Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 1782–1792 | Cite as

Investigating the Functional Role of an Artificial Reef Within an Estuarine Seascape: a Case Study of Yellowfin Bream (Acanthopagrus australis)

  • Matthew D. Taylor
  • Alistair Becker
  • Michael B. Lowry


Estuaries contain mosaic habitats which support fish across different life stages. Artificial reefs represent a form of habitat enhancement which can provide additional structure for fishes and improve fishing opportunities, but the role of artificial reefs within the broader estuarine seascape has not been extensively studied. We used a VEMCO Positioning System (VPS) to monitor the fine-scale movements of yellowfin bream (Acanthopagrus australis, referred to as Bream), an estuarine predator and important recreational species. Fish were implanted with acoustic tags with accelerometer sensors (to measure relative fish activity), and their movements monitored on an artificial reef and adjacent habitats. Elevated activity patterns during crepuscular periods indicated that foraging was likely occurring over a large seagrass bed adjacent to the artificial reef system. Alternatively, lower activity was observed when fish were on the artificial reef, which may reflect the role of this habitat as a refuge, or that alternative foraging strategies were being employed. All fish exhibited a high degree of fidelity to the artificial reef on which they were tagged, and there was minimal movement among other reef groups within the array. There was extensive overlap in space use contours for smaller fish on the seagrass edge, but no overlap for larger fish that also tended to forage further afield. These findings have implications for the way in which artificial reefs support fish production, especially the importance of connectivity with other key habitats within the estuarine seascape.


Production Seagrass Zostera Evaluation Foraging Acoustic telemetry 



The authors wish to thank those that have assisted in the fish tracking research conducted on Lake Macquarie since 2013, namely J. McLeod, N. Payne, E. Mitchell, I. Thiebaud, E. Messer, A. Fowler, G. Cadiou, S. Chilcott, R. Brownette, G. Dobson, B. Marsland, B. Grasso and J. Tranter. The authors also wish to acknowledge the NSW Recreational Fishing Saltwater Trust who provided funding for this study, and in kind support provided by staff at Origin Energy. Capture of fish in Lake Macquarie was permitted under Section 37 of the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994, through Scientific Research Permit number P01/0059, and animals were handled under Animal Research Authority 12/17 issued by the NSW Department of Primary Industries—Fisheries Animal Care and Ethics Committee.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Crown 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew D. Taylor
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alistair Becker
    • 1
  • Michael B. Lowry
    • 1
  1. 1.Port Stephens Fisheries InstituteNSW Department of Primary IndustriesNelson BayAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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