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Federal law governing fisheries management recognizes the role habitat plays in structuring fish assemblages and achieving sustainable fisheries. However, in most instances it is not known which aspects of habitat are important to the lives of fish species. In 2004, we examined the importance of sheltering sites (crevices) to fishes living along low ledges in deeper waters off Anacapa Island, southern California. We found that patterns of fish-habitat relationships varied among the eight most abundant species. Three species, bocaccio (Sebastes paucispinis), vermilion (S. miniatus), and flag (S. rubrivinctus) rockfishes, had densities one to three orders of magnitude greater in the deep crevice habitat compared to low relief rock or shallow crevice habitats. Density and mean size of the two most abundant fishes, halfbanded (S. semicinctus) and squarespot (S. hopkinsi) rockfishes, generally increased as complexity of rock habitat increased. Not all species had the highest densities in deep crevice habitat. Greenspotted rockfish (S. chlorostictus) and blackeye goby (Rhinogobiops nicholsii) showed no significant difference in density among rock habitats. Pink seaperch (Zalembius rosaceus) were absent in the deep crevice habitat and abundant only in low relief rock habitats. Our study implies that it is not sufficient to distinguish only between soft and hard bottom types when using habitat to guide fisheries management strategies. Finer-scale investigations of fish-habitat relationships, paired with habitat mapping and groundtruthing, aid in the design and positioning of Marine Park Areas (MPAs) and are necessary to facilitate understanding of how a particular MPA may contribute to fisheries management.
Additional Publication Details
Gimme shelter: The importance of crevices to some fish species inhabiting a deeper-water rocky outcrop in Southern California
California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations Reports