Benthic Habitats and the Effects of Fishing

Symposium Abstract: Small-Scale Analysis of Subtidal Fish Guilds and Associated Habitat Characteristics along Central California

J. M. Field, M. M. Yoklavich, G. M. Caillet, S. Bros, J. deMarignac, and R. N. Lea

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569605.ch56

Recent declines in fish populations are prompting revisions and alterations to current fishery management policies. One alternative is the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to promote the recovery of fish stocks. However, before MPAs can be created, habitat associations of the fishes designated for protection need to be characterized to ensure that the ideal habitat can be included when MPAs are designated. Once the habitat associations of each species are known, remote-sensing technology, such as sidescan sonar, can be used to survey large-scale areas to identify potential habitat for MPAs. In the Eastern Temperate Pacific, rockfishes (Sebates spp.) are slow growing, have a late age-atmaturity and specific habitat affinities. These life history characteristics make them especially susceptible to fishing pressure and ideal candidates for protection through MPAs. To assess habitat associations of fishes within the Big Creek Ecological Reserve, central California, we conducted submersible dives to identify habitat at the meter scale and quantify fish populations. Multivariate statistical analysis revealed distinct habitat associations for several rockfish species. In addition, distinct seafloor features were identified as unique habitats at the meter scale.