In 2011 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas deployed over 4,000 concrete culverts in a designated artificial reef area off Port Mansfield, Texas, to enhance habitat for sport fish species in the Gulf of Mexico. A study was conducted to assess juvenile fish recruitment at varying culvert densities within the artificial reef area. Standard monitoring units for the recruitment of reef fish (SMURFs) were used to sample juvenile fish, and these collections were compared with visual scuba surveys. The 0.027-m3 SMURFs were placed at four different culvert densities (0, 1–50, 51–100, and 101+ culverts in a 30-m radius) and sampled during 2013 to 2014. Measurements of rugosity, vertical relief, and percent cover were collected to elucidate factors that drive juvenile recruitment. Average species richness was highest at sites with no culverts and lowest at dense culvert sites. Species compositions were significantly different between sampling locations with no culverts and all locations with culverts; average similarity was 33.8%. Belted Sandfish Serranus subligarius was the most ubiquitous species among all sampling locations. Visual scuba surveys at the same locations showed lower diversity indices of the juvenile fish community than observed by SMURFs and were only 14% similar to the community sampled by the SMURFs. These findings suggest SMURFs are a more effective tool for examining juvenile fish at an artificial reef due to the cryptic nature of juveniles and the low visibility around shallow reefs. Additionally, commercially important Yellowedge Grouper Hyporthodus flavolimbatus, Warsaw Grouper H. nigritus, and Red Snapper Lutjanus campechanus juveniles were only found at SMURFs at sampling locations with no culverts. The presence of juveniles of these key species suggest that fisheries management may benefit from creating low-relief reef patches away from the main reef where juvenile fish can recruit and grow.
Rachel N. Arney, Catheline Y. M. Froehlich & Richard J. Kline (2017) Recruitment Patterns of Juvenile Fish at an Artificial Reef Area in the Gulf of Mexico, Marine and Coastal Fisheries, 9:1, 79-92, DOI: 10.1080/19425120.2016.1265031
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Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science