Monitoring & Research

TPWD divers are scientific divers. They dive to collect scientific information and observations. They want to learn:

  • What is the condition of the reef material and is it moving?
  • What type and quantity of marine life is living on the reef?

To get these answers, the TPWD dive team schedules at least four 3–4 day dive trips per year. The monitored sites can be randomized or specific, depending on the purpose of the scientific study. Some sites are monitored frequently to collect “trends” data such as how the reef site has evolved over time. Other sites are selected based on the type of site such as petroleum platform, ship or concrete culvert reef. Each type of reef is created for a different purpose, so different monitoring techniques help the reef program gather the appropriate data needed to evaluate that particular reef environment. For example, deep-water petroleum rig sites 70 miles offshore require different monitoring techniques than nearshore reef sites 10 miles off the coast with limited visibility.

Scuba diving is one of many tools that the reef program uses to monitor the results of artificial reefing. This helps answer numerous questions such as: Is the reef supporting the development of marine life? Is the design of our reef sites cost efficient to TPWD and the most productive for the marine environment? In other words, are we using state dollars effectively and getting a good return on our investment? In addition to these management questions, observations made through diving add to the overall scientific knowledge base of how artificial reefs affect and enhance marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.

Once the data are collected, analysts enter the information in the reef monitoring database. Analysis helps answer such questions as:

  • Is the data significantly different from what we have seen before?
  • If it is, then why?
  • Should we change the way we create reefs?
  • Is there a better way to create or enhance reef sites and/or should we modify our monitoring techniques to get better data?

Biological monitoring of reef sites is an ever-evolving business. When our scientific findings are of significance, then we present the results to other artificial reef managers and the scientific community through research papers and presentations. The artificial reef community learns from each other.

The Gulf accounts for 80% of all shrimp harvested,
62% of all oysters harvested and more than
1.4 billion pounds
of annual seafood production.

More than 140 petroleum platforms—with more on the way—have found new purpose as marine habitat in the Texas Artificial Reef Program.

Texas boasts 66 artificial reef sites ranging from 5 to 100 miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico—that’s 3,440 acres of prime fishing and diving adventure.

Seven reef sites within nine nautical miles of shore serve as accessible nearshore fishing and diving opportunities.

Red snapper, the most popular game fish in Texas Gulf waters, thrive around artificial reef sites. Scientific divers see red snapper at TPWD artificial reef sites during four of every ten visits to these locations.

With a few exceptions, the floor of the Gulf of Mexico is flat and bare except for artificial reef sites. Nearly 200 marine fish species have been seen on these complex, stable, and durable habitats among artificial reef structures.

Sixteen of 23 U.S. coastal states (or 70 percent) maintain artificial reef programs.

The Texas Clipper ship reef off South Padre Island generates more than $1 million for the local economy from anglers and $1.4–$2 million from divers. Anglers spend on average $460 per fishing trip, while divers spend upwards of $2,000 per dive.

Thirteen ships have been intentionally sunk as part of the Texas Artificial Reef Program, the largest being the USTS Texas Clipper. She’s 473 feet long—that’s 1.5 times the length of a football field.