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Artificial Reef Projects Selected

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) announces the first research projects under the Artificial Reef Research Assistantship Program (ARRAP).

The program provides graduate assistantship stipends of $25,000 annually, for up to three years, to Master of Science/Arts students enrolled full-time at Louisiana colleges and universities who are involved in research relevant to the Louisiana Artificial Reef Program (LARP). Students receiving assistantships also are required to intern with LARP at least 100 hours each year with a mentor assigned by the program. Louisiana Sea Grant administers the assistantships with funding provided by LDWF.

Projects and students selected for 2022 are:

Photo: Jade CarverJade Carver, Louisiana State University (LSU)
Principal investigators: Mike Dance (LSU), Steve Midway (LSU)
Title: Assemblage Structure and Habitat Use of Reef Fishes at Offshore Artificial Reef Sites in Louisiana

Artificial reefs are deployed in nearshore and offshore waters to provide habitat for fishes and invertebrates in areas often devoid of structure on the water bottom. Yet, our understanding of how artificial reef communities develop and function as habitat is limited. Before and after visual surveys (from underwater cameras) and telemetry data (from underwater receivers and fish tagged with acoustic transmitters) will be used to characterize community structure, fish movements and habitat use at a newly deployed artificial reef constructed in October 2021. The research team will examine the migration of adult fish to the new reef and contrast fish communities at the new site with those over adjacent sand and mud. Critical data on reef fish accumulation at artificial reefs, as well as high-resolution spatial and temporal data on reef use throughout the water column by the fish, also will be collected. Additional funding for the project is provided by Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana.

Student to be determined, University of New Orleans
Principal investigators: Stephanie Archer, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON)
Title: Assessing Which, When and Why Fishes Use Artificial Reefs through Passive Acoustics and Capture Based Methods

LARP was established with the goals of facilitating access by Louisiana fishers, both recreational and commercial, and enhancing and conserving fisheries resources. To fulfill these goals, fished species must both utilize the reefs and reefs must result in new biomass production rather than simply attracting and concentrating existing fishes. The first step in determining if artificial reefs are contributing to increased fisheries production is to gain a better understanding of which fishes are utilizing the reefs, when and for what purpose. This project will take advantage of the fact that many of Louisiana’s fishes are sound producing, meaning they communicate using species-specific calls, much like birds. As a result, by listening to the fish calls on these reefs, researchers can gain a better understanding of which fish are utilizing the reef, get a fine-scale understanding of when the fish are on the reefs and start to understand if the fish are using the reefs as habitat, feeding grounds, spawning grounds or all of the above.