Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Frontiers in Marine Science




Fisheries-independent surveys that reliably sample a broad size range of exploited and ecologically important species provide valuable data in support of fisheries management and ecosystem science. The operational consistency of surveys over time and space is fundamental to the interpretation of data in the contexts of population dynamics processes, community interactions, policy impacts, and environmental forcing. However, the need to maintain historic sampling protocols over extended time periods limits the utilization of new technologies that could lead to improved data collection. Survey vessel replacements also become inevitable as the maturity of sampling programs becomes multidecadal. This case study describes the motivational origin, initial design, and redesign of a bottom trawl survey operating in Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. Regional aspirations to consider ecosystem principles in fisheries management aided initial development of the survey, and the need to collect specific data types to support that endeavor impacted several early design elements. Following the beginning years of full-scale survey operations, a consistently evolving awareness of potential areas of improvement for the survey grew from formal efforts to engage with scientific and industry partners on trawl gear design, leverage the program for additional survey opportunities, utilize gear testing technology, and analyze extant data. When the delivery of a new, state-of-the-art research vessel forced the transfer of survey operations to a new platform, all potential changes were incorporated simultaneously. A subsequent paired-tow experiment was conducted to build a calibration database that successfully provided estimates of relative selectivity for routinely sampled taxa. This experience yielded several lessons learned that are intended to aid investigators faced with adopting structural changes to fisheries-independent surveys in the future.


trawl survey, Chesapeake Bay, intercalibration, log-Gaussian Cox process, lessons learned