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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 490:169-183 (2013)  -  DOI:

Acoustic characterization of pelagic fish distribution across the South Pacific Ocean

Pablo Escobar-Flores1,*, Richard L. O’Driscoll2, John C. Montgomery1

1School of Biological Sciences, University Of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
2National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Private Bag 14-901, Kilbirnie, Wellington 6241, New Zealand

ABSTRACT: Acoustic data can provide quantitative and qualitative information about the distribution and abundance of mid-trophic level functional groups in the marine ecosystem. Acoustic data, opportunistically collected on 2 return voyages between New Zealand and Chile, were used to describe the distribution patterns of pelagic fishes across the South Pacific Ocean. The area backscattering coefficient (sa in m2 m-2) at 38 kHz in the upper 600 m was used as the measure of fish abundance, and was assumed to be dominated by mesopelagic fishes. Consistent vertical and horizontal patterns of pelagic fish distribution were identified. Vertical (depth) patterns included diel migration and layering. Key horizontal (spatial) patterns were coastal intensification and oceanic patchiness. Boosted regression trees models were used to explain the relationship between sa and environmental and geographical variables. The key finding was that there was a strong correlation between satellite-derived chl a and distribution of acoustic backscatter. The incorporation of species composition information from biological sampling would improve the relevance of the results of this study. Nevertheless, these large-scale estimates provide an opportunity to validate model predictions of mid-trophic functional groups and to inform ecosystem-based fisheries management.

KEY WORDS: Ecosystem · South Pacific Ocean · Acoustic · Mesopelagic fishes · Diel migration · Opportunistic data · Large-scale patterns · Boosted regression trees

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Cite this article as: Escobar-Flores P, O’Driscoll RL, Montgomery JC (2013) Acoustic characterization of pelagic fish distribution across the South Pacific Ocean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 490:169-183.

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