Population availability and vessel avoidance effects on hydroacoustic abundance estimates may be scale dependent; therefore, it is important to evaluate these biases across systems. We performed an inter-ship comparison survey to determine the effect of vessel size, day-night period, depth, and environmental gradients on walleye (Sander vitreus) density estimates in Lake Erie, an intermediate-scaled system. Consistent near-bottom depth distributions coupled with horizontal fish movements relative to vessel paths indicated avoidance behavior contributed to higher walleye densities from smaller vessels in shallow water (i.e., <15 m), although the difference decreased with increasing depth. Diel bank migrations in response to seasonally varying onshore-to-offshore environmental gradients likely contributed to day-night differences in densities between sampling locations and seasons. Spatial and unexplained variation accounted for a high proportion of total variation; however, increasing sampling intensity can mitigate effects on precision. Therefore, researchers should minimize systematic avoidance and availability related biases (i.e., vessel and day-night period) to improve population abundance estimates. Quantifying availability and avoidance behavior effects and partitioning sources of variation provides informed flexibility for designing future hydroacoustic surveys in shallow-water nearshore environments.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Inferred fish behavior its implications for hydroacoustic surveys in nearshore habitats|
|Series title||Fisheries Research|
|Contributing office(s)||Great Lakes Science Center|
|Other Geospatial||Lake Erie|