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Last Updated:
May 10, 2002

  Artificial Reef Project

Vincent Malkoski

Definition of an Artificial Reef for Massachusetts' waters:
Any area within the marine waters of the Commonwealth in which approved structures have intentionally been placed or constructed for the purpose of enhancing benthic relief. Such structures may be designed to provide opportunities for recreational and commercial fishing, aid in the management or enrichment of fishery resources, or to achieve a combination of these objectives.

Reef Ball units being prepared for deployment.
Reef Ball units being prepared for deployment

Artificial reefs have proliferated in the coastal and inland waters of the U.S. over the past 30 years, but research has not yet provided managers with enough data to accept artificial reefs as fish management tools in all situations. Indecisiveness on the part of mangers to support artificial reef construction has typically centered on the decades-old question of attraction versus production (A-P). It is likely that the answer to this question lies somewhere in the middle, varying with coastal region, species occurrence, habitat function for each life stage, and natural habitat abundance and quality. Although science has not yet been able to definitively answer the A-P question, some researchers believe that artificial reefs have the potential to become useful tools in fisheries management when used appropriately in conjunction with other management practices. While debate over reef benefits will likely continue for many years, it is apparent that many groups, particularly salt-water anglers, divers and local governments readily support reef development.

Massachusetts' fisheries are renewable resources that are of importance to the economic and social needs of the people. They contribute to the supply of valuable fisheries products, tourism, and to state revenues. If properly managed, marine resources can be maintained and enhanced. Interest concerning artificial reef development has increased to new levels, producing more efforts by outside user groups and political forces to create reefs. Total effort in saltwater recreational fishing has grown immensely in Massachusetts' waters over the past decade primarily because of improved fishing conditions for striped bass. It is likely that fishing interests will become more diverse in coming years and will lead to fierce competition for good fishing sites. All these factors will increase public demand for artificial reef development.

MarineFisheries is the lead agency in the Commonwealth for the management and enhancement of marine fisheries resources, and the promotion and development of the recreational and commercial marine fisheries. Creation of artificial habitat can be effective in providing additional recreational and commercial fishing opportunities, and enhancing the forage base. This agency will support and participate in such enhancement efforts if these activities do not disrupt traditional fishing practices and shipping, or adversely impact existing fish populations or habitat.

Pertinent Links
Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia -
New England Artificial Reef Society -

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