Streich et al. 2017

scientific article | Mar Coast Fish | open access

A comparison of fish community structure at mesophotic artificial reefs and natural banks in the western Gulf of Mexico

Streich MK, Ajemian MJ, Wetz JJ, Stunz GW


Oil and gas platforms along the northwestern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) shelf have served as artificial reefs since oil and gas exploration intensified in the 1950s. As these structures are decommissioned, they must be removed; however, some are converted to permanent artificial reefs. Despite the potential effects these artificial habitats may have on marine fisheries, investigations that assess the fish communities inhabiting these structures relative to natural habitats are rare. During fall 2012, we used remotely operated vehicle surveys to compare fish communities between artificial reefs (i.e., reefed platforms; n = 5) and adjacent natural banks (n = 5) in the western GOM. Our surveys successfully documented 79 species representing 28 families. Multivariate analyses suggested that fish communities at artificial reefs were distinct from those at natural banks. Post hoc analyses indicated that the differences were driven by high abundances of transient, midwater pelagics and other gregarious species at artificial reefs. Many fisheries species, like the Red Snapper Lutjanus campechanus, were found in both habitat types, with density at artificial reefs estimated to be nearly eight times greater than at natural banks. Despite lower densities at natural banks, the disproportionately large areas of these habitats resulted in relatively high total abundance estimates—approximately 5% of the 2012 GOM Red Snapper annual catch limit (3.67 million kg [8.08 million lb])—a finding that has significant implications for Red Snapper and artificial reef management in the GOM. Our study suggests that although fish community structure may differ between these two habitats, artificial reefs serve as important habitat for species like Red Snapper by potentially diverting fishing pressure from natural habitats; however, future studies that address speciesspecific life history traits will be needed to better understand the function and performance of artificial reefs in supporting fisheries productivity

Depth range
20- 96 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
1 x (total of 11490 words)

* Presents original data
* Focused on 'mesophotic' depth range
* Focused on 'mesophotic coral ecosystem'

Community structure
Management and Conservation


USA - Gulf of Mexico

Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)

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