Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

A baited underwater video system for the determination of relative density of carnivorous reef fish

Trevor J. Willis and Russell C. Babcock

Marine and Freshwater Research 51(8) 755 - 763
Published: 2000


Estimates of the relative density of fishes form the basis of many marine ecological studies as well as the assessment of effects of fishing or pollution. Plasticity in the behavioural response of large reef fishes to SCUBA divers means that commonly used underwater visual census (UVC) techniques do not always provide reliable estimates of relative density. The paper describes the system configuration, deployment methods, testing and use of a remotely deployed baited underwater video (BUV) system for the survey of carnivorous reef fishes (snapper, Pagrus auratus and blue cod,Parapercis colias) in marine reserves of northern New Zealand. Concurrent UVC and BUV surveys inside and outside a marine reserve showed that, whereas UVC detected few snapper in either area (resulting in little confidence in statistically significant results), BUV demonstrated significant differences in relative density. Conversely, blue cod were found to occur at significantly higher densities within the reserve by UVC, but not by BUV. The provision of accurate estimates of fish size (<20 mm error) from video footage also illustrated differences in size structure between protected and fished populations. The data suggest that a combination of survey techniques is likely to be necessary where multispecies assemblages are being assessed.

Keywords: abundance estimates, sampling methods, temperate reefs, underwater visual census

© CSIRO 2000

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