New reefs to foster fish stocks
THREE giant man-made reefs will be built off the NSW coast to boost fish stocks for recreational fishing.
The State Government will today announce it will construct the reefs within three nautical miles of Newcastle, Sydney and the Illawarra. Each reef will be made of four steel or concrete pyramid-like structures up to 11 metres high, anchored together.
Similar reefs have been built in South Korea and Japan - two of the world's leaders in the technology.
NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said an environmental assessment had been made of the possible biological, biophysical, economic, social and environmental impacts of using artificial reefs.
He said, on the basis of the assessment, "skeleton" structures made from steel and with an expected life span of more than 30 years had been selected to form the complex reefs, which would "create an ideal habitat for many fish species".
Construction was being paid for by money collected from fishing licences. "Funds raised from the sale of the fishing fee receipt are placed into two trusts, one for saltwater and the other freshwater, and can only be spent to improve recreational fishing in NSW," Mr Macdonald said.
He said the proposal was an expansion of the existing reefs program in the Lake Macquarie, Botany Bay and St Georges Basin estuaries.
"Scientific monitoring [shows] estuarine artificial reefs have been a success, with almost 40 species of fish identified on the Lake Macquarie artificial reefs, many of them important recreational fishing species including bream, snapper and whiting."
The Government will also use the money to increase the size of existing artificial reefs, and to investigate new sites in additional estuaries.
Traditionally, artificial reefs were created by scuttling ships, or dumping cars, aircraft or other environmentally unfriendly objects. Nowadays, estuarine artificial reefs use the "reef ball" - a moulded, hollow concrete sphere one metre in diameter. More than 500,000 spheres have been used globally in 3200 projects. When laid together they allow species to thrive, while prompting algae growth.
Primary Industries fisheries enhancement manager, Heath Folpp, said the offshore reefs could be deployed by early 2009, pending approval from state authorities.
He said site selection had not been finalised but the reefs needed to be located in remote areas away from existing natural reefs, with the potential to double the area covered by man-made units.
"We are looking at increasing the habitats and opportunities for recreational fishermen ... as we look to protect other areas," he said.