Artificial Reefs and FADs


In 1957 the Territory of Hawai‘i began looking into the possibility of installing artificial shelters in areas of sparse natural habitat. The purpose of these shelters was to increase and enhance opportunities for fishermen.

The State’s first artificial reef was created in 1961 at Maunalua Bay, off Kahala, O‘ahu (74 acres). In 1963, two more artificial reefs were created off Keawakapu, Maui (54 acres) and Waianae, O‘ahu (141 acres).

A fourth artificial reef was created in 1972 off Kualoa, O‘ahu (1727 acres). The Ewa Deepwater artificial reef (31 acres) was built in 1986. Unlike the other four reefs, which were deployed at depths of 50-100 feet, the Ewa reef was sunk in 50-70 fathoms (300-420 feet) of water for “new” bottomfish habitat.


  • Enhance the reef habitat
  • Increase fish biomass (up to 20 times that of the previous barren area)
  • Increase species diversity (up to 5 times that of the previous barren area)

Materials Used

For the first three years (1961-1963) car bodies were the primary material used to construct artificial reefs. Then, from 1964-1985, concrete pipes were the mainly used to build these reefs. Also during that time frame, several barges and a minesweeper were sunk. From 1985-1991 the program used concrete and tire modules as the main artificial reef components. Other items used included derelict concrete material, barges, and even large truck tires.

From 1991 to the present, materials deployed have mainly been concrete “z-modules”. Other components include barges, derelict concrete material, and several small vessels.

About “z-modules”

  • Measure four feet by eight feet, with twelve inch high “legs” on end of opposing sides.
  • Each module weighs approximately 2800 pounds.
  • Modules contain 90 linear feet of 1/2-inch rebar for support.
  • The current cost per module is $130.
  • An average deployment is approximately 1,300-1,800 modules.
  • The average cost of a deployment, including tug and barge, is $230K.
  • All modules are made with donated concrete.

Other materials

Much of the other material deployed is donated to DAR from private companies, and other state and federal agencies, mainly the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy. The artificial reef program is able to use these donations in lieu of State money as a match for funds DAR receives from the Sport Fish Restoration Program.


Any entity (public or private) trying to establish an artificial reef in U.S. waters must get a permit from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The USACE is the lead Federal agency responsible for permitting artificial reef development under authority of the National Fishing Enhancement Act of 1984.

In February 2004 the DAR sent an application to the USACE for a new Department of Army permit. At the same time, the DAR applied for the Coastal Zone Management’s Federal Consistency Certification and the Department of Health’s Section 401 Water Quality Certification, as part of the ACE permit. In February 2005, the DAR’s application for a Department of Army permit was approved. This permit expires on December 2, 2009.

The Future

It is hoped that two objectives can be accomplished in the future. The first is to expand existing artificial reef sites. The second would be to add a few more sites around the Main Hawaiian Islands. The limiting factor for both objectives is cost. It’s both expensive and time consuming to conduct the required Environmental Impact Statement. Currently, the State’s artificial reef program does not have funding to accomplish these objectives.


Download pdf coordinates and maps of artificial reef sites: (408 KB – 2.8 MB)


Kim Fuller, O‘ahu District Biologist
(808) 341-2770
[email protected]

Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs)


Unlawful to attach, moor, or tie any boat or watercraft, or any rigging or structure to a FAD, or to board, deface, damage, remove or destroy any FAD.


Download pdf maps and coordinates of FAD sites: (484-620 KB)

Visit the University of Hawai‘i FAD site.