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Coastal Engineering Company of Orleans Cape Cod
June 12, 2018

Artificial Reef Brings Marine Life to Nantucket Sound

The artificial reef, built about two miles south of the entrance to Saquatucket Harbor by reusing the demolished Harwich High School concrete rubble, is continuing to team with marine life.

Harwich Reef 475X288

The artificial reef is a collaborative effort between the Town of Harwich and Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA DMF). In March 2016, 1,600 cubic yards of concrete rubble were deployed into the waters of Nantucket Sound. The material was obtained from Harwich High School to create patch habitat arrays across a 10‐acre site. The reef is designed to enhance recreational fishing for black sea bass and scup by providing structure in an otherwise featureless location. DMF enacted regulation prohibiting all commercial fishing activity on the reef site and within a 100-meter buffer zone. The regulation makes this the first and only reef site in MA dedicated exclusively to recreational saltwater fishing.

DMF conducts bi-annual monitoring of the site to assess:

  • species presence
  • material stability
  • recreational use

Monitoring the reef site began immediately after deployment. As the Harwich reef ages, it will undergo various stages of colonization and succession, and is expected to resemble natural structured habitat over time.

In April 2016, divers surveying the reef noted it was already exhibiting signs of colonization after one month. Two months later, a second survey noted the first presence of fish at the site. By November 2016, hundreds of fish were observed. Today you can find a variety of fish species on the reef, including;

  • Black sea bass
  • Cunner
  • Horseshoe crab
  • Knobbed whelk
  • Northern sea robin
  • Scup
  • Spider crab
  • Tautog