Artificial Reef

About this Project

Man-made structures in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico make up the largest artificial reef complex in the world. During the last few decades, artificial reef development has increasingly been undertaken as a way to create new habitat, increase fishery production and promote activities like fishing and diving. The Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation (CSSC) is working to determine how structure type and location of artificial reef materials can influence the surrounding fish communities.

Currently, the CSSC assesses artificial reefs and other offshore habitats through the use of SCUBA, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and vertical line surveys. This project allows us to make comparisons of fish diversity, distribution and abundance between artificial reefs, standing oil and gas platforms and the natural banks of the Coastal Bend, and to understand how different habitat types might affect the growth and reproduction of recreationally and commercially important species. Additionally, the CSSC is gathering baseline data to better understand the underwater life on newly created nearshore reefs.



Research Objectives

  • To conduct a thorough and rigorous monitoring program for TPWD artificial reefs thru the use of SCUBA, Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), and Vertical Line surveys.
  • To compare fish diversity, distribution and abundance differences between artificial reefs, standing oil and gas platforms, and natural banks of the Texas Coastal Bend (see map for sampling locations)
  • To better understand how different habitat types may influence the growth and reproductive potential of recreationally and commercially important species.
  • To assess baseline assessments of newly reefed sites including nearshore (MU-775) sites and those farther offshore (PN-A-42).



  • Ajemian, M.J.A., Wetz, J.J., Shipley-Lozano, G., and G.W. Stunz (2015) Rapid assessment of fish communities on submerged oil and gas platform reefs using remotely operated vehicles. In Press. Fisheries Research.

Locations of sampling sites with distance in nautical miles from Port Aransas, Texas.
A research diver descending on artificial reef site MU-A-85 with a large school of Greater Amberjack below. Although platforms lose much of the upper water column structure when reefed, we still document large numbers of fish associated with these structures.
Two divers about to begin a fish survey on reef site MI-A-7, a cutoff platform.
Documentation of lionfish by ROV survey at a toppled platform on site BA-A-132. Monitoring programs are important in order to document species invasions such as this one.
The ROV following a buoy line down to an artificial reef site to complete a fish survey. We have developed methods to quickly access the fish communities on reefed platform structures using our ROV.
Example of catch from a trap on Corpus Christi Nearshore Reef (MU-775). This picture was taken within a few months of reefing structure at this site.
Size range of vertical line catch from one artificial reef site. These structures often hold fish in various life stages.
MI-712 Deck Fish [VIDEO]
Goliath Grouper at Artificial Reef Site PN-967 [VIDEO]
Artificial Reef Program [VIDEO]


The Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation is a center at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies where Dr. Greg Stunz is also the Endowed Chair for Fisheries and Ocean Health...


Contact Us

Quick Contact