Integration of submersible transect data and high-resolution multibeam sonar imagery for a habitat-based groundfish assessment of Heceta Bank, Oregon


Nasby-Lucas, Nicole M., Bob W. Embley, Mark A. Hixon, Susan G. Merle, Brian N. Tissot, and Dawn J. Wright
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In the face of dramatic declines in groundfish populations and a lack of sufficient stock assessment information, a need has arisen for new methods of assessing groundfish populations. We describe the integration of seafloor transect data gathered by a manned submersible with high-resolution sonar imagery to produce a habitat-based stock assessment system for groundfish. The data sets used in this study were collected from Heceta Bank, Oregon, and were derived from 42 submersible dives (1988–90) and a multibeam sonar survey (1998). The submersible habitat survey investigated seafloor topography and groundfish abundance along 30-minute transects over six predetermined stations and found a statistical relationship between habitat variability and groundfish distribution and abundance. These transects were analyzed in a geographic information system (GIS) by using dynamic segmentation to display changes in habitat along the transects. We used the submersible data to extrapolate fish abundance within uniform habitat patches over broad areas of the bank by means of a habitat classification based on the sonar imagery. After applying a navigation correction to the submersible-based habitat segments, a good correlation with major boundaries on the backscatter and topographic boundaries on the imagery were apparent. Extrapolation of the extent of uniform habitats was made in the vicinity of the dive stations and a preliminary stock assessment of several species of demersal fish was calculated. Such a habitat-based approach will allow researchers to characterize marine communities over large areas of the seafloor.