Early December 2019, the last of the 116 purpose-built artificial reef pyramids were sunk off Darwin, giving recreational fishers four new fishing spots. The modules have been arranged to form four new artificial reefs: two between North Gutter and Lee Point; one between the Vernon Islands and Cape Hotham; and one in the Dundee Region. The new artificial reefs are a significant part of the Northern Territory Government’s investment of $50 million over 5 years to enhance the future of recreational fishing in the Top End.
The all-Australian design of the artificial reefs includes 116 separate concrete reef pyramids that have been set on the sea floor at the four locations each roughly 2.5 hectares. The reef pyramid modules are the same successful design that has previously been used at Port Macquarie, South Sydney, Shoalhaven, Hervey Bay and Port Coogee.
Location of New Artificial Reefs
Location Name Position Approximate Depth
Lee Point Wide 12 10.083’S 130 47.033’E 28m
Gutters central 12 09.459’S 130 34.655’E 28m
Dundee Wide 12 44.445’S 130 10.387’E 16m
Adelaide River Mouth 12 07.587’S 131 11.545’E 16m
The early signs were good with bait fish being seen on sounders around the newly-placed modules within days of them being deployed. NT Fisheries will monitor the development of the reefs over the coming years with an estimated time of around 3 years for the reefs to become fully-established productive habitats. The new artificial reefs compliment the trial fish attracting devices (FADs) that were positioned in 2018 and 2019.
So, what does this all mean to the average fisho?
The reef modules have an expected operational life of over 100 years. The artificial reefs create new recreational fishing locations which will also aid in the recovery of at-risk reef fish by helping to increase long-term fisheries production. However, recreational fishers also have an important role in the sustainability of fishing in and around these areas by being mindful of the potential impacts of their fishing activities on the fishing resource and other fishers.
To assist fishers in this role, NT Fisheries has developed a Code of Conduct for fishing around artificial reefs and FADs. The code is basic common sense and, if we all abide by it, all fishers can enjoy fishing now and into the future.
Code of Conduct for fishing around artificial reefs and FADs.
• RESPECT other users at all times.
• Courtesy should be given to fishers who are already using the reefs.
• Users should accommodate new arrivals where possible.
• Take only what you need for a feed.
• When you have caught a feed of reef fish consider changing fishing methods or locations to target pelagic species which are less susceptible to barotrauma.
• Due to barotrauma, please do not target reef fish species for catch-and-release fishing in waters greater than 10m deep (Note: the 4 new artificial reefs are all in waters greater than 10m depth).
• Always motor slowly when approaching or changing locations to reduce disturbance of other boats.
• Fishers should also be aware that there may be spearfishers, who are also covered by the Code of Conduct, in the vicinity of the artificial reefs. The Code also states that:
• Spearfishers should be aware of other artificial reef users.
• Spearfishers may not have possession of a loaded speargun within 150 metres of another person who is not part of their fishing group and should not enter the water if they are within this distance of other boats at an artificial reef.
When considering catch-and-release fishing, it’s worth remembering that FADS, and additional vertical relief of reefs, will attract pelagic species which are more suitable targets.
While the artificial reefs and FADS will assist fish productivity in the long term, and will make a significant contribution to recreational fishing opportunities in the Top End, it is up to each individual fisho to play their part by adopting and abiding by the Code of Conduct that will ensure everyone benefits from these welcome new additions to the NT’s fishing scene.
The new artificial reef coordinates are also online, in the NT’s ”Know Your Limits Booklet” and on the NT Fishing Mate App. The App and booklet contain a wealth of information on fishing in the Territory, including possession limits, local rules and vessel safety.