Evaluating catchability in a large-scale gillnet survey using hydroacoustics: Making the case for coupled surveys

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Abstract

Abundance estimates facilitate successful fisheries management. Fisheries agencies often monitor abundance through fishery independent standardized protocols generating relative measures such as catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE), where CPUE is assumed proportional to true abundance. Unfortunately, this assumption is rarely met as fish behavior and environmental conditions influence catchability and sample gear efficiency. We used paired gillnet and hydroacoustic samples and a catchability equation (Ui = qNiβ) to assess the correspondence between gillnet CPUE (Ui) and hydroacoustic abundance estimates (Ni). We found that gill nets were hyperstable (i.e., β < 1) and efficiency declined along environmental gradients. These gradients, such as increased depths, and decreased turbidity and water temperatures, likely influenced fish behavior, and encounter and gear saturation rates. As a result, catchability declined with increasing abundance qacross survey regions. Finally, simulations showed that catchability gradients and variable migratory patterns can contribute to annual variation in CPUE indices regardless of changes in abundance. Surveys plagued by varying catchability could benefit from coupling with hydroacoustics, a sample gear less subject to gear efficiency and catchability issues.

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DuFour, M. R., Qian, S. S., Mayer, C. M., & Vandergoot, C. S. (2019). Evaluating catchability in a large-scale gillnet survey using hydroacoustics: Making the case for coupled surveys. Fisheries Research, 211, 309–318. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2018.11.009

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