Home > Explore Data & Reports > Analysis of sample frames and subsampling methods for reef fish surveys


Menza, C., C. Caldow, C. Jeffrey, and M. Monaco. 2007. Analysis of sample frames and subsampling methods for reef fish surveys. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 72. Silver Spring, MD. 14 pp.

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NOAA Technical Memorandum

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Biogeography Branch has conducted surveys of reef fish in the Caribbean since 1999. Surveys were initially undertaken to identify essential fish habitat, but later were used to characterize and monitor reef fish populations and benthic communities over time. The Branch’s goals are to develop knowledge and products on the distribution and ecology of living marine resources and provide resource managers, scientists and the public with an improved ecosystem basis for making decisions. The Biogeography Branch monitors reef fishes and benthic communities in three study areas: (1) St. John, USVI, (2) Buck Island, St. Croix, USVI, and (3) La Parguera, Puerto Rico. In addition, the Branch has characterized the reef fish and benthic communities in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and around the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Reef fish data are collected using a stratified random sampling design and stringent measurement protocols. Over time, the sampling design has changed in order to meet different management objectives (i.e. identification of essential fish habitat vs. monitoring), but the designs have always remained: Probabilistic – to allow inferences to a larger targeted population; Objective – to satisfy management objectives; and Stratified – to reduce sampling costs and obtain population estimates for strata. There are two aspects of the sampling design which are now under consideration and are the focus of this report: first, the application of a sample frame, identified as a set of points or grid elements from which a sample is selected; and second, the application of subsampling in a two-stage sampling design. To evaluate these considerations, the pros and cons of implementing a sampling frame and subsampling are discussed. Particular attention is paid to the impacts of each design on accuracy (bias), feasibility and sampling cost (precision). Further, this report presents an analysis of data to determine the optimal number of subsamples to collect if subsampling were used.

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