Using underwater cameras to assess the effects of snorkeler and SCUBA diver presence on coral reef fish abundance, family richness, and species composition

Publication Type: Journal Article

Year of Publication: 2010

Authors: Dearden, P, Theberge M, Yasué M

Journal: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

Volume: 163

Issue: 1-4

Pagination: 531 - 538

Date Published: 4/2010

ISSN: 1573-2959

Keywords: Community composition - Ecological monitoring - Human disturbance - Marine ecotourism


The results of underwater visual fish censuses (UVC) could be affected by fish changing their behavior in response to the snorkeler or diver conducting the survey. We used an underwater video camera to assess how fish abundance, family richness, and community composition were affected by the presence of snorkelers (n = 12) and self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) divers (n = 6) on a coral reef in Thailand. The total number of families, abundance of some fish families, and overall species composition showed significant differences before and during snorkeling disturbances. We did not detect significant and consistent changes to these parameters in the presence of a SCUBA diver; however, this could be a result of lower statistical power. We suggest that the use of a stationary video camera may help cross-check data that is collected through UVC to assess the true family composition and document the presence of rare and easily disturbed species.

DOI: 10.1007/s10661-009-0855-3

Short Title: Environ Monit Assess