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

Observational methods used in marine spatial monitoring of fishes and associated habitats: a review

Hannah M. Murphy A B C D and Gregory P. Jenkins A B

A Marine and Freshwater Fisheries Research Institute, Department of Primary Industries, Queenscliff, Vic. 3225, Australia.

B Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia.

C Present address: Department of Zoology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 61(2) 236-252
Submitted: 27 March 2009  Accepted: 12 August 2009   Published: 25 February 2010


Management areas are used in marine spatial planning to conserve biodiversity of marine ecosystems and to protect fish from fishing pressure. To evaluate the effectiveness of these protected areas, observational techniques are used to determine densities, sizes, biomass, habitat types and distribution of fish species in and around management areas. Two types of observational techniques are used in spatial monitoring: (1) fishery-independent techniques, which include underwater visual census (UVC), underwater video, remote sensing, acoustics, and experimental catch and effort data; and (2) fishery-dependent techniques, which include catch, effort and catch per unit effort data from commercial and recreational fisheries. This review summarises the applications, advantages, disadvantages and biases of each of these observational categories and highlights emerging technologies. The main finding from this review was that a combination of observational techniques, rather than a single method, was the most effective approach to marine spatial monitoring. For example, a combination of hydroacoustics for habitat mapping and UVC or video for fish surveys was one of the most cost-effective and efficient means of obtaining fish-habitat linkages and fish assemblage data. There are also emerging technologies that could increase the precision and efficiency of monitoring surveys. There is a need for continued development of non-intrusive technology for marine monitoring studies.

Additional keywords: fisheries-dependent surveys, fisheries-independent surveys, management areas, marine habitat.


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