Demersal groundfish densities in trawlable and untrawlable habitats off Washington: implications for the estimation of habitat bias in trawl surveys


Jagielo, Thomas, Annette Hoffmann, Jack Tagart, and Mark Zimmermann
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Demersal groundfi sh densities were estimated by conducting a visual strip-transect survey via manned submersible on the continental shelf off Cape Flattery, Washington. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the statistical sampling power of the submersible survey as a tool to discriminate density differences between trawlable and untrawlable habitats. A geophysical map of the study area was prepared with side-scan sonar imagery, multibeam bathymetry data, and known locations of historical NMFS trawl survey events. Submersible transects were completed at randomly selected dive sites located in each habitat type. Significant differences in density between habitats were observed for lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus), yelloweye rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus), and tiger rockfish (S. nigrocinctus) individually, and for “all rockfish” and “all flatfish” in the aggregate. Flatfish were more than ten times as abundant in the trawlable habitat samples than in the untrawlable samples, whereas rockfish as a group were over three times as abundant in the untrawlable habitat samples. Guidelines for sample sizes and implications for the estimation of the continental shelf trawl-survey habitat-bias are considered. We demonstrate an approach that can be used to establish sample size guidelines for future work by illustrating the interplay between statistical sampling power and 1) habitat specific-density differences, 2) variance of density differences, and 3) the proportion of untrawlable area in a habitat.