Skip to main content

Open Access Surveying the distribution and abundance of flying fishes and other epipelagics in the northern Gulf of Mexico using airborne lidar

Flying fishes (family Exocoetidae) are important components of epipelagic ecosystems and are targeted by fishing fleets in the Caribbean Sea and elsewhere. However, owing to their anti-predator behavior and habitats, their ecology, abundance, and distributions are only partially known. From September 20 to October 6, 2011, we conducted a series of surveys over a large area (approximately 75,000 km2) of the northern Gulf of Mexico (87°W–90.5°W, 28°N–30°N). The surveys used an airborne lidar and vessel-based sampling, supported by near real time satellite observations of oceanic conditions. The aerial survey was conducted from a fixed wing aircraft that flew repeated surveys day and night, enabling data collection that was both broad-scale and synoptic. Vessel-based sampling included quantitative visual observations, trawl sampling, and qualitative dip-netting for species identifications. The combined surveys identified large aggregations of epipelagic organisms dominated by flying fishes. Large numbers of jellyfish (Aurelia sp.) and low numbers of numerous other species were also observed. The putative flying fish aggregations had an average length scale of 6.1 km and an average population estimated at 10,000 individuals. While always near the surface, flying fish aggregations were slightly deeper at night than during the day and found most often off the continental shelf in warm water with low chlorophyll concentrations. At least three species were present: Hirundichthys rondeletii (Valenciennes, 1847), Cheilopogon melanurus (Valenciennes, 1847), and Prognichthys occidentalis Parin, 1999. This combination of aerial and surface surveys afforded repeated synoptic, ground-truthed data collection over a large area and indicates that this method could be useful for surveying such mobile epipelagic fishes.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 325 Broadway, Boulder, Colorado 80305;, Email: [email protected] 2: Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University, 1001 Texas Clipper Road, Galveston, Texas 77553 3: Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, 3000 NE 151st St., North Miami, Florida 33181 4: Southeast Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 75 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, Florida 33149 5: Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309 6: Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences, Nova Southeastern University, 8000 N Ocean Drive, Dania Beach, Florida 33004

Publication date: April 1, 2017

More about this publication?
  • 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.
  • Editorial Board
  • Information for Authors
  • Subscribe to this Title
  • Terms & Conditions
  • Ingenta Connect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites
  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content