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Fisheries Behavioral Ecology - Abstracts

Stoner, A.W., C.H. Ryer, S.J. Parker, P.J. Auster, and W.W. Wakefield. 2008. Evaluating the role of fish behavior in surveys conducted with underwater vehicles.  Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 65:1230-1243.


It is often assumed that visual survey data provide more accurate fish counts than conventional extractive gear. As a result, use of underwater vehicles to assess the abundance and distribution of fishes has increased rapidly over recent years. However, a review of observations reported for 48 demersal marine fish taxa showed that almost all respond in some way to underwater vehicles. Whether or not movements or changes in behavior affect survey bias is more difficult to assess. A simple conceptual model is presented to evaluate relationships between stimulus intensity, distances from the vehicle where reactions occur, and survey bias. Largest bias is caused by attraction or avoidance that occurs outside the field of cameras or observers. While light level and vehicle speed have been explored experimentally in a few cases, much remains to be learned about how bias varies among species, age groups, different vehicles, and operating conditions. Given poor understanding of survey bias, we recommend that surveys be conducted with minimum possible variation in operations and that vehicle time is devoted to experimental evaluation of methods. There is no good substitute for direct observations on fish behavior, distribution, and abundance; and survey design can be improved through experimentation.


Last updated 31 March, 2009

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