Estuarine Essential Fish Habitats

About this Project

A major focus of the CSSC is assessing estuarine essential fish habitats and the vital role they play in sustaining marine populations. Over the last decade, studies have included examining the effects of seagrass fragmentation on estuarine nekton, the impact of tidal inlets to fisheries, evaluating oyster reef as essential fish habitat, and assessing Black Drum population dynamics. To test our essential fish habitat hypotheses we often focus on estuarine-dependent sportfish as model species. Currently, our inshore work focuses on Cedar Bayou (see project page), and the movement and habitat use of several sportfish (Red Drum, Spotted Seatrout, and Black Drum) as part of the TEXAAN project.






Selected Publications

  • Nevins, J.A., J. Beseres Pollack, and G.W. Stunz. 2014. Characterizing nekton use of the largest unfished oyster reef in the U.S. in comparison to marsh edge and nonvegetated estuarine habitats. Journal of Shellfish Research 33:227-238. doi:
  • Hensgen, G.M., G.J. Holt, S.A. Holt, J.A. Williams, and G.W. Stunz. 2014. Landscape pattern influences nekton diversity and abundance in Seagrass meadows. Marine Ecology Progress Series 507:139-152. doi:10.3354/meps10818
  • Froeschke, B.F., G.W. Stunz, M.M. Reese Robillard, J. Williams, and J.T. Froeschke. 2013. A modeling and field approach to identify essential fish habitat for juvenile bay whiff (Citharichthys spilopterus) and southern flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma) within the Aransas Bay Complex, TX. Estuaries and Coasts 26:881-892. doi:10.1007/s12237-013-9600-9.
  • Froeschke, J., G.W. Stunz, 2012. Hierarchical and interactive habitat selection in response to abiotic and biotic factors: The effect of hypoxia on habitat selection of juvenile estuarine fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 93:31-41. doi:10.1007/s10641-011-9887-y.
  • Neahr, T.A., G.W. Stunz, and T.J. Minello. 2010. Habitat use patterns of newly-settled spotted seatrout in estuaries of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management and Ecology 17:404-413. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2400.2010.00733.x.
  • Stunz, G.W., T.J. Minello, L. Rozas. 2010. Relative value of oyster reef as habitat for estuarine nekton in Galveston Bay, Texas. Marine Ecology Progress Series 406:147-159. doi:10.3354/meps08556.
  • Nañez-James, S. E., G.W. Stunz, and S.A. Holt. 2009. Habitat Use Patterns of Newly Settled Southern Flounder, Paralichthys lethostigma, in Aransas-Copano Bay, Texas. Estuaries and Coasts 32:350-359. doi:10.1007/s12237-008-9107-y.
  • Reese, M.M., G.W. Stunz, and A.M. Bushon. 2008. Recruitment of estuarine-dependent nekton through a new tidal inlet: the opening of Packery Channel in Corpus Christi, Texas. Estuaries and Coasts 31:1143-1157. doi:10.1007/s12237-008-9096-x.
  • Burfeind, D.D. and G.W. Stunz. 2007. The effects of boat propeller scarring on nekton growth and size distribution in subtropical seagrass meadows. Transactions of American Fisheries Society 136:1546-1551. doi:10.1577/T06-228.1.
  • Levin, P.S. and G. W. Stunz. 2005. Habitat triage for exploited fishes: Can we identify essential fish habitat? Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 64:70-78. doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2005.02.007.

Sampling small nekton at Cedar Bayou tidal inlet. We strain the sample using small nets before they are preserved and brought back to the lab.
Pulling an epibenthic sled through seagrass beds to sample small nekton.
Sampling nekton habitat use of marsh edge habitat using a 1-meter square drop sampler. The fish and crustaceans are then captured using sweep nets.
Sampling a fragmented seagrass habitat using an epibenthic sled.
Juvenile red drum (25 mm) tagged using Visible Implant Elastomer (VIE) for a tag and recapture experiment in fragmented seagrass habitats.
Setting a gill net to capture adult fishes for numerous inshore projects.
Collecting subtidal oysters in Sabine Lake, Texas.


The Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation is a center at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies where Dr. Greg Stunz is also the Endowed Chair for Fisheries and Ocean Health...


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