Home > Explore Data & Reports > A comparison of seafloor habitats and associated benthic fauna in areas open and closed to bottom trawling along the central California continental shelf


de Marignac, J., J. Hyland, J. Lindholm, A. DeVogelaere, W.L. Balthis, and D. Kline. 2008. A comparison of seafloor habitats and associated benthic fauna in areas open and closed to bottom trawling along the central California continental shelf. NOAA Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series ONMS-09-02. Silver Spring, MD. 44 pp.

Data/Report Type:

NOAA Technical Memorandum


A number of studies have shown that mobile, bottom-contact fishing gear (such as otter trawls) can alter seafloor habitats and associated biota. Considerably less is known about the recovery of these resources following such disturbances, though this information is critical for successful management. In part, this paucity of information can be attributed to the lack of access to adequate control sites - areas of the seafloor that are closed to fishing activity. Recent closures along the coast of central California provide an excellent opportunity to track the recovery of historically trawled areas and to compare recovery rates to adjacent areas that continue to be trawled. In June 2006 we initiated a multi-year study of the recovery of seafloor microhabitats and associated benthic fauna inside and outside two new Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) closures within the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries. Study sites inside the EFH closure at Cordell Bank were located in historically active areas of fishing effort, which had not been trawled since 2003. Sites outside the EFH closure in the Gulf of Farallones were located in an area that continues to be actively trawled. All sites were located in unconsolidated sands at equivalent water depths. Video and still photographic data collected via a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) were used to quantify the abundance, richness, and diversity of microhabitats and epifaunal macro-invertebrates at recovering and actively trawled sites, while bottom grabs and conductivity/temperature/depth (CTD) casts were used to quantify infaunal diversity and to characterize local environmental conditions.

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