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Free Content A Critique of the Visual Census Method for Assessing Coral Reef Fish Populations

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Many investigators have noted that estimates of coral reef fish populations by visual census are biased but its precision has never been quantitatively determined. It is still used, however, because this technique is usually assumed to be the best non-destructive method of population assessment. This study compares the results of visual censuses conducted on an isolated 1,500 m2 patch reef to the collection of all fishes made subsequently with rotenone on that reef. The visual censuses missed the presence or underestimated abundance of cryptic fish species. Diurnally active species were reasonably well censused, but the most common were often underestimated. Thus comparisons between fish communities based on visual census data should be restricted to the diurnally exposed species.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1982

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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