EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In an effort to enhance recreational fishing in Narragansett Bay, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) began constructing an artificial reef on the seafloor Thursday morning.
Dozens of “reef balls” – described as hollow, dome-shaped structures made of concrete – were lifted by crane and put into place along the seafloor.
The artificial reef is being built off Sabin Point Park and is located roughly 120 feet from the nearest public fishing pier.
The $47,000 project is a joint effort between The Nature Conservancy and the DEM’s Division of Marine Fisheries. It’s being funded through a federal sports fish restoration program.
This is the first time an artificial reef made of concrete is being installed in Rhode Island, according to Patrick Barrett with the Division of Marine Fisheries.
Barrett said the reef balls -each weighing roughly 1,300 pounds – are being lowered eight at a time into the water. By the time the project is complete, there will be 64 reef balls along the seafloor.
The last time an artificial reef was created in Rhode Island was at the Verrazzano Bridge in Jamestown, according to Barrett.
Barrett said the reef system is expected to create improved habitats for marine life living in Narragansett Bay. He hopes the artificial reef can become a host for shellfish and algae, making it more attractive to fish.
The reef should also boost recreational fishing at Sabin Point Park since more fish will be interested in the new habitats.
Keeping the reef close to shore was an important part of the project, according to Barrett.
“The reason that this site is exciting for us is that it has access from shore and by boat,” Barrett explained. “A lot of reefs that are built elsewhere are far offshore and not a lot of people can access them.”
The artificial reef is expected to be completed by Friday morning.