Reef fish nursery habitat identification and benthic habitat mapping

Community-based fisheries management in Hā‘ena, Kaua‘i


Whitney Goodell and Alan Friedlander

Project overview

The goal of this project is to integrate multiple knowledge sources to provide a basis for effective community-based resource management in a rural Hawaiian community.

Fish nursery habitats are areas of particular ecological value for sustaining fisheries resources. They support a disproportionately high abundance of juvenile fishes, and protection of these habitats can be an effective indirect way of managing for adult fish stocks. Identification of nursery habitats can inform an ecosystem-based management approach, helping to ensure the sustainability of fisheries and maintain societal benefits provided by the ecosystem.

This project will draw on existing local knowledge of near shore habitats, ecological surveys of fish communities, and spatial habitat mapping using GIS technology in order to better understand patterns and processes that regulate ecosystem function.


Seafloor habitats will be mapped using satellite imagery and photo interpretation methods, at a higher spatial resolution than is currently available (pictured here: current map from NOAA Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment). Fish data from survey locations (red dots) will be assessed by evaluating how differences in juvenile populations are related to the surrounding habitats.


  1. Determine habitat association patterns of reef fishes by identifying nursery habitat characteristics.
  2. Create habitat map for Hā‘ena nearshore area at a resolution that is ecologically relevant for local management efforts.
  3. Provide historical and cultural context for management actions and scientific research.



Determination of essential fish nursery habitat highlights areas for protection and provides support for management regulations. This project creates a framework with which to identify critical nursery habitat for key reef fish species, drawing from various knowledge sources. By understanding ecological patterns, the importance of seascape elements can be addressed and management decisions can be based on ecologically relevant information.

Contact: Whitney Goodell at


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