A comparison of site fidelity and habitat use of red snapper (lutjanus campechanus) to evaluate the performance of two artificial reefs in South Texas utilizing acoustic telemetry
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Evaluation of artificial reefs is becoming an increasingly important component of fisheries management. This is particularly true for the northwestern Gulf of Mexico where natural hard substrate is limited and 359 petroleum platforms are scheduled for removal in 2013 due to the “idle iron” policy. This study compared the performance of two artificial reef configurations off the south Texas coast, the Texas Clipper and South Padre Island Near Shore Reefs that differ in material, depth, and distance from shore, with respect to behavior of red snapper, Lutjanus campechanus, an important recreational and commercial species. Red snapper were implanted with depth sensing and identification telemetry tags. Receivers were moored at each site to record presence and vertical movements of the fish. In order to better understand the function of these two artificial reefs, comparisons of behavior during day and night periods, as well as residency time were performed to characterize red snapper-artificial reef interactions. In addition, a mark and recapture study using external dart tags was also used to estimate fishing pressure at each site. Acoustic ping number for day and night periods was significantly higher at the near-shore site as well as angler tag return rate, while the offshore site provided more usable vertical habitat based on daily recorded depth profiles for each fish. This evaluation of which reef configuration type provides the better usable habitat for red snapper may serve as a reference for future artificial reef planning along the Texas coast.