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Gear comparison study for sampling nekton in Barataria Basin marshes

June 1, 2020

This project was funded by the Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group (LA TIG) to support decisions related to investments in long-term monitoring. The LA TIG seeks to ensure long-term monitoring informs coastal restoration activities with the goal of sustaining and improving fisheries impacted by the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Oil Spill. The project objective was to compare nekton catch across an estuarine gradient using different sampling gear with the goal of identifying trade-offs among nekton sampling approaches. To accomplish this objective, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), The Water Institute of the Gulf (the Institute), Dynamic Solutions, LLC, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center (LSU AgCenter), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) completed a field gear comparison study from 2018 to 2019. This work compared electrofisher and seine sampling at 12 fixed stations in Barataria Basin using data collected by LDWF. In addition, and in conjunction with LDWF monthly sampling, the same 12 fixed stations were sampled in May 2019 using a throw trap to compare nekton catch and assemblages collected with the throw trap, seine and electrofisher. LDWF has been conducting seine sampling since 1986, and seine data are used by the State of Louisiana to assess juvenile shrimp, crab and fish abundances, sizes and overall assemblages. In 2018, LDWF began conducting electrofisher sampling at 12 Barataria Basin seine stations in order to determine if the two gear types sample similar species and assemblages for potential future replacement of long-term seine sampling with electrofishing. Throw traps were included as they provide density estimates, which are ultimately the desired statistic used in modeling trophic webs, and are used in assessing habitat restoration outcomes.

The project compared the nekton catch and assemblages collected using seine, electrofisher, and throw trap data from marsh edge habitats located across the estuarine gradient in Barataria Basin. Specifically, catch per unit effort (CPUE), species richness, species-specific total length (mm) distribution and nekton assemblages were compared between gear types. The first dataset was collected in May 2019 with throw trap (Appendix A), seine (LDWF data), and electrofisher (LDWF data) gear, and the second dataset (collected by LDWF) spanned 14 months of seine and electrofisher monthly sampling occurring from May 2018 through June 2019 at 12 stations in Barataria Basin.

Key findings include that gear bias was not evident across the range of water quality conditions (salinity, temperature, o C, dissolved oxygen, mg L-1 , turbidity, NTU; Appendix B: scatter plots) captured during this pilot study, but differences in nekton catch per unit effort (CPUE) and assemblages were evident between gear types. However, those differences largely depended on the parameter examined. For example, the overall CPUE was highest for electrofishing, followed by seine, and then throw trap. When grass shrimp (the most abundant taxon collected) were removed from CPUE, the electrofisher and seine results were similar in CPUE. When CPUE was corrected for gear efficiency and total area sampled, the throw trap had the highest reported density of nekton sampled, followed by electrofisher and seine results. Electrofishing captured the highest number of species, which included more unique species compared to seine or throw trap catches, though all gear types captured at least one unique species. These highlight a need for caution in interpreting assemblage and density data when comparing datasets derived from different sampling methodologies.

These key findings can help inform implementation and interpretation of long-term monitoring data in Louisiana as management decisions are made about coastal restoration projects to sustain and improve fisheries. There are trade-offs in selecting gear types for estuarine nekton monitoring of density, abundance, species richness, and assemblages. The table below (Table 1) summarizes some considerations when selecting gear types for long-term monitoring of estuarine nekton. In addition to biological and ecological considerations, other important considerations include cost, the labor required to conduct sampling, logistics, and potential uncertainties related to how effective each gear type is for sampling the wide variety of conditions found across Louisiana’s coastal habitats. For example, although electrofishing may capture higher CPUE, the equipment is more expensive to obtain and maintain compared to the other gear types. Most importantly, this table highlights differences in the nekton assemblages sampled by each gear type; this consideration is critical when designing the goals of a long-term monitoring program as it will inform how the data can be used and interpreted in the future.

This report provides caveats, assumptions, and recommendations that can help support the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), LDWF and the LA TIG in comparing data from different gear types, and in making decisions for future monitoring. Findings from this study are limited to the range of water quality conditions occurring during these data collection events; these data and analyses could benefit from sampling across a wider range of water quality conditions, and collection of habitat structure and bottom type data which are not routinely collected but critically influence nekton. Further investigation examining how relative differences detected in key species abundances between gear types might impact ecosystem indicators and energetics in a modeled food web would provide valuable input to understand outputs of the Comprehensive Aquatic System Model for Barataria Basin, including the potential impacts of nekton monitoring decisions on food web models.

Publication Year 2020
Title Gear comparison study for sampling nekton in Barataria Basin marshes
Authors Caleb Taylor, Megan K. La Peyre, Shaye Sable, Erin P. Kiskaddon, Melissa M. Baustian
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title Technical Report Administrative Summary
Index ID 70228591
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Atlanta