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Protected waters foster resurgence of West Coast rockfish

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September 20, 2017  NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region read full ScienceDaily article here
West Coast rockfish species in deep collapse only 20 years ago have multiplied rapidly in large marine protected areas off Southern California, likely seeding surrounding waters with enough offspring to offer promise of renewed fishing, a new study has found.
The research …shows that protecting important ocean habitat promotes the long-term recovery of rockfish such as cowcod and bocaccio that have long been a staple of West Coast fishermen. Favorable ocean conditions also played a role, according to the study by scientists from NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), University of San Diego, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“The larvae of several species of rockfish that were once heavily fished increased in number within protected areas over the past decade,” said Andrew Thompson, a research scientist at the SWFSC in La Jolla, Calif. “The larvae have the potential to drift outside the protected region. That’s good for fisheries because it can build populations beyond the protected waters too.”

…”This is the first research we know of to demonstrate that marine protected areas are producing high abundances of fish larvae that can seed surrounding areas,” Thompson said. “That was an important part of the vision for these areas when they were established, and it’s rewarding that management actions are contributing to the recovery of rockfish in Southern California.”

Andrew R. Thompson, Dustin C. Chen, Lian W. Guo, John R. Hyde, William Watson. Larval abundances of rockfishes that were historically targeted by fishing increased over 16 years in association with a large marine protected area. Royal Society Open Science, 2017; 4 (9): 170639 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.170639

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