New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced last week the deployment of materials to create a new marine habitat at Fire Island 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. Fire Island Reef is a 744-acre site located in the Atlantic Ocean 1.8 nautical miles south of the Fire Island Lighthouse. Through the largest artificial reef expansion in state history, this milestone supports Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s efforts to bolster Long Island’s tourism and fishing industries.

DEC Commissioner Seggos said, "Long Island’s coastal communities, anglers, and New York’s environment will all benefit from Governor Cuomo’s work to expand New York’s network of artificial reefs. This creative re-use of materials benefits fish and fishermen and women alike, recognizing that our environment and economy can both thrive and work together toward a common goal.”

As directed by Governor Cuomo in April, and with unprecedented, multi-agency coordination, recycled materials from the State Department of Transportation, Canal Corporation, and the Thruway Authority are being put to new use and helping to develop New York’s artificial reef sites, including the Fire Island Reef. Materials deployed on the Fire Island Reef site were 2,000 tons of jetty stone. The deployment marked a significant milestone as part of the state’s historic artificial reef expansion initiative.

DEC will oversee additional deployments of reef-building material on the Fire Island Reef during September, including an additional 2,000 tons of jetty stone, three decommissioned Erie Canal Vessels, and surplus Tappan Zee Bridge materials.

Construction of New York’s first artificial reef dates back to 1949, and the Governor’s expansion initiative is the state’s first coordinated effort to stimulate the full environmental and economic benefits of artificial reefs. The artificial reef expansion will increase the variety of reef habitat on this site, expand the biodiversity of fish and crustacea, promote environmental sustainability, and boost Long Island’s recreational fishing, sport fishing, and diving industries.

DEC 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.

In May, the Governor announced the inaugural deployment at Shinnecock Reef, which included recycled materials from the Tappan Zee Bridge project, DOT, and Canal Corporation. State agencies began deploying barges of Tappan Zee Bridge recycled materials and decommissioned vessels that have been cleaned of contaminants. Earlier in July, deployments were made at Smithtown and Rockaway reefs and deployments were made on Hempstead Reef and Moriches Reef in August.

The deployment of materials at Fire Island Reef will enhance the aquatic ecosystem along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, provide new habitats for marine life, and expand recreational fishing and diving opportunities for generations of New Yorkers.

Materials used for the reef expansion are being strategically placed and are built out of hard, durable material (structures) such as rock, concrete, and steel, and usually in the form of surplus or scrap materials that are 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 will become habitat similar to a natural reef.

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 the Governor’s initiative, supporting the region’s growing marine economy which accounts for approximately 9.7 percent of Long Island’s total GDP.

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 DEC’s 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 to NY Sea Grant to support the Ocean Action Plan Research Fund, and actions to ban offshore drilling along New York’s coastline.

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.