Fish aggregating devices (FADs) and benthic artificial reefs have been documented to enhance local fisheries. This study was conducted to investigate experimentally the relative success of combining FADs with benthic artificial reefs and attempt to observe some of the mechanisms by
which enhancement occurs. Six replicates (two each of three treatments) were constructed in 26 m of water on a sparsely-colonized algal plain, approximately 2 km south of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The experimental treatments were (1) two benthic artificial reefs constructed of equivalent
volumes of queen conch (Strombus gigas) shells; (2) two conch shell reefs surrounded with a cluster of five mid-water FADs; and (3) two clusters of FADs deployed without associated benthic artificial reefs. The replicates were spaced approximately 300 m apart along a transect line.
The FAD + artificial reef combinations attracted more species and individuals than the other two treatments. Recruitment and colonization were greater on the artificial reefs with the FADs present. Larval recruits are apparently attracted by the structure nearer to the surface and move to
available substrate on the bottom. The results indicate that FADs may not only be important management tools for aggregating fishes but also potentially useful for the enhancement of recruitment to benthic artificial reefs and possibly offshore banks and deep reefs.
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