Wednesday, September 15, 2010: 10:40 AM
318 (Convention Center)
Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) is an economically and ecologically important marine fish in the Gulf of Mexico, but its abundance has decreased 90% since the 1980s. Artificial reefs may aid in restoring red snapper stocks by providing foraging sites and refugia for juveniles. We initiated an experiment to determine effectiveness of different distributional patterns of artificial reefs in attracting and sustaining juvenile red snapper in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Between September 2007 and December 2008, we deployed fish traps on pyramid shaped artificial reef structures 40 km south of Pascagoula, Mississippi. We evaluated two reef designs: (1) five closely-spaced pyramid units, and (2) five closely-spaced pyramids with two sets of two pyramids at 30.5, 61.0, and 91.5 m from the five pyramids. In 26 sampling trips, 927 red snapper were captured. Red snapper catch per unit effort did not differ significantly among reef patterns. Mean total length of red snapper differed significantly among reef patterns, with the largest mean length occurring at the pattern with 61.0 m spacing. Results from this study indicate that juvenile red snapper are utilizing the pyramid structures and may benefit in terms of growth through the use of reef patterns with intermediate horizontal spacing.