The Camera-Based Assessment Survey System (C-BASS): A Towed Camera Platform for Reef Fish Abundance Surveys and Benthic Habitat Characterization in the Gulf of Mexico

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Towed underwater video, Benthic habitat mapping, Fish abundance, Visual survey, Visual stock assessment, Reef fish assessment

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An ongoing challenge for fisheries management is to provide cost-effective and timely estimates of habitat stratified fish densities. Traditional approaches use modified commercial fishing gear (such as trawls and baited hooks) that have biases in species selectivity and may also be inappropriate for deployment in some habitat types. Underwater visual and optical approaches offer the promise of more precise and less biased assessments of relative fish abundance, as well as direct estimates of absolute fish abundance. A number of video-based approaches have been developed and the technology for data acquisition, calibration, and synthesis has been developing rapidly.

Beginning in 2012, our group of engineers and researchers at the University of South Florida has been working towards the goal of completing large scale, video-based surveys in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. This paper discusses design considerations and development of a towed camera system for collection of video-based data on commercially and recreationally important reef fishes and benthic habitat on the West Florida Shelf. Factors considered during development included potential habitat types to be assessed, sea-floor bathymetry, vessel support requirements, personnel requirements, and cost-effectiveness of system components. This regional-specific effort has resulted in a towed platform called the Camera-Based Assessment Survey System, or C-BASS, which has proven capable of surveying tens of kilometers of video transects per day and has the ability to cost-effective population estimates of reef fishes and coincident benthic habitat classification.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Continental Shelf Research, v. 151, p. 62-71