Effects of a New Artificial Reef Complex on Red Snapper and the Associated Fish Community: an Evaluation Using a Before–After Control–Impact Approach




Streich, Matthew K.
Ajemian, Matthew J.
Wetz, Jennifer J.
Shively, J. Dale
Shipley, J. Brooke
Stunz, Gregory W.


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Taylor & Francis


Artificial reefs are commonly created with the goal of enhancing fish populations. However, many studies evaluating their effects on these populations have been hindered by a lack of preconstruction data from existing natural habitats and temporal comparisons with control areas. Here, we present findings from a before–after control–impact study designed to assess the effects of a new artificial reef on fish populations in the western Gulf of Mexico. Vertical line and fish traps were used to sample the reef site and a paired control site with soft bottom substrates for 1 year before and 2 years after reef construction. Prior to reef construction in October 2013, and over bare substrates in general, infrequent catches of sea catfishes and small coastal sharks were observed. With the exception of rare occurrences of juvenile Gray Triggerfish Balistes capriscus and Red Snapper Lutjanus campechanus, which were observed only during the summer recruitment season, the control site exhibited a lack of reef species. In contrast, we documented dramatic increases in the frequency of occurrence and abundance of multiple reef species at the reef site following the addition of structured habitat. Distinct cohorts of Red Snapper could be followed through time suggesting site fidelity, and few fish greater than age 2 years were captured indicating limited migration of older fish from other areas. Given that the reef supported high densities of juvenile Red Snapper that were in good condition, growing quickly, and protected from potential shrimp trawl mortality, export of juveniles (i.e., production) to the adult population was evident and likely greater on a per-unit-area basis than for the control site. Our study highlights the potential benefits of artificial reefs to species like Red Snapper; however, future studies should investigate the relative roles of emigration and fishing mortality to better understand the effects of these structures on reef fish population dynamics.






Streich, M.K., M.J. Ajemian, J.J. Wetz, J.D. Shively, J.B. Shipley, and G.W. Stunz. 2017. Effects of a New Artificial Reef Complex on Red Snapper and the Associated Fish Community: an Evaluation Using a Before-After Control-Impact Approach. Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 9:404-418. doi:10.1080/19425120.2017.1347116