St. Lucie County Deep Artificial Reefs

Fish community assessment of Treasure coast artificial reef sites has had limited effort over the years. This is particularly true of deeper, shelf-edge reefs where anectodal evidence suggests that these sites provide surrogate habitat for grouper spawning aggregations. Such aggregations historically utilized high-relief natural habitat from the region (e.g., Oculina Banks) that were decimated by anthropogenic activities such as trawling. As such, these complex deepwater artificial reefs could be crucial to rebuilding stocks of many of these fisheries.

Our overall goal is to conduct a fishery-independent assessment of the fish communities inhabiting shelf-edge artificial reefs using a combination Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) and long-term roving diver survey data. Additionally, working through a partnership with local commercial and recreational fishermen, we will utilize standardized fisheries gears to collect individuals from multiple shelf-edge reefs for further biological assessment. Such collections will enable us to inspect fishes for spawning condition and direct measurement of size and sex. These data will be crucial for stock assessment, as we expect to collect abundance and biological data from multiple federally managed species in a relatively unexplored region. 

Collaborators: James Oppenborn (St. Lucie County), Mr. Kerry Dillon (Sea Rover Services, Inc.)

Funding: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Artificial Reef Program