Research Expedition Assesses Fish Stocks and Associated Habitats in Maui County, Hawaii

Concurrent with the assessment of fish communities, a TOAD video camera system was used to collect data on the local benthic 
               habitat, including these corals at a depth of ~ 90 m south of Kihei, Maui, Hawai'i.
Concurrent with the assessment of fish communities, a TOAD video camera system was used to collect data on the local benthic habitat, including these corals at a depth of ~ 90 m south of Kihei, Maui, Hawai'i.

During a joint research expedition in September 2011 aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette, scientists from PIFSC and collaborating institutions assessed fish communities and mapped associated coastal habitats of Maui County, Hawaii. Research operations were conducted in areas off the coasts of the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe. PIFSC scientists from the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), Fisheries Research and Monitoring Division, and Ecosystems and Oceanography Division were joined in the study by colleagues from the University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, the University of Hawaii Oceanography Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC).

A major focus of the cruise was to compare different fishery-independent methods for assessing fish stocks. Several methods were used: a SeaBED autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV); an EK60 sonar for acoustic measurements of the water column and seafloor; a towed optical assessment device (TOAD) for bottom photography; and deployment of fishing gear to capture bottomfish. While these operations were being conducted by the Sette, a baited camera system (BotCam) developed by CRED to simultaneously investigate fish and their habitats was deployed from the R/V Huki Pono, a vessel contracted by research partners from the University of Hawaii. The survey design included coordinated, near-simultaneous observations in selected locations using as many of these assessment methods as possible, enabling investigators to compare and evaluate the effectiveness of each method for observations of fishes and habitats. The data gathered will give researchers a better understanding of several ecologically and economically important fish species and lead to improved assessments of these species in the main Hawaiian Islands.