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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Review of California's Artificial Reefs: To Help Inform Future Development of a Statewide Management Plan.


The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has been involved in the construction of artificial reefs (ARs) since the 1950s. Then in 1985, the California Artificial Reef Program (CARP) was created by legislative statute to address declines in various southern California marine species. The CARP is managed by CDFW but no longer receives funding to manage this program. Before CDFW can support further creation of ARs we need to identify gaps in the program and know how ARs affect marine species and the marine ecosystems. This will ultimately inform a scientifically based statewide AR management plan, which CDFW needs to support in the program. The first step into making informed management decisions of the ARs is to complete a literature review of published material and to survey the type, number, and placement of ARs. The results of this survey need to be standardized and transparent in order for the CDFW to review, compare, and make informed management decisions. Some critical data to include in the surveys will be reef attributes (the quality and specific features of the reef), fish density, biomass, and the assemblage of the AR structure. Identification of gaps in the CARP and the organization and standardization of timely and regular AR assessments will then allow resource managers and stakeholders to use the best available science to make the most informed management decisions possible.  With the ocean continuing to warm and acidify and the world population continuing to increase, fish populations and marine ecosystems are at risk and face unforeseen dangers, including the reduction of fish stocks and the degradation of marine habitat. Rebuilding depleted stocks typically involves conventional fisheries management approaches, such as seasons, quotas, size limits, gear restrictions, MPAs, or even fishery closures. The concept of stock enhancement has been debated as another potential tool in the fisheries management toolbox, and may be possible with the successful implementation of CA’s ARs. CDFW has been involved with the AR program for decades but currently has no statewide management plan to guide placement, development, and testing of AR effectiveness and functionality.

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