HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Second Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

David W. Kerstetter

Second Advisor

Brian Walker

Third Advisor

Bernhard Riegl


Catch per unit effort (CPUE) is a quantitative method used to describe fisheries worldwide. CPUE can be presented as number of fish per 1000 hooks, number of fish per amount of fishing time, or with any unit of effort that best describes the fishery (e.g., search time, hooks per hour, number of trawls). CPUE is commonly used as an index to estimate relative abundance for a population. These indices are then applied within stock assessments so that fisheries managers can make justified decisions for how to manage a particular stock or fishery using options such as quotas, catch limitations, gear and license restrictions, or closed areas. For commercial pelagic longline (PLL) fisheries, onboard observer data are considered the only reliable data available due to the large-scale movements of highly migratory species (HMS) like tunas and because of the high costs associated with fisheries independent surveys. Unfortunately, fishery-reported logbook data are heavily biased in favor of the target species and the expense of onboard observers results in a low percentage of fleet coverage. Subsequently, CPUE derived from fishery-dependent data tends to overestimate relative abundance for highly migratory species. The spatial distribution of fish and fishing effort is essential for understanding the proportionality between CPUE and stock abundance. A spatial metric was created (SCPUE) for individual gear deployments using observer-based catch and effort data from the western North Atlantic PLL fleet. SCPUE was found to be less variable than CPUE when used as an index of relative abundance, suggesting that SCPUE could serve as an improved index of relative abundance within stock assessments because it explicitly incorporates spatial information obtained directly from the fishing location. Areas of concentrated fishing effort and fine-scale aggregations of target and non-target fishes were identified using the optimized hot spot analysis tool in ArcGIS (10.2). This SCPUE method describes particular areas of fishing activity in terms of localized fish density, thus eliminating the assumption that all fish in a population are dispersed evenly within statistical management zones. The SCPUE metric could also assist fisheries management by identifying particular areas of concern for HMS and delineating boundaries for time-area closures, marine protected areas, and essential fish habitat.

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