Qld Government extends artificial reef

Harry Atkinson reef to be extended next month with sinking of old fishing boat

The Queensland Government has announced that an old fishing vessel built in Alabama will become an artificial reef intended for use by recreational fishermen when it is sunk next month in Moreton Bay.

Queensland’s Climate Change and Sustainability Minister, Kate Jones, said the Tiwi Pearl, a disused 24m ship weighing 96,000kg, would form a major extension to Harry Atkinson Reef, east of St Helena Island.

"This is an old girl of the sea who will continue to help fishermen in retirement," Jones said. "But instead of catching fish, she’ll soon be attracting fish.

"We purchased the Tiwi Pearl as part of the Bligh Government’s election commitment to build six new artificial reefs in Moreton Bay.

"The ship will become the centrepiece of Harry Atkinson Reef and help attract many more baitfish, small tuna and mackerel than current numbers."

Jones said the extension to Harry Atkinson was the first of six artificial reef projects worth a total $2 million to provide more recreational fishing opportunities in Moreton Bay.

The Tiwi Pearl was built in the mid ‘60s in Alabama, the United States. The vessel suffered a fire on the rear deck last June and was subsequently written off.

Jones said the main engine, generators, hydraulic equipment and refrigeration had been stripped from hull to make it fit for sinking.

"While the advice of naval architects is currently being sought, it is expected to be sunk by flooding which is simpler than explosives," Jones said.

"Both the Department of Environment and Resource Management and Maritime Safety Queensland have inspected the Tiwi Pearl and given her the all-clear for sinking.

Jones said the Tiwi Pearl will provide an excellent structure for attracting marine animals, and that its large size and height would become home to many species favoured by recreational fishers.

"In addition to the Tiwi Pearl, the extension to the Harry Atkinson Artificial Reef will include other material such as concrete castings and possibly quarry rock being sunk at five separate sites over the next six months," Jones said.

"This will enable more recreational fishing vessels to fish the artificial reef at the same time.

"The Harry Atkinson Artificial Reef was established in 1975 and over the next five years more than 17,000 tyres were deployed.

"In 1987, 200 shopping trolleys were placed on the reef but sinking the Tiwi Pearl in this location will more than triple the size of the reef — it’s a massive extension.

"As the focus of the Moreton Bay Marine Park artificial reef program is creating recreational fishing opportunities, diving will not be permitted on the Tiwi Pearl."

The Tiwi Pearl will be sunk next month depending on suitable tidal conditions. The exact coordinates will be placed on the Queensland Department of Environment website.

Sites have been chosen for four of the six reefs and materials will start to be deposited at these sites this year.

The state opposition party welcomed the decision, but also described the sinking as a "drop in the ocean" compared to what had been promised.

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