MOREHEAD CITY — Anglers who fish on artificial reefs and oyster sanctuaries in the rivers and sounds will notice some changes to the buoys this spring.
The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Program and Oyster Sanctuary Program is replacing the buoys used to mark reef sites in estuarine waters.
The new buoys are white, 13 inches in diameter, with the word “REEF” displayed above an orange diamond.
Buoys marking oyster sanctuaries will also display “OYSTER SANCTUARY” on the sides. These new buoys will replace the yellow U.S. Coast Guard Class IV and Class V buoys used until now.
The new buoys are smaller and lighter than those historically employed, but sufficient for use in the sounds and rivers. This will allow staff to service them using smaller vessels, freeing the larger vessel for other shellfish rehabilitation projects.
The buoy replacement operation is expected to be completed by March 1.
An artificial reef is a man-made underwater structure, typically built to promote marine life in areas with a generally featureless bottom. In North Carolina, they serve as crucial spawning and foraging habitat for many commercially and recreationally important fish species.
The division maintains 43 ocean artificial reefs and 25 estuarine reefs. Fifteen of the estuarine reefs serve as oyster sanctuaries. Ocean reefs are located from a half-mile to 38 miles from shore and are situated so that they can be reached from every maintained inlet in the state.
For more information should contact Jason Peters, division artificial reef coordinator, at 252-808-8063 or Jason.Peters@ncdenr.gov.