Aids Reef Site Selection

Scientists used vessel-traffic data and maps when considering the best reef spot for boosting the vulnerable Lake Sturgeon population.

An artificial reef in the Detroit River will expand spawning grounds for Lake Sturgeon, a species in rapid decline that has been around since dinosaurs roamed the planet.’s Track Builder and National Viewer enabled Michigan Sea Grant researchers to “see” where vessel activity and propeller wash could threaten the success of the initial test reef or permanent reef. NOAA’s Digital Coast and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management co-developed the cadastre.

The vessel-traffic data on is collected by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The permanent reef will give the slow-to-mature Lake Sturgeon more spawning areas and the conditions needed to incubate and protect their young. It consists of loose limestone about two feet thick covering four acres of river bottom.

Natural limestone reefs and rocky areas were once plentiful in the Detroit River, which feeds into Lake Erie, and the St. Clair River, which is downstream of Lake Huron. However, 20th Century gravel mining, and deep dredging for commercial ships, contributed to the destruction of spawning areas for millions of fish. The two rivers were listed as “Great Lakes Areas of Concern” under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, making federal funds available for the construction of six artificial spawning reefs since 2004. (2018)

More Information: Digital Coast in Action

Partners: Michigan Sea Grant, U.S. Coast Guard