DEEP: Inshore Marine Survey

Inshore Marine Survey

Inshore Marine Survey

Connecticut's inshore estuaries provide vital spawning and nursery grounds, and their health directly affects the long-term abundance of Connecticut's marine resources. Among the many species dependent on inshore embayments is winter flounder, one of the most heavily harvested fish species in Connecticut. The present goal of the Inshore Survey is to determine if there are habitat types which consistently produce most of the winter flounder in Long Island Sound so that these areas can be protected from degradation. A future goal is to expand this Survey to include other fish species over a broader area.

The Survey, begun in 1990, involves 250-300 trawl samples taken seasonally in 3-6 harbors each year. Information describing the relative abundance of flounder, and associated bottom fish, and their seasonal movements in these embayments is used to guide provisions placed on permits for in-water activities that have adverse effects on young flounder. The study has shown that embayments where more than half the bottom is mud sediment with live shellfish or shell litter have the highest production rates; average juvenile flounder densities are about double that of embayments where mud/shell habitat is less than 20% of the total. At current levels of fishing mortality, an increase (due to habitat enhancement) or decrease (due to habitat loss) in juvenile flounder survival is roughly equivalent to a comparable increase or decrease in fishing opportunity on the adult stock. To date, eight of 32 embayments along the coast have been sampled. Other than this study, information available for fish distribution in inshore areas is minimal.