—Rockfishes (Sebastes spp.) tend to aggregate near rocky, cobble, or generally rugged areas that are difficult to survey with bottom trawls, and evidence indicates that assemblages of rockfish species may differ between areas accessible to trawling and those areas that are not. Consequently, it is important to determine grounds that are trawlable or untrawlable so that the areas where trawl survey results should be applied are accurately identified. To this end, we used multibeam echosounder data to generate metrics that describe the seafloor: backscatter strength at normal and oblique incidence angles, the variation of the angle-dependent backscatter strength within 10° of normal incidence, the scintillation of the acoustic intensity scattered from the seafloor, and the seafloor rugosity. We used these metrics to develop a binary classification scheme to estimate where the seafloor is expected to be trawlable. The multibeam echosounder data were verified through analyses of video and still images collected with a stereo drop camera and a remotely operated vehicle in a study at Snakehead Bank, ~100 km south of Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. Comparisons of different combinations of metrics derived from the multibeam data indicated that the oblique-incidence backscatter strength was the most accurate estimator of trawlability at Snakehead Bank and that the addition of other metrics provided only marginal improvements. If successful on a wider scale in the Gulf of Alaska, this acoustic remote-sensing technique, or a similar one, could help improve the accuracy of rockfish stock assessments


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Fishery Bulletin


111, Issue 1




National Marine Fisheries Service

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type

Journal Article