The Department of Environmental Protection this week proposed new rules that will fully implement a compromise between recreational and commercial fishing interests over access to artificial reefs off the coast of New Jersey, Commissioner Bob Martin announced yesterday.
The plan will allow commercial interests to have continued access to portions of two reefs in state waters and calls for the construction of a new reef for recreational fishing, also in state waters.
The compromise, reached in 2013 with commercial and recreational fishing groups, is now being proposed as a formal rule change and amendments to Fish and Wildlife regulations.
“Recreational and commercial fishing are vital to New Jersey’s economy, providing more than $2.5 billion in economic benefits each year,” Commissioner Martin said. “This compromise will address the needs of commercial fishermen and recreational anglers, and will result in restoration of federal funding that is vital to the development of artificial reefs that provide tremendous commercial and recreational benefits.”
The DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife holds permits for 15 artificial reef sites – 13 in federal waters and two in state waters. The reefs, encompassing a total of 25 square miles of ocean floor, are constructed from a variety of materials, such as rocks, concrete and steel, even old ships and barges. These materials provide surfaces for a wide diversity of marine organisms to grow, ultimately providing food and habitat for many species of fish and shellfish.
A new reef, encompassing about a square mile of ocean floor, will be constructed in state waters in an area north of Barnegat Inlet to be used for recreational fishing.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife is working with the DEP Division of Land Use Regulation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in securing the permit for this project.