The Charleston Deep Reef: Creating an Artificial Reef Marine Protected Area to Enhance Fisheries Resources
Robert M. Martore and Melvin Bell
Abstract.—In support of the Magnuson–Stevens Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006, which tasked regional fisheries management councils with ending overfishing of numerous marine finfish species, the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council established 8 deepwater (90–150 m [300–500 ft]) type II marine protected areas (MPAs) along the coastline of the southeastern United States. At the request of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), one of these MPAs was established on an undeveloped sand-bottom area previously permitted by SCDNR for artificial reef development. After monitoring the production potential of unfished artificial reefs for several years on shallower experimental reef sites, SCDNR staff proposed that a deeper location had the potential to become a highly productive spawning site, particularly for deepwater grouper species. Development of this permitted site began in 2014 when two 79-m (260 ft) barges with nearly 30 m (100 ft) of added profile were deployed. Subsequent monitoring of the site through remotely operated underwater vehicle video revealed colonization by several target species, including Warsaw Grouper Hyporthodus nigritus, Snowy Grouper H. niveatus, and Misty Grouper H. mystacinus. Due in part to the success of this deepwater MPA, the SCDNR was also granted spawning special management zone designation for its two previously established, undisclosed experimental artificial reef sites in federal waters off South Carolina in 2017.