Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Marine Biology and Fisheries (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

David Die

Second Committee Member

Arthur Mariano

Third Committee Member

Andrew Bakun

Fourth Committee Member

Elizabeth A. Babcock

Fifth Committee Member

Donald Olson

Sixth Committee Member

Joshua Sladek Nowlis


Dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) is a pelagic species that is ecologically and commercially important in the western Atlantic region. This species has been linked to dominant oceanographic features such as sea surface temperature (SST) frontal regions. This work first explored the linkages between the catch rates of dolphinfish and the oceanography (satellite-derived SST, distance to front calculations, bottom depth and hook depth) using Principal Components Analysis (PCA). It was demonstrated that higher catch rates are found in relation to warmer SST and nearer to frontal regions. This environmental information was then included in standardizations of catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) indices. It was found that including the satellite-derived SST and distance to front increases the confidence in the index. The second part of this work focused on addressing spatial variability in the catch rate data for a subsection of the sampling area: the Gulf of Mexico region. This study used geostatistical techniques to model and predict spatial abundances of two pelagic species with different habitat utilization patterns: dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) and swordfish (Xiphias gladius). We partitioned catch rates into two components, the probability of encounter, and the abundance, given a positive encounter. We obtained separate variograms and kriged predictions for each component and combined them to give a single density estimate with corresponding variance. By using this two stage approach we were able to detect patterns of spatial autocorrelation that had distinct differences between the two species, likely due to differences in vertical habitat utilization. The patchy distribution of many living resources necessitates a two-stage variogram modeling and prediction process where the probability of encounter and the positive observations are modeled and predicted separately. Such a "geostatistical delta-lognormal" approach to modeling spatial autocorrelation has distinct advantages in allowing the probability of encounter and the abundance, given an encounter to possess separate patterns of autocorrelation and in modeling of severely non-normally distributed data that is plagued by zeros.


Variogram Models; Kriging; Spatial Analysis; Principal Components Analysis; Stock Assessment; Swordfish; Xiphias Gladius