, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 199–213 | Cite as

Estimating densities of small fishes and decapod crustaceans in shallow estuarine habitats: A review of sampling design with focus on gear selection

  • Lawrence P. Rozas
  • Thomas J. Minello


Shallow estuarine habitats often support large populations of small nekton (fishes and decapod crustaceans), but unique characteristics of these habitats make sampling these nekton populations difficult. We discuss development of sampling designs and evaluate some commonly used devices for quantitatively sampling nekton populations. Important considerations of the sampling design include the size and number of samples, their distribution in time and space, and control of tide level. High, stable catch efficiency should be the most important grear characteristic considered when selecting a sampling device to quantify nekton densities. However, the most commonly used gears in studies of estuarine habitats (trawls and seines) have low, variable catch efficiency. Problems with consistently low catch efficiency can be corrected, but large unpredictable variations in this gear characteristic pose a much more difficult challenge. Study results may be bised if the varibility in catch efficiency is related to the treatments or habitat characteristics being measured in the sampling design. Enclosure devices, such as throw traps and drop samplers, have fewer variables influencing catch efficiency than do towed nets (i.e., trawls and seines); and the catch efficiency of these enclosure samplers does not appear to vary substantially with habitat characteristics typical of shallow estuarine areas (e.g., presence of vegetation). The area enclosed by these samplers is often small, but increasing the sample number can generally compensate for this limitation. We recommend using enclosure samplers for estimating densities of small nekton in shallow estuarine habitats because these samplers provide the most reliable quantitative data, and the results of studies using these samplers should be comparable. Many kinds of enclosure samplers are now available, and specific requirements of a project will distate which gear should be selected.


Recovery Efficiency Oyster Reef Brown Shrimp American Fishery Society Otter Trawl 
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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence P. Rozas
    • 1
  • Thomas J. Minello
    • 1
  1. 1.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries ServiceSoutheast Fisheries Science CenterGalveston

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