Mapping Benthic Habitat on the West Florida Shelf Using Multibeam Acoustics and Towed Underwater Video to Improve Fisheries Science and Management
In 2015, The Continental Shelf Characterization, Assessment, and Mapping Project (C-SCAMP) began using a multibeam echosounder and towed underwater video to map benthic habitats and improve our understanding of fish-habitat relationships on the WFS. For this study, high resolution multibeam bathymetry and co-registered backscatter data were collected and processed. A portion of these areas were then “ground-truthed” using towed video transects to assess habitat type and identify fish. Habitat maps were created using a statistical classification model that predicts benthic habitat type based on the acoustic signature. Progress towards a unified habitat map of the West Florida Shelf will be presented including habitat interpretation of multibeam surfaces collected by other groups prior to this project, particularly focusing on those within Marine Protected Areas. Applications of the resultant habitat maps for fisheries management will be demonstrated and discussed.