Exact locations of spawning areas used by marine fishes are needed to design marine reserves and estimate spawning stocks. The location of spawning areas of soniferous fishes such as weakfish Cynoscion regalis can be determined by means of passive hydroacoustic surveys. We conducted nocturnal hydrophone surveys at 12 locations in Pamlico Sound in May of 1996 and 1997. Digital audio tapes were made of weakfish ''purring'' sounds, the tapes were analyzed spectrographically and compared with ichthyoplankton surveys taken at the same stations and times. All weakfish “purring” sounds were recorded at stations near inlets. Maximum sound pressure levels recorded after sunset were 127 dB (re 1 µPa) for individual weakfish, but reached a maximum of 147 dB when weakfish and other fish were producing sounds simultaneously. The maximum distance that an individual weakfish “purr”' can be detected above the background sound, assuming a cylindrical spreading model, is approximately 50 m. There was a strong association (r = 0.78) between the log10-transformed abundance of early-stage sciaenid-type eggs and maximum sound pressure levels, with the greatest numbers occurring at the inlet stations. These results suggest that passive hydroacoustic surveys can be used to delimit spawning areas for conservation and management purposes.
Fisheries, underwater acoustics, hydrophone surveys, ichthyoplankton, sound attenuation