Fishery Independent Sampling of Reef Fish With Micro Remotely Operated Vehicles

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 9:00 AM
White Oak (The Marriott Little Rock)
William F. Patterson III , Marine Sciences, University of South Alabama, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dauphin Island, AL
Joseph Tarnecki , Marine Sciences, University of South Alabama, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dauphin Island, AL
Dustin Addis , Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, St. Petersburg, FL
Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) have been used extensively in reef fish ecology research. Historically, this has involved inspection and working class ROVs that can range in expense from several hundred thousand to millions of dollars. In the past ten years, advances in micro ROV technology have enabled the use of these much less expensive (typically <<$100k)  and much more portable ROVs for routine fishery independent sampling. In this talk, we will discuss how micro ROVs have been employed to conduct reef fish research in various studies conducted in the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGOM). First, point-count and transect methods developed for micro ROVs will be described, and results will be presented of experiments conducted to test the reliability of fish length measurements produced with laser scalers attached to micro ROVs and fish count estimates derived from ROV video. Then, examples of how ROV-based fishery independent sampling has been incorporated into reef fish ecology research will be presented. Among these applications are examining differences in reef fish ecology at artificial versus natural reefs, acoustic telemetry to examine daily activity and foraging behavior in reef fishes, fish community structure analysis to test for effects the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the ongoing lionfish invasion on nGOM reef fish communities, and examining hook selectivity in the nGOM reef fish fishery. Lastly, we will discuss current limitations of micro ROVs and potential solutions to improve their already vast utility.