Habitat Preferences of Spotted Seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus, in Coastal Louisiana: A Step Towards Informing Spatial Management in Estuarine Ecosystems

Pamela S.D. MacRae1, 2, *, James H. Cowan Jr.1
1 Louisiana State University, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Energy, Coast and Environment Building, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
2 Current address: PBS&J Environmental Sciences Division, 2639 North Monroe St. Bldg. C, Tallahassee FL 32303, USA

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© 2010 MacRae and Cowan

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the PBS&J Environmental Sciences Division, 2639 North Monroe St. Bldg. C, Tallahassee FL 32303, USA; Tel: 850-580-7831; Fax: 850-575-1169; E-mail:


Louisiana wetlands are disappearing at a dramatic rate, providing an impetus for identifying the relative value to fishes of a matrix of estuarine habitat types. The distribution, relative abundance, biomass, and length of spotted seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus (Cuvier) were examined in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, in relation to habitat type and abiotic variables. Spotted seatrout were collected from three sites located along a salinity gradient. Each site contained the three habitat types of interest: marsh edge, soft bottom and oyster shell, and were sampled monthly from May 2003 to May 2004 with gillnets. Habitat preference of spotted seatrout was not easily defined by habitat type alone, but rather their distribution, relative abundance, biomass and length distribution were influenced by a combination of habitat type and abiotic variables. These results suggest that habitat type and abiotic properties of the water act together to provide a diverse range of available habitats important to spotted seatrout. Despite the importance of incorporating habitat in fisheries management, it may be that a combination of habitats and their spatial arrangement, as well as abiotic variables, contribute to the value of estuarine habitats in support of fisheries productivity. Thus, efforts to ensure future fisheries productivity of spotted seatrout fisheries in Louisiana will likely be maximized by managing the spatial integrity of multiple habitat types as opposed to focusing on any single type.

Keywords: Essential fish habitat, wetlands, oyster reef, spotted seatrout, coastal louisiana.