, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 93-116

Comparative analysis of visual census techniques for highly mobile, reef-associated piscivores (Carangidae)

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Synopsis

Visual census techniques applicable to coral reef-associated fishes are reviewed and the results of field tests using six (three transect-based and three point-based) to estimate the density of carangids at Carter Reef, Great Barrier Reef, are presented. Data are analyzed with respect to the effects of observers on fishes seen, observer biasses, precision of the estimates and, as far as possible, accuracy of the estimates. Transects generate estimates of population density and structure different from those of point-based estimates. Various point-based census methods, however, generate density estimates consistent with one another and are generally more precise than transect-based methods. The results of the field study obviously cannot be generalized to other quite different types of reef fishes. The problems we encountered and a review of the techniques used to census reef fishes visually in the past, however, suggest that: (1) interval counts, such as Rapid Visual Census techniques, are likely to be inaccurate and difficult to compare; (2) for species with high probabilities of detection, instantaneous area counts appear to be the most effective way to estimate densities, whereas cryptic species are best censused using instantaneous variable distance point counts, and (3) strip transects may often be less efficient than line transects, due to inconstant levels of subject detectability.