Response of fish communities to the deployment of estuarine artificial reefs for fisheries enhancement



Understanding succession of fish communities associated with artificial structures is required to assess the potential of these initiatives as part of fisheries enhancement strategies and determine possible impacts on the broader ecological community. Artificial reef systems constructed in three south-eastern Australian estuaries were monitored over a four-year period. Recruitment of fish to the artificial reefs was rapid, with significantly greater species richness observed on artificial reefs than on natural habitats for the majority of locations and times. The rate of community change varied between estuaries and appeared to be related to the quality and amount of existing habitat and the distance of the artificial reef from sources of recruitment. General patterns were also identified among estuaries driven by strong recruitment, followed by a rapid reduction in several mobile schooling species. By contrast, there was early and sustained recruitment of a variety of sparid species, which are of importance to recreational and commercial fisheries.