In June 2011, Delaware's Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) petitioned the Council to designate five ocean artificial reef sites as Special Management Zones (SMZs). The request noted that the DFW has received complaints from hook-and-line anglers regarding fouling of their fishing gear in commercial pots and lines on ocean reef sites for more than 10 years. It also noted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Sportfish Restoration Program (SRP) had notified DFW that these gear conflicts are not consistent with the objectives of the SRP program, which provides funding for the building and maintenance of the artificial reefs. In order to comply with the goals of the SRP, the FWS is requiring that state artificial reef programs be able to limit gear conflicts by state regulations in state waters or by SMZs for sites in the EEZ.
The Council voted in February 2013 to recommend that all five of Delaware's permitted artificial reef sites be designated as SMZs year-round. The SMZ designation would restrict fishing to hook and line and spear fishing gear only (take by hand would also be permitted) within the area of each reef site. The Council also recommended that each SMZ include a buffer of 500 yards surrounding each reef site to facilitate enforcement. In June 2014, NMFS published a proposed rule and request for comments on SMZ designation for the five artificial reef sites. At the August 2014 meeting the Council voted to eliminate the proposed 500 yard buffers and remove the proposed SMZ around reef site 14.
On June 9, 2015 NMFS published a final rule to implement Special Management Zones around four Delaware artificial reefs, as recommended by the Council. The new regulations will go into effect on July 9, 2015.
- Final Rule, June 2015
- Proposed Rule, June 2014
- Council Recommends SMZ Designation for five Delaware reef sites, June 2013
- SMZ Alternatives and Advisory Panel Report, December 2012
- SMZ Monitoring Team report, October 2012
- DFW requests SMZ Status for 5 Delaware Reefs, June 2011