Alternate Title

Evolution of Marine Artificial Reef Development—A Philosophical Review of Management Strategies


Artificial reefs are a common fishery and aquatic habitat management tool, used in all U.S. coastal states and elsewhere worldwide. Although support for their use is strong among managers and resource users, there is still inadequate scientific information available on their performance in meeting program goals; performance and ecological function information is also weak on many types of natural reefs and fishery-valuable shipwrecks. The wise and responsible use of artificial reefs or habitats by habitat or fishery managers depends on knowing how well they are meeting application objectives; these objectives can be singular or multiple and can involve compliance with laws and regulations. Noncompliance monitoring provides good feedback information to managers and artificial reef designers and planners for continued support and improvement of their efforts. Artificial reef development in the U.S.A. has perhaps reached a state in which an equal effort is needed for construction and for monitoring, assessment, and program fine-tuning for optimum beneficial results. Support for this shift in emphasis can be found in the fact that the continued expansion of artificial reef development has not stopped the decline of many reef fishery resources, such as black sea bass, groupers, snappers, and tautog, or caused many user conflicts. If the artificial reefs and habitats are not completely meeting program expectations, then managers will want to know this and what might be the causes of the shortfall. This paper discusses how monitoring is an essential part of any artificial reef program, just as it is a part of most other fishery and natural resource management efforts, and that there are a range of artificial reef habitat or reef fishery variables that can or should be monitored that provide critical performance information for aquatic resource managers.