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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 547:1-18 (2016)  -  DOI:

Temporal and spatial dynamics of ‘trophy’-sized demersal fishes off the California (USA) coast, 1966 to 2013

Lyall Bellquist*, Brice X. Semmens

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 8750 Biological Grade, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: California (USA) recreational fisheries are biologically and economically important, and depend heavily on demersal fish species, especially during winter and spring months. While many of these species have shown signs of population decline, the size-selective nature of fishing generally impacts population size structure before population declines are evident. However, long-term size-specific information, especially for the largest size classes, is rare. Our ability to gain an early warning of fishery overexploitation is thus limited. We developed the Western Outdoor News (WON) database, which consists of a long-term (1966-2013) time series of trophy-sized fishes caught along the California coast and Baja California, Mexico. Sixteen demersal species, with a total of 25943 records, were the focus of this study. Twelve of the 16 species showed signs of long-term decline in trophy size, but 9 of these 12 showed signs of transition to either stabilization or initial recovery in the most recent years. The more progressive state fisheries management actions adopted since 2001 have likely contributed to this apparent shift in trends, and the new coastal marine protected area (MPA) networks may benefit these populations even more in the future. Trophy size increased with distance from home port, and the distance required to reach maximum trophy sizes increased over time, especially for the rockfishes, which suggests that declines were due to overfishing. Trophy sizes of fishes caught specifically within the Northern Channel Islands region showed long-term declines through the early 2000s, but also showed signs of stabilization or initial recovery for some species since the 2003 implementation of the Northern Channel Islands network of MPAs.

KEY WORDS: Historical ecology · Trophy fish · Demersal · Marine protected area · Northern Channel Islands

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Cite this article as: Bellquist L, Semmens BX (2016) Temporal and spatial dynamics of ‘trophy’-sized demersal fishes off the California (USA) coast, 1966 to 2013. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 547:1-18.

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