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June 12, 2002


For more information contact:
Bill Figley at 609-748-2020

According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife, ocean artificial reef sites from Little Egg to Cape May inlets will be receiving special Reef Ball habitats over the next three years. Reef Balls are specially designed concrete fish habitats that resemble small igloos with lots of holes.

"Reef Balls are used all over the world to enhance marine environments," said Division Director Bob McDowell. "In a special cooperative effort with the Southern State Correctional Facility in Delmont, Cape May County, inmate laborers build the structures for placement on New Jersey reefs."

Each ball is 3-feet high by 4-feet wide and weighs 1,600 pounds. The tentative schedule is to deploy 700 Reef Balls each year on the following ocean reef sites: Wildwood, Cape May (2002), Little Egg, Atlantic City (2003) and Ocean City, Great Egg (2004).

During the past three years, a total of 1,900 Reef Balls were placed on reefs along the coast of Ocean County. Anglers have found excellent fishing on the habitats and divers report that they are packed with sea bass and blackfish. The access holes and hollow central chamber make the Reef Ball a perfect hiding place for bottom species trying to avoid predation from larger ocean predators like sharks and bluefish.

Shellfish and other invertebrate marine life also find Reef Balls irresistible, establishing dense communities on the concrete walls. The concrete provides a stable substrate for mussels, barnacles, anemones, tube worms, coral and sponges to attach themselves. These animals then provide food for fish, crabs, lobsters, starfish and a host of other marine life. Each Reef Ball, resting by itself on the sand, becomes a living microcosm or micro-reef supporting its own diverse and productive marine life community.

Anglers, divers and their corresponding organizations sponsor the construction of Reef Ball habitats. For their tax-deductible donations, sponsors are able to name their new reef and receive a laminated plaque. Many reefs are dedicated to the memory of family members or friends who loved to fish or scuba dive. Fishing and diving clubs consider the donations as direct investments in their future, creating new ocean fishing grounds and underwater attractions. Anglers, divers and sea-lovers who would like to sponsor their own ocean reef should call 609-748-2020 or write to the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Reef Program, P.O. Box 418, Port Republic, New Jersey, 08241.

The purpose of the reef program is to enhance New Jersey's marine fisheries resources by providing hard-structure habitat for over 200 species of fish, lobster and other marine life. The species diversity (number of different species), biomass (total weight of all living organisms) and productivity of Reef Ball habitats far exceeds that associated with the sandy sea floor.