Fish that are attracted to the reef habitats at the research site are observed passively with cameras over time (fish are not observed over space by actively swimming transects with cameras).
The research site was established in the spring of 1999 with the deployment of concrete pyramids. Since that time, rich growths of invertebrates have colonized the structures. These artificial reef structures aggregate fish in the research area for viewing with the cameras.
Many of the temperate reef fish species associate closely with natural or artificial structure on the bottom. The reasons for this association remain unclear, but are believed to include: feeding on attached invertebrates or small bait fishes, relative protection from predation, energy savings by partial deflection of currents, etc.
Most of the time it is difficult to see the attached invertebrates in the images of fish and habitats from the research site, but they are there. The sessile invertebrates represent a wide diversity of animals (sponges, soft corals and tunicates). As a group, these animals are often referred to as "fouling organisms" because they grow and cover hard surfaces underwater.
We consider the specific location of the research site as very sensitive, classified information. This aspect of the project is critical to the ultimate success of the present fisheries research. Most of the fish species that are of greatest interest are also the most aggressive at taking a baited hook and are, therefore, very susceptible to removal by fishing. No Fishing - PLEASE!! Depletion of the top-level predators from the small local fish community changes its structure and changes all normal interactions between the remaining species. The research site and fish population are so small that one small boat could remove all the predatory fish in several hours or less. Without predatory fish at the camera there will be no fishery research. Therefore, the research is dependent on the highest level of security so that fishers will not target the site with even a very small fishing effort. Also, fishing in the area of the research site could damage the cameras and transmission cable by fouling with hooks and anchors.
Fish habitats were arranged in a circle around the underwater TV cameras. This was done for several reasons. The primary reason was to have one or two fish habitats within the narrow (10-12 deg.) field-of-view of each of the six cameras. The second reason is to focus activities of the fish, both resident and transient species, near the cameras and within the, often, limited visible range (10-30') on the sandy bottom.