Fish and ships ditched for artificial reefs
They are the $1 million, 800-tonne high rise homes for fish which create thriving habitats for sea creatures great and small.
Now, the network of artificial reefs along the state's coastline is about to expand by two.
NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall is calling in fishing clubs, keen anglers and tourism operators to tell the government where the next artificial reefs should be sunk.
There are already eight reefs located between one and seven kilometres offshore and in waters between 20-40m deeeo along the NSW coast.
"Offshore artificial reefs are remarkable; once they become established they create a vibrant home which is truly an underwater oasis for marine life," Mr Marshall said.
"Already we have eight of these million-dollar structures deployed off the NSW coastline, from Tweed Heads all the way down to Merimbula and I am very excited to see an expression of interest process open for more reefs in our waters.
"Their innovative designs encourage a wide diversity of marine growth for fish to flourish in, which provides significant ecological and economic benefits.
"Schools of sportfish swarm and dart around these reefs, giving keen anglers a great place to drop a bait and greatly enhancing local fishing and tourism opportunities."
The first offshore artificial reef was established off Sydney in 2011.
Since then the mainly concrete structures have been dropped into the ocean at South Sydney, the Shoalhaven, Port Macquarie, Merimbula, Newcastle and Wollongong.
New reefs in Batemans Bay and Jervis Bay will be completed in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
The two additional reefs - part of the new expressions of interest process - are expected to be established by 2023.
The structures are a departure from a previous practice of sinking large boats to create artificial reefs.
The Ex-HMAS Adelaide was scuttled in 2011 and located 1.4km from the Skillion at Terrigal and 1.8km from Avoca Beach, sitting 32m underwater. It is used as a dive site.
"Sinking a boat will have marine life grow around it but it is not purpose-built to grow an ecosystem," Sean Sloane Department of Primary Industries deputy director general, fisheries, said.
"Other potential pollutants are difficult to manage when you sink a ship. These purpose-built structures are the modern way of doing this."
He said boats can leech paints, oils, chemicals and plastics.
The artificial reefs are usually adjacent to a natural reef and are designed to deflect currents and create eddies and upwellings that provide intricate habitats for a variety of fish species.
They are designed to be intact for "many decades", with fish colonising the structures within about a year.
Father and son Vic and Zane Levett who run OceanHunter Sports Fishing Charters in Sydney said visiting the artificial reef a kilometre off South Head to capture bait to lure bigger fish has been an important part of their business' success.
"Artificial reefs have been an awesome addition to Sydney's incredible fishing and I feel there's plenty of opportunities to expand their deployment and enhance our fishery," Zane said.
The main source of revenue for the reefs is the Recreational Fishing Trust which is funded by license fees charged to fishers in NSW.
Recreational Fishing Alliance NSW president Stan Konstantaras said even more reefs could be built if called Mr Marshall used "Environmental Protection Authority fines and revenue for sanctioned dumping in our oceans to enhance and support the artificial reef project in NSW and build more reefs".
Originally published as Fish and ships ditched for artificial reefs