Evaluating the Importance of Artificial Reefs as Essential Habitat for Sharks and Other Reef Fish in Mississippi Coastal Waters

 

Many popular sport fish targeted by recreational and commercial fishermen are species that associate with underwater reefs.  These reef structures provide juvenile and adult fish with increased shelter and protection, and can act as foraging or reproduction sites.  In 2007, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources initiated a program to enhance the inshore artificial reefs present along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Our project assesses the population assemblage and fidelity of fish at these reefs by use of acoustic telemetry. 

Evaluating the Importance of Artificial Reefs as Essential Habitat for Sharks and Other Reef Fish in Mississippi Coastal Waters Reefs are fished for the following target species: grey snapper, red snapper, lane snapper, gag grouper, spotted seatrout, sharpnose shark, blacktip shark, bonnethead shark, finetooth shark.  Fish are surgically implanted with an acoustic transmitter, externally tagged, and released.  Permanent acoustic receivers are deployed throughout the reefs to document the presence of these tagged fish anytime they are within the receiver’s detection radius.  Regular trips are made to the receivers to download these “hits.” 

From this data we can determine the fidelity, seasonality, time preferences, and community structure of these fish at the reefs.  This knowledge will allow us to understand the effectiveness of these reefs at recruiting, maintaining, and enhancing fish assemblages. In addition, this information will allow fisheries managers to make more informed decisions for these important fish species in our coastal waters.

 

Evaluating the Importance of Artificial Reefs as Essential Habitat for Sharks and Other Reef Fish in Mississippi Coastal Waters