Assessing Nearshore Nekton Abundance, Substrate, and Environmental Conditions in the Northern Gulf of Mexico: Are There Differences Among Three Adjacent Coastal Areas and Have There Been Changes over Three Decades (1986–2015)?

  • Martin T. O’ConnellEmail author
  • Mark S. Peterson
  • Sean P. Powers
  • Ann M. Uzee-O’Connell
  • E. John Anderson
  • J. Read Hendon


Fishery-independent data on fishes and crustaceans collected in spring and fall over three decades (1986–2015) from coastal areas of southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were analyzed to determine if these areas differed in species composition and environmental conditions over this period. Multivariate community analyses revealed significant differences in species composition among the three areas in trawl collections for both spring (ANOSIM, R = 0.543, p < 0.001) and fall (R = 0.722, p < 0.001), while seine collections were not significantly different among the areas for either season (spring, R < − 0.06, p = 0.61; fall, R < 0.167, p = 0.14). The most important factor contributing to these differences was the presence of more shell substrate at the Louisiana sites (LINKTREE analysis, B% = 86, p < 0.05). Abundance data for common species were used to test for changes over the three decades. Blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) and least puffers (Sphoeroides parvus) experienced decreases in four of eight area–season–gear scenarios. Four species of flatfishes also experienced multiple declines. Salinity increased at the Louisiana trawl sites over the period in both spring (+ 2.92; ANOVA, p < 0.001) and fall (+ 5.97; ANOVA, p = 0.001–0.002), while spring trawl sites became warmer in Mississippi (+ 2.15 °C; ANOVA, p = 0.001–0.002). Alabama trawl sites became warmer in both spring (+ 3.36 °C; ANOVA, p < 0.001) and fall (+ 1.91 °C; ANOVA, p < 0.001). With declines in species and changes in environmental conditions, this region faces multiple challenges in maintaining its estuarine fisheries.


Northern Gulf of Mexico Communities Decadal trends ANOSIM LINKTREE IndValip 



We would like to thank the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (Mississippi), and the Alabama Marine Resources Division for providing portions of the historical data. We are appreciative of Arie Roth Kaller, Brad J. Blythe, and Kathleen Craig for assistance with managing the cooperative agreement. We also thank Christopher S. Schieble, Arnaud Kerisit, Iain Kelly, Maiadah Bader, Patrick Smith, Angela Williamson, Geoff Udoff, Damon Morse, Meghan Gahm, Mike Lowe, Michael Andres, Alex Fogg, and Trevor Moncreif for their efforts in the field and laboratory collecting data. All research was conducted in compliance with UNO-IACUC agreement # 09-016 and USM-IACUC agreement # 16031001. This manuscript represents publication no. 17 for the Nekton Research Laboratory, Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences.

Funding Information

This work was funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management through a cooperative agreement award (#M12AC00002).


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental SciencesUniversity of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA
  2. 2.Coastal SciencesUniversity of Southern MississippiOcean SpringsUSA
  3. 3.Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of South Alabama & Dauphin Island Sea LabDauphin IslandUSA
  4. 4.Gulf Coast Research LaboratoryUniversity of Southern MississippiOcean SpringsUSA

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