Aerial Surveys of Texas Commercial Fishing Vessels

Low altitude aerial surveys were conducted at approximately monthly intervals from I April 1987 to 31 March 1988 to determine temporal and geographic distribution of commercial fishing in Texas bay and Gulf (Texas Territorial Sea) areas. Observers counted a total of 4,841 bay commercial vessels and 1,906 Gulf commercial vessels conducting 7 types of fishing activities over the 12-month study period. Commercial shrimping made up 87.7% of all commercial activity. Most activity was observed between May and November. Thirty-nine percent of the bay commercial activity was concentrated in Galveston Bay while 27% was in Matagorda Bay. San Antonio, Aransas, and Corpus Christi bay systems collectively yielded 29% of the commercial bay vessel counts. Gulf commercial shrimping was evenly distributed along the entire coast with a slightly higher concentration around the Galveston offshore area. Photography and ground counts were assessed as verification to observer counts. Airborne observation of commercial fishing pressure and distribution proved to be a good method for assessing the commercial fishery. Slides provided best resolution for counting but not activity determination. Ground verification was statistically valid. Aerial costs per hour were approximately $160.00 and flights averaged 10.8 hours per month.

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