Using autonomous video to estimate the bottom-contact area of longline trap gear and presence–absence of sensitive benthic habitat


Bottom longline hook and trap fishing gear can potentially damage sensitive benthic areas (SBAs) in the ocean; however, the large-scale risks to these habitats are poorly understood because of the difficulties in mapping SBAs and in measuring the bottom-contact area of longline gear. In this paper, we describe a collaborative academic–industry–government approach to obtaining direct presence–absence data for SBAs and to measuring gear interactions with seafloor habitats via a novel deepwater trap camera and motion-sensing systems on commercial longline traps for sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) within SGaan Kinghlas – Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area. We obtained direct presence–absence observations of cold-water corals (Alcyonacea, Antipatharia, Pennatulacea, Stylasteridae) and sponges (Hexactinellida, Demospongiae) at 92 locations over three commercial fishing trips. Video, accelerometer, and depth sensor data were used to estimate a mean bottom footprint of 53 m2 for a standard sablefish trap, which translates to 3200 m2 (95% CI = 2400–3900 m2) for a 60-trap commercial sablefish longline set. Our successful collaboration demonstrates how research partnerships with commercial fisheries have potential for massive improvements in the quantity and quality of data needed for conducting SBA risk assessments over large spatial and temporal scales

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences