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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 61(10)

Spatial and fishing effects on sampling gear biases in a tropical reef line fishery

David J. Welch A B E, Bruce D. Mapstone C, Campbell R. Davies C, Garry R. Russ D

A Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, PO Box 1085, Oonoonba, 4811 Qld, Australia.
B Fishing and Fisheries Research Centre, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.
C CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Castray Esplanade, Hobart, Tas. 7005, Australia.
D School of Marine and Tropical Biology and ARC Centre for Coral reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.
E Corresponding author. Email: david.welch@jcu.edu.au
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Biased estimates of population parameters for harvested stocks can have severe implications for fishery management strategy choices. Hook-and-line fishing gear is size-selective and therefore collects biased samples from wild populations. Such biases may also vary in space and time. To assess this assertion, we compared line- and spear-caught samples of the main target species of an Australian hook-and-line fishery to quantify relative bias in size and age structure estimates. We also assessed the consistency of biases among four fishery regions and between two management zones – areas open and closed to fishing. Fish less than 310 mm and younger than 4 years comprised a larger proportion of the speared than the line samples regardless of region or management zone. Conversely, hook-and-line sampled more fish in larger size classes (>370 mm) and older age classes (≥6 years) relative to spear fishing. These biases were qualitatively, but not quantitatively, consistent in all regions and management zones. This variation in sampling resulted in different inferences about regional and zone-related patterns in population size and age structure. We recommend careful consideration of sampling bias when drawing conclusions about regional and management zone effects on fish populations.

Keywords: bias, coral trout, Great Barrier Reef, hook-and-line, no-take zones, selectivity, spearfishing.

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