Using GIS Mapping of the Extent of Nearshore Rocky Reefs to Estimate the Abundance and Reproductive Output of Important Fishery Species

PLoS ONE, published 17 Jan 2012

Jeremy T. Claisse, Daniel J. Pondella, Jonathan P. Williams, and James Sadd

“Kelp Bass (Paralabrax clathratus) and California Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) are economically and ecologically valuable rocky reef fishes in southern California, making them likely indicator species for evaluating resource management actions. Multiple spatial datasets, aerial and satellite photography, underwater observations and expert judgment were used to produce a comprehensive map of nearshore natural rocky reef habitat for the Santa Monica Bay region (California, USA). It was then used to examine the relative contribution of individual reefs to a regional estimate of abundance and reproductive potential of the focal species.

Habitat layers at Ridges and Rocky Point reefs.

Habitat layers at Ridges and Rocky Point reefs.

“For the reefs surveyed for fishes (i.e. 18 out of the 22 in the region, comprising 82% the natural rocky reef habitat <30 m depth, with a total area of 1850 ha), total abundance and annual egg production of California Sheephead were 451 thousand fish (95% CI: 369 to 533 thousand) and 203 billion eggs (95% CI: 135 to 272 billion). For Kelp Bass, estimates were 805 thousand fish (95% CI: 669 to 941thousand) and 512 billion eggs (95% CI: 414 to 610 billion). Size structure and reef area were key factors in reef-specific contributions to the regional egg production. The size structures of both species illustrated impacts from fishing, and results demonstrate the potential that relatively small increases in the proportion of large females on larger reefs could have on regional egg production. For California Sheephead, a substantial proportion of the regional egg production estimate (>30%) was produced from a relatively small proportion of the regional reef area (c. 10%). Natural nearshore rocky reefs make up only 11% of the area in the newly designated MPAs in this region, but results provide some optimism that regional fisheries could benefit through an increase in overall reproductive output, if adequate increases in size structure of targeted species are realized.”