Predictive modeling of habitat distribution to support expansion of fishery-independent survey efforts: laying the groundwork to reduce uncertainty in stock assessments

Principal Investigator: Todd Kellison
Co-Principal Investigators: Nate Bacheler, Tim Battista, Bryan Costa, Brian Kinlan, Chris Taylor

kellisonProject001.pngIn continental shelf and shelf-edge waters of the southeastern US Atlantic, management actions to sustain or rebuild fisheries within the snapper-grouper complex (hardbottom-associated species) have led to frequent spatial and temporal fishery closures, with concomitant and considerable reductions in allowable catch for multiple species. As a result, the availability of fishery-dependent data for use in stock assessments has decreased considerably, in turn increasing the need for, and dependence on, fishery-independent data to support stock assessments. Unfortunately, knowledge of the distribution of hardbottom habitat in the South Atlantic is limited. Identifying the occurrence and distribution of hardbottom habitat in areas where limited to no fisheryindependent sampling currently occurs would result in more representative spatial coverage of fishery-independent surveys and increased accuracy and reduced uncertainty in stock assessments.

The objectives of this project are to: (1) develop a predictive model of hardbottom habitat distribution for a large portion of the South Atlantic survey area (i.e., continental shelf and shelf-edge waters off of NC and SC), and (2) validate the model by collecting and classifying multibeam sonar and split-beam fisheries acoustic data from areas containing predicted hardbottom habitat. The proposed work will result in an improved knowledge of South Atlantic hardbottom habitat distribution and an expanded survey universe for fishery-independent sampling. The expansion of the fishery-independent survey universe into currently undersampled areas will lead to more accurate and representative fishery-independent size and age distributions and indices of abundance for use in stock assessments, leading to increased accuracy and reduced uncertainty in those assessments.


Project #


InPort ID#




Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC)


Annual Report - Year 1

Annual Report - Year 2

Publications & Presentations

Media & Other Products

Razorback Ledge Habitat Map

NCCOS Project Site