A 3D printed artificial reef near the mouth of Bath Creek near Bayview is the Pamlico River’s newest addition.
The project was designed to provide a thriving habitat for fish and other marine life and will take eight years to complete. It is a joint effort by the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina (CCA NC) and the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and represents a milestone in the use of adaptive infrastructure technology.
Raleigh-based company Natrx designed and manufactured the concrete reef modules specifically for the local climate and river habitat. Using a new breed of 3D printing technology called “dry molding,” the manufacturing process creates lifelike structures with curved surfaces and textures conducive to the conservation of marine life. The crevices and holes in the sand and cement structures provide sanctuary for regionally important fish species such as striped bass and speckled trout.
“I think it will bring more fishermen to our area because fish seem to be attracted to structures like this,” said Bath Town manager Bubs Carson. “Every time people use our boat ramps, buy fuel and eat at our restaurants, it’s good for our local economy. I also think it gives our local fishermen another option if they don’t want to travel to Morehead City or out into the Sound to fish. The more living space, the more use.”
One hundred reef cubes, each measuring 3 feet by 3 feet and weighing approximately 1,850 pounds, were barged and deployed at the Bayview Artificial Reef site approximately 100 yards offshore near the mouth of Bath Creek.
The materials used in the reef modules are routinely used in marine applications and are known to attract oysters and mussels, as well as crustaceans, invertebrates and other organisms in the food chain. The goal is to improve biological productivity and build a reproductive reservoir that can revitalize an entire ecosystem. The improvement in fish stocks also provides the community with an economic boost through increased recreational fishing.
The Bayview Reef covers 1.8 acres underwater. The reef modules are spaced 10 feet apart in rows, with 40 feet between each row. The spacing allows multiple boats to fish the area without crowding. The reef is a favorite spot for local anglers and these improvements will help the site last for generations to come. “We hope this is just the beginning of an ongoing partnership with the NC DMF that will result in further habitat improvements along the coast of North Carolina,” said Bobby Rice, CCA NC Board Vice President for Habitat. “We want to do our part to improve our coastal ecosystem by building more reefs, including oyster reefs and ARs for recreational fishing.”
Bayview will be one of 25 artificial estuarine reefs maintained by the DMF. The department’s reef programs are funded by the North Carolina General Assembly, the US Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program, the North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License Grant Program, and private donations.