Rapid colonization, high fish densities, and high catch rates at artificial reefs have been used as evidence for habitat-limitation and increased production of reef fishes. An alternative hypothesis is that artificial reefs attract fishes due to behavioral preferences but do not increase reef fish production or abundance. Reviewed literature reveals that except in one case evidence for increased production is mostly anecdotal and inadequate. Attraction and/or production by a particular artificial reef is predicted to depend on the species and individual ages (size) of reef fish, and on reef location. Factors predicted to be important are natural reef availability, mechanisms of natural population limitation, fishery exploitation pressure, life history dependency on reefs, and species-specific and age-specific behavioral characteristics. Increased production is most likely at locations isolated from natural reefs, and for habitat-limited, demersal, philopatric, territorial, and obligatory reef species. Attraction should be more important in locations with abundant natural reef habitat; where exploitation rates are high; and for recruitment-limited, pelagic, highly mobile, partially reef-dependent, and opportunistic reef species. Artificial reefs are unlikely to benefit heavily exploited or overfished populations without other management actions.
Are High Densities of Fishes at Artificial Reefs the Result of Habitat Limitation or Behavioral Preference?
Bohnsack, J. (1989). Are High Densities of Fishes at Artificial Reefs the Result of Habitat Limitation or Behavioral Preference?. Bulletin of Marine Science, 44(2), 631-645.