Acoustic Assessment of the Micronekton Community on the Chatham Rise, New Zealand, Using a Semi-Automated Approach
Frontiers in Marine Science
Micronekton are a key component of the pelagic food web of the Chatham Rise east of New Zealand. The Chatham Rise is an important fishing area for hoki (Macruronus novaezelandiae), New Zealand's largest finfish fishery, and a predator on mesopelagic fish. Four fisheries oceanographic voyages provided multi-frequency acoustic data (18, 38, 70, 120, and 200 kHz) and midwater trawls, which were used to define a classification tree to separate micronektonic organisms. We carried out validation and
... out validation and sensitivity analyses that showed that we were able to classify pearlside (Maurolicus australis) and euphausiids. Other mesopelagic targets (mainly myctophids) were classified together based on their acoustic frequency response. Using scripting in the open-source software ESP3, we applied our classification tree to an independent time series of acoustic data from trawl surveys on the Chatham Rise between 2009 and 2018, that was not used for model development or validation. Our methodology allowed us to study temporal and spatial patterns of M. australis, euphausiids, and total backscatter in the water column. Total backscatter associated with micronekton has varied over the last 10 years, with no clear trend. The abundance of euphausiids showed a significant decreasing trend over the last 10 years. Abundance of M. australis also decreased since 2012, though this was not significant. This work contributes to on-going efforts to monitor and detect changes in the pelagic ecosystems.