Marine Biology

, Volume 96, Issue 4, pp 469–478

Estimating total abundance of a large temperate-reef fish using visual strip-transects

  • M. I. McCormick
  • J. H. Choat


Total abundance estimates for the large, common, reef fish Cheilodactylus spectabilis (Hutton) were obtained for a marine reserve and adjacent section of coast in north-eastern New Zealand during 1985. Visual strip-transects were used to estimate abundance and size structure in both areas. The accuracy, precision and cost efficiency of five transect sizes (500, 375, 250, 100, 75 m2) were examined over three times per day (dawn, midday and dusk), by simulating transects over mapped C. spectabilis populations. Two transect sizes showed similarly high efficiency. The smaller of the two (20x5 m) was chosen for the survey because of the general advantages attributable to small sampling units. Biases related to strip-transect size are discussed. Preliminary sampling indicated that C. spectabilis was distributed heterogeneously, and that density was habitat-related. An optimal stratified-random design was employed in both locations, to obtain total abundance and size-structure estimates. This reduced the between-habitat source of variability in density. The total number of sampling units used was governed by the time available. The resulting total abundance estimates obtained were 18 338±2 886 (95% confidence limit) for the 5 km marine reserve, compared to 3 987±1 117 for an adjacent, heavily fished 4 km section of coast. When corrected for total area and habitat area sampled, this represented a 2.3-fold difference in abundance. If sampling had been designed to detect an arbitrary 10% difference in abundance within each habitat, an infeasible 440 h of sampling would have been required. Size-frequency distributions of C. spectabilis at the reserve had a larger model size class than distributions from the adjacent area. The data suggest that reserve status is causal in these differing abundance and size structure estimates.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. I. McCormick
    • 1
  • J. H. Choat
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Auckland Marine Research LaboratoryR.D. LeighNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Marine BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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