Refined estimates of South African pelagic fish biomass from hydro-acoustic surveys:quantifying the effects of target strength, signal attenuation and receiver saturation

Journal Article


Journal Title

African Journal of Marine Science

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

National Inquiry Services Centre (NISC)


University of Cape Town

The biomass of small pelagic fish species off the coast of South Africa has been monitored since 1984 using hydro-acoustic survey techniques. These time-series of spawner biomass and recruitment estimates form the basis for management of both the South African sardine Sardinops sagax and anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus resources and are central to the setting of annual total allowable catch levels. However, these survey estimates have, for the most part, been treated as relative indices as there are several biases inherent in acoustic survey methodology that remain difficult to quantify. Advances in acoustic technology together with an improved understanding of the major sources of survey errors have enabled estimation of and correction for biases such as receiver saturation, acoustic signal attenuation and target strength. Incorporation of these corrections over the entire time-series has resulted in an improved accuracy of acoustic survey estimates and substantial changes to the biomass estimates of both species, without jeopardising the requirement that the time-series remains comparable throughout its duration. Furthermore, the resultant decrease in the level of uncertainty associated with these abundance estimates has rendered improved utilisation of these resources possible.