The development of recruitment monitoring programs for age-0 white sturgeons Acipenser transmontanus is complicated by the statistical properties of catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) data. We found that age-0 CPUE distributions from bottom trawl surveys violated assumptions of statistical procedures based on normal probability theory. Further, no single data transformation uniformly satisfied these assumptions because CPUE distribution properties varied with the sample mean (??(CPUE)). Given these analytic problems, we propose that an additional index of age-0 white sturgeon relative abundance, the proportion of positive tows (Ep), be used to estimate sample sizes before conducting age-0 recruitment surveys and to evaluate statistical hypothesis tests comparing the relative abundance of age-0 white sturgeons among years. Monte Carlo simulations indicated that Ep was consistently more precise than ??(CPUE), and because Ep is binomially rather than normally distributed, surveys can be planned and analyzed without violating the assumptions of procedures based on normal probability theory. However, we show that Ep may underestimate changes in relative abundance at high levels and confound our ability to quantify responses to management actions if relative abundance is consistently high. If data suggest that most samples will contain age-0 white sturgeons, estimators of relative abundance other than Ep should be considered. Because Ep may also obscure correlations to climatic and hydrologic variables if high abundance levels are present in time series data, we recommend ??(CPUE) be used to describe relations to environmental variables. The use of both Ep and ??(CPUE) will facilitate the evaluation of hypothesis tests comparing relative abundance levels and correlations to variables affecting age-0 recruitment. Estimated sample sizes for surveys should therefore be based on detecting predetermined differences in Ep, but data necessary to calculate ??(CPUE) should also be collected.
Additional publication details
Indexing the relative abundance of age-0 white sturgeons in an impoundment of the lower Columbia River from highly skewed trawling data