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Tuesday, January 26 • 10:40am - 11:00am
Use of Low-Cost Sonar To Assess Reef Habitat In Saginaw Bay and The St. Clair – Detroit River System, Michigan

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AUTHORS: Todd Wills*, Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Michael Thomas, Michigan Department of Natural Resources; David Fielder, Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Ryan Carrow, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: Fisheries managers believe that the recovery of native fish species throughout the Great Lakes and their connecting channels is often limited by the loss of spawning habitat resulting from anthropogenic disturbances such as sedimentation, channelization, gravel mining, and shoreline development. Recently, substantial resources have been invested in an effort to enhance reproduction and increase resilience of native fish populations by creating habitat that mimics the natural reefs once present throughout the basin. The novel nature of this habitat enhancement work in large rivers and embayments, combined with the dynamic nature of such systems, makes pre- and post-construction assessment of reef sites a necessity to guide fisheries management efforts and determine project success. However, the large spatial scale and physical characteristics inherent to many of these waters precludes the use of traditional habitat assessment techniques and makes such follow-up monitoring a challenge. We present an assessment method to quantify status and trends in substrate conditions before and after reef construction using a combination of low-cost sonar, habitat mapping software, and a Geographic Information System. Our technique for rapidly generating side-scan sonar imagery and documenting bathymetry and bottom hardness has shown potential for short- and long-term assessment of reef sites in Michigan’s St. Clair River and Saginaw Bay and has been used for post-construction monitoring of reefs in the Detroit River. The utility of this technique holds promise for similar reef construction projects in nearshore waters across the Great Lakes.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 10:40am - 11:00am EST
Gerald Ford