel tugboat Chickadee deployed to McAllister Grounds Reef (Photo Courtesy of DEC).

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the deployment of two steel vessels, the “Chickadee” on the McAllister Grounds Reef and “Barge 226” on Smithtown Reef, as part of the State’s ongoing efforts to expand New York’s network of artificial reefs. These final deployments for 2021 continue to build on DEC’s efforts to develop a stronger, more diverse marine ecosystem and provide shelter for fish and other marine life off New York’s shores.

“Adding these two vessels, the Chickadee and Barge 226, to New York’s artificial reef network demonstrates the Department of Environmental Conservation’s sustained commitment to expanding and enhancing artificial reefs that benefit marine life and offer new opportunities for anglers and divers,” said Commissioner Seggos. “These two vessels now have renewed purpose on the seafloor by establishing structural habitat, enhancing the marine ecosystem, and supporting recreationally and commercially important marine fisheries.”

DEC manages the State’s 12 artificial reefs, including two reefs in Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay, and eight in the Atlantic Ocean. All 12 reef sites have received new materials since 2018, and these two deployments continue to enhance the artificial reef network.

Now part of the McAllister Grounds Reef, the vessel Chickadee is a 45-foot steel tugboat built by the U.S. Navy in 1948. Prior to being deployed, the Chickadee assisted with towing Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) coal and oil barges in Port Jefferson, New York. The vessel was formerly berthed in Staten Island and owned by Admiral Towing and Salvage LLC. Barge 226 is an 80-foot steel deck barge used for commercial marine construction before being repurposed as part of Smithtown Reef to help create new marine habitat. The New York Power Authority supported the preparation, cleaning, and deployment of the two vessels, which were donated by Admiral Towing and Salvage LLC.

The 80-foot steel deck barge, Barge 226, deployed to Smithtown Reef (Photo Courtesy of DEC).

The benefits of constructing New York’s artificial reefs include improving existing habitats to increase local marine biodiversity, stimulating more productive and diverse aquatic ecosystems, and promoting environmental sustainability. Steel surplus materials are stable and durable reef-building materials that provide shelter and forage opportunities for finfish and crustaceans that inhabit these underwater structures, such as tautog, fluke, black sea bass, scup, and lobsters. Sunken vessels also attract Scuba divers that explore and photograph the underwater structures.

Additional artificial reef deployments in 2021 include the Shannon C, a 60-foot steel barge to Shinnecock Reef, and a 55-foot steel luxury vessel Big Time to Fire Island Reef.

DEC’s Artificial Reef Program is popular with local fishermen and divers and helps support the local Long Island economy. Additional patch reef creation through material deployments will increase the use and enjoyment of these valuable New York State resources. Anglers and divers who access the artificial reefs support local businesses through the purchase of fuel, bait and tackle, marine equipment, scuba equipment, and by using for-hire party/charter and dive vessels. 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 new initiative, supporting the region’s growing marine economy, which accounts for approximately 9.7 percent of Long Island’s total GDP.

Anglers in New York State marine waters are required to enroll in the New York Recreational Marine Fishing Registry. The Registry provides important information for setting quotas, size and bag limits, and fishing seasons each year. More information on the Registry can be found on the DEC website or by contacting DEC’s Marine Fishing Access Unit at (631) 444-0438.

Reef construction is part of the NY is 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. For more information about DEC’s Artificial Reef Program, visit DEC’s website.