Artificial reefs

Artificial reefs are used extensively around the world to create fish habitat, and new high quality fishing opportunities for anglers. NSW DPI has deployed specially designed artificial reefs in both estuarine and offshore waters aimed at providing new high quality fishing opportunities for recreational fishers.

Artificial reef locations

New recreational fishing reef projects

Reef 3: Port Macquarie offshore artificial reef

Reef 4: Port Botany offshore artificial reef

Reef 5: The Hon Niall Blair MLC, Minister for Primary Industries, announced in June 2015 that a fifth artificial reef will be built off the coast of NSW. DPI will begin planning the new reef soon. If you have any comments on the location of offshore artificial reef, please email fisheries.enhancement@dpi.nsw.gov.au or call DPI on (02) 6691 9673.

User guidelines

The artificial reefs are proving very popular with fishers with high visitation rates and exciting catches being reported. Visit User guidelines - offshore artificial reefs and be conscious of other reef users at all time.

Science on the reefs

DPI has a long term monitoring program around the artificial reefs. Fish have been shown to rapidly colonise the reefs with 49 species of fish identified on the Sydney OAR reef just 3 years after its deployment. Popular species such as yellowtail kingfish, snapper and mulloway are now regularly found around the structure. Fishers are using the reefs in increasing numbers each year following their deployment.

An artificial reef being lowered into the water.
Concrete modules being deployed in a Sydney estuary
Fish school around an artificial reef.
An artificial reef is deployed in waters off the Shoalhaven.
An underwater photos of an artificial reef in place.
An artificial reef being lowered into the water.
Concrete modules being deployed in a Sydney estuary
Fish school around an artificial reef.
An artificial reef is deployed in waters off the Shoalhaven.
An underwater photos of an artificial reef in place.

Why not use car tyres and other 'junk' to build artificial reefs?

The artificial reefs are of a complex design to create intricate habitat for a variety of fish species, which will remain productive for decades. DPI has to follow strict environmental standards and 'junk' such as tyres or containers are not an acceptable reef building material as they are polluting, non-stable or both.

In fact, the use of discarded 'junk' for the purpose of building reefs has long been banned in many countries as they have fallen short of meeting the most basic objective of artificial reefs: an increase in fish numbers. Another downside is that 'junk' reefs can often pollute surrounding environments as they break down. They are also not designed to withstand large storm events and 'junk' reefs have physically damaged adjacent natural reefs as they have broken apart, shifting sometimes many kilometres across the sea floor.

The expert design of NSW DPI's offshore artificial reefs modules (steel or concrete) are designed to be non-polluting and have a minimum design-life of 30 years. In addition each module design used places emphasis on how the units deflect currents around them to create eddies and upwelling's. The modules are also designed to provide shelter and protection for a wide range of fish and a stable base to which marine organisms can attach and grow. All artificial reef modules deployed by NSW DPI are designed to withstand 1 in 100 year storm events which, for example, off the Sydney coast can produce ocean swells in excess of 15m.

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