Harwich reef

The Harwich artificial reef is the most recent Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) reef project, created in 2016.

About the reef

The newest artificial reef in MA was a collaborative effort between the Town of Harwich and DMF. The reef is located two miles south of the entrance to Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich. In March 2016, we deployed 1,600 cubic yards of concrete rubble into the waters of Nantucket Sound. We obtained material from Harwich High School to create patch habitat arrays across a 10‐acre site. The design of the reef will enhance fishing for black sea bass and scup by providing structure in an otherwise featureless location. We expect the Harwich reef will provide long term recreational fishing access opportunities.

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

We also maintain a series of bottom temperature monitors and an acoustic receiver. The receiver documents any fish previously fitted with an acoustic tag that visits the site. These devices remain on-site year round.

Harwich reef map


Current status of the reef

Monitoring the reef site began immediately after deployment. As the Harwich reef ages, it will undergo various stages of colonization and succession. We expect it 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, we observed hundreds of fish, including black sea bass, tautog, sea robin, scup, and cunner.

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

Additional Resources

Contact   for Harwich reef


DMF Staff Directory View 


(617) 727-3337


Gloucester Field Office
30 Emerson Avenue, Gloucester, MA 01930

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