Fifty concrete pyramids have been sunk in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of South Texas, as part of efforts to build an artificial reef for increasing fish habitat.

The initiative, which involves marine scientists in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and elsewhere who study reefs and snapper populations, is aimed at dramatically increasing the numbers of red snapper and other game fish in the area.

Shelter For Snapper Population

The RGV Reef project, backed by the grassroots group Friends of RGV Reef, features 50 three-ton, 8 to 10-feet-tall concrete pyramids immersed in water around eight miles off South Padre Island, Brownsville Herald reported.

The pyramids were sunk using 115-foot, Vietnam-era landing vessel Lil’ Mo from Lil’ Mo Marine Services, which donated time and the pyramids.

The structures contain cavities that will offer shelter for adult snapper.

According to Friends president Gary Glick, 42 of the concrete pyramids were positioned in groups of four to create a “trolling trail.” Cinderblocks, too, will be sunk around some pyramids as well as limestone rip-rap to see which more effectively enhance snapper productivity.

The eight remaining pyramids, on the other hand, were placed at the corners of a seafloor area where “survival modules” for juvenile snapper have been placed. These modules are concrete slabs with shells and rocks embedded in them as fish shelter.

Building Fish Habitat Protection

Data loggers inside the pyramids’ cavities record signals from sonic-pinging tags placed in fish stomachs by the biologists to learn more about predation habits and behavior. The technology will allow researchers to determine where the juvenile fish are most likely to be gobbled up by larger ones.

The South Texan seafloor typically lacks any features, thus offering little shelter to young snapper that seek protection from their predators. Predation is a major factor in dwindling snapper and game fish populations.

The group aspires to create 1,650 acres of artificial reef made up of the pyramids and other objects to protect fish from the juvenile to adult stages.

Lil’ Mo has already sunk some 6,000 pyramids for agencies such as the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Coastal Conservation Association.

Glick is confident that when things are right for the widely investigated snapper, the same goes for all other less-studied species in the scientific literature.

Dire Marine Animal Populations

Since early June, at least six North Atlantic right whales have turned up dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada. While six may not seem like a great deal, the “unprecedented” death toll already equates to more than 1 percent of the endangered population.

In the U.S. West Coast, on the other hand, killer whales were listed as endangered in 2005, where their number is now down to just 78 from 140 some decades ago. The decreasing population of their food, the Chinook salmon, appears to affect the ability of these orcas to climb in numbers.

Researchers reminded that the nutritional, physiological, and reproductive health of these marine creatures is ultimately linked to their reproductive success.

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