Marine Artificial Reef Research and Development: Integrating Fisheries Management Objectives

A Comparison of Fish and Epibenthic Assemblages on Artificial Reefs with and without Copper-Based, Anti-Fouling Paint

Stephen T. Szedlmayer and Dianna R. Miller


Abstract.—Twenty artificial reefs were deployed early in October 2005 approximately 20 km south of Dauphin Island, Alabama (USA), in the Hugh Swingle General Permit Area. Each reef consisted of 12 concrete blocks (20 cm long × 20 cm wide × 41 cm high) arranged on a plywood base (1.5 m2 )and deployed on the bottom, 20 m deep. To quantify the epibenthic assemblage on the reefs, four removable bricks were attached to the reefs. Ten reefs were coated with copper-based, anti-fouling paint and 10 reefs were unpainted. Fish and epibenthic assemblages were compared between reef treatments (i.e., with and without copper-based paint). Reefs were surveyed 1 week after deployment in October 2005, then again in December 2005, May 2006, August 2006, and December 2006. During each survey, two scuba divers visually estimated the densities of all fish species and removed one of the removable bricks to identify and quantify the epibenthic organisms. The epibenthos (coverage area, biomass, diversity, species richness) and fish assemblages (total fish density, species diversity, species richness) were greater on unpainted reefs. Red Snapper Lutjanus campechanus, wrasses Halichoeres spp., Bank Sea Bass Centropristis ocyurus, and Atlantic Spadefish Chaetodipterus faber had higher densities on unpainted reefs. This study indicated that recruitment of fishes to artificial reefs was not just attraction to structure, but that growth of epibenthic assemblages had a significant influence on recruitment.