We developed maps of occurrence and relative abundance for selected groundfish off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington, within the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME). Our project supports NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) of this area. We analyzed fish distribution and abundance information, to improve our understanding of the ecosystem and to forecast how environmental conditions and management actions affect it.
Why We Care
Large marine ecosystems provide a valuable array of goods, services, and benefits, including fish and shellfish, transportation via ships, and recreational opportunities. With coastal ocean usage demands increasing (e.g. wind farms/energy development), we need a fully developed and integrated spatial and temporal depiction of the resources and activities currently in the area. This information is needed to make the best decisions regarding resource conservation and management of human activities. Our project provided some of the critical data and analysis needed to improve coastal ocean resource management in the CCLME. Partners on this project included the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers.
What We Did
We developed spatial distribution models (SDMs) for selected West Coast groundfishes, to provide predicted patterns of occurrence and relative abundance for key groundfish species. The models are being used to identify essential fish habitats, and to assess risk to groundfishes by land- and sea-based activities. The models improve our current understanding of groundfish management, fill spatial gaps where there are few data, identify long-term trends where data are variable, and help identify important habitat variables.
We focused on the following species to investigate a range of groundfish ecological functional groups: Arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias), Longnose skate (Raja rhina), Pacific grenadier (Coryphaenoides acrolepis), Pacific sanddab (Citharichthys sordidus), Redstripe rockfish (Sebastes proriger), Rex sole (Glyptocephalus zachirus), Shortbelly rockfish (Sebastes jordani), Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), Aurora rockfish (Sebastes aurora), English sole (Parophrys vetulus), Flathead sole (Hippoglossoides elassodon), Greenspotted rockfish (Sebastes chlorostictus), Greenstriped rockfish (Sebastes elongates), Pacific hake (Merluccius productus), Splitnose rockfish (Sebastes diploproa), Spotted ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei), Stripetail rockfish (Sebastes saxicola), Yellowtail rockfish (Sebastes flavidus), and White croaker (Genyonemus lineatus).
These models are being used by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, to review Essential Fish Habitat definitions, as part of the five-year essential fish habitat review.