Artificial system

DEC: Sinking of two steel ships to extend Long Island’s artificial reefs

New York’s Dozen Artificial Reefs will expand with the addition of two sunken ships within their boundaries – one at McAllister Grounds off Jones Beach and another at Smithtown Reef off Stony Brook Harbor – as part of a program started in the 1960s to provide new homes for the types of fish, crustaceans and plants attracted to them, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation said Tuesday.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, announcing the two new deployments – the last one scheduled for this year – highlighted how they would increase opportunities for fishermen and their business peers.

“The addition of these two ships, the Chickadee and Barge 226, to New York’s artificial reef system demonstrates the Department of Environmental Conservation’s continued commitment to expanding and improving artificial reefs that benefit the marine life and offer new opportunities for fishermen and divers, ”he said in a statement. declaration.

“These two vessels now have a new purpose on the seabed by establishing structural habitat, enhancing the marine ecosystem and supporting recreationally and commercially important marine fisheries.”

The expansion is not without criticism, however. Some commercial fishermen have urged DEC to hold more meetings with them, as the growth of these reefs to hundreds or thousands of acres – as noted in a 2019 report – could cost trawlers and other businesses commercial fishing of popular land.

Meghan Lapp, originally from Long Island and now a fishing liaison for a fishing company, Seafreeze Ltd. in Rhode Island, said, “It’s all about location, location, location,” echoing a real estate slogan to describe what commercial fishermen stand to lose.

“If they put it in the middle of a trawl bottom, that’s a major problem,” Lapp said. The mesh nets used by trawlers can snag on reefs, potentially destroying thousands of dollars in gear or even risking overturning a boat, explained Lapp and Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association in Montauk.

The DEC, in a statement, said the program will continue next year. So far, these reefs “collectively use less than one percent of the fishable area in state waters,” according to the DEC statement.

Countering its detractors, the statement added, “Many commercial fishermen have expressed support for DEC regarding the reef program and DEC has engaged with commercial fishing interests to further consider any concerns.

DEC officials have twice met with commercial fishermen, the statement said, and asked them “to identify fishing grounds or by providing GPS data collected while fishing at [email protected]

The planned expansions are outlined in the long 2019 report that DEC helped write, “Essential Fish Habitat Assessment, July 2019,” which called for the addition of approximately 4,460 acres spread across various reefs. This would more than double the existing reefs which cover 3,389 acres.

Chickadee, a 45-foot steel tugboat built by the US Navy in 1948 that helped tow the coal and oil barges from Long Island Lighting Co. to Port Jefferson, joins McAllister’s Reef, while barge 226 , an 80-foot steel deck barge formerly used in commercial marine construction, will be sunk at Smithtown Reef, the DEC said in a statement.

The DEC also said that Long Island’s maritime economy accounts for 9.7% of its GDP, “supporting nearly 350,000 jobs and generating billions of dollars through tourism, fishing and other industries.” He estimated that the reefs will benefit more than half a million fishermen.

Said Brady, the head of the commercial fishing association, “We’re just looking for fairness.”

New York state, she said, should not favor anglers who seek sport fish, like black bass, who like new reef homes, over commercial fishermen who say that artificial reefs should not be placed where they have historically fished for squid. and luck, for example.