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For Release: Saturday, July 21, 2018

DEC Announces New Marine Habitat Created at Rockaway Reef as Part of Largest Artificial Reef Expansion in New York State History

Expansion of State's Network of Artificial Reefs Will Provide New Marine Habitats, Promote Biodiversity and Restore Fishery Resources

Ongoing Efforts Will Bolster Economy Through Increased Opportunities for Tourism and Recreation

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the deployment of materials to create a new marine habitat at Rockaway Reef as part of the Governor Andrew Cuomo's ongoing initiative to develop a stronger, more diverse marine ecosystem and provide shelter for fish and other marine life off New York's shores.

DEC 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 New York's coastal communities. Today's addition of material to Rockaway Reef will provide new habitat for countless marine species and increased recreational opportunities for the region's sport fishing and diving industries, and is the latest example of the Governor's recognition that our environment and economy are inextricably linked."

Rockaway Reef is a 413 acre site located 1.6 nautical miles south of Rockaway Beach in the Atlantic ocean, with depths ranging from 32-40 feet. Through the largest artificial reef expansion in state history, this week materials from the Tappan Zee Bridge, including concrete columns, deck panels, and pipes, were added to Rockaway Reef to improve habitat and recreational opportunities at this site.

As directed by Governor Cuomo in April (link leaves DEC's website), and with unprecedented, multi-agency coordination, recycled materials from the Department of Transportation, Canal Corporation, and the Thruway Authority are being used to enhance New York's artificial reef sites, including Rockaway Reef.

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 New York'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.

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.

The materials are being added to Rockaway, Smithtown, Shinnecock and three additional reef sites that will be enhanced this year, including Moriches, Fire Island, and Hempstead.

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 to mitigate potential impacts to 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. Today's enhancement of Rockaway reef follows recent expansions of Shinnecock and Smithtown Reefs (links leave DEC's website).

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.

A map, site coordinates and additional information on New York State's Artificial Reefs (PDF, 914 KB) 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 (Link leaves DEC's website) on YouTube and learn more about our volunteer observation program on DEC's website.

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