California Department of Fish and Game
Agency Report
to the
Technical Subcommittee
of the
Canada-United States Groundfish Committee

May 2000


Tom Barnes
Kristine Barsky
Brenda Erwin
Kevin Hill
Lawrence Quirollo
Paul Reilly
Dale Sweetnam
Dave Thomas
David VenTresca
Deb Wilson-Vandenberg
Nancy Wright

Edited by:
Tom Barnes
California Department of Fish and Game
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
8604 La Jolla Shores Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92037

Table of Contents:
A. Agency Overview
B. 1998 California Fishery Review
C. Multispecies Studies

  1. Central California Refugia Study
  2. Nearshore Reef Fish Tagging Project (Northern California)
  3. Punta Gorda Resource Inventory
  4. Central California Marine Sport Fish Project
  5. Fishery Monitoring
  6. Ageing Work
  7. Prawn Trawl Bycatch

D. By Species
  1. Sablefish
  2. Shoreside Whiting

E. Geographic Information System (GIS) Applications
  1. Habitat Mapping (GIS) Project
  2. Software Standard
  3. Existing GIS Databases

F. Other Related Studies
  1. Pacific Sardine
  2. Pacific Mackerel

Appendix A : Publications


During 1999, CDFG began implementing the Marine Life Management Act of 1998 (MLMA; AB 1241, Keeley), which greatly affects the way that marine fisheries will be managed in the state. The MLMA has provisions that affect nearshore fisheries management, and also change the way that future regulations will be developed. The intent is to move regulatory authority for marine fisheries from the state legislature to the California Fish and Game Commission, where management will be accomplished through the adoption of FMP’s for state regulated fisheries. White seabass and nearshore finfish are the first two FMP’s that are specified in the MLMA.

Four new biological positions were created to work on the MLMA mandates. Work has begun to develop a nearshore fishery management plan, in accordance with provisions of the MLMA. The draft plan will be submitted to the California Fish and Game Commission by January 1, 2002.

1999/00 State Management Measures Affecting Groundfish

In order to achieve the lower catches necessary to rebuild lingcod, cowcod, bocaccio, and canary rockfish, several new restrictions were imposed on the recreational fishery for 2000:

The California Fish and Game Commission announced their intention to develop a limited entry program for the California nearshore fishery. As an initial step, the Commission proposed a moratorium be placed on the issuance of new Nearshore Fishery Permits after May 15, 2000. Further, the Commission also proposed that a control date be adopted for the nearshore fishery between May 1, 1999 and December 31, 1999. If the proposed limited entry program for the nearshore fishery is adopted, it will provide some degree of relief for those participants that continue to operate in the fishery.

Legislation was passed during 1999 (AB 993, The Marine Life Protection Act) that requires the Department to prepare a Master Plan for Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks in California.. The Master Plan will address major issues concerning MPAs, including analysis of the state's current MPAs, and recommendations as to whether any specific MPAs should be consolidated, expanded, abolished, reclassified, or managed differently. Also, the Master Plan will include recommendations for a preferred siting alternative for a network of MPAs. The department is required to submit a draft of the master plan to the Commission on or before January 1, 2002.

Contributed by Tom Barnes (858-546-7167)

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The California commercial groundfish harvest for 1999 was 14,206 metric tons (Table 1). Total 1999 landings decreased 37 %, or 8,312 metric tons from 1998 and were only one-half of 1997 landings. The ex-vessel value for 1999 was approximately $18.8 million, a drop of $2.9 million or 13% from 1998 revenues of $21.7. When compared with 1997 revenues of $31.6, ex-vessel value has dropped nearly 41% or $12.8 million.

In 1999, 86% of the groundfish landed was taken by bottom and midwater trawl gear, a slight decrease from the 88% observed in 1998. Line gear accounted for the second largest amount at 12%, a slight increase from the 10% observed in1998 and is similar to that seen in 1997. The line gear contribution was at a recent high of 18% in 1992. The gill and trammel net component remains at just under 1% after a steady decline from 5% in 1993 to 1 % in 1996. Traps accounted for approximately 1% of total 1999 groundfish landings.

Dover sole (Microstomus pacificus), thornyheads (Sebastolobus spp.), sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria), rockfish (Sebastes spp.) and Pacific whiting (Merluccius products), continue to dominate California groundfish landings. While landings of Pacific whiting and rockfish were down sharply from the previous year, landings of some flatfish species and sablefish were higher. Many of the rockfish declines reflect increasingly restrictive Pacific Fishery Management Council landing limitations, while Pacific whiting and splitnose rockfish declines appear to be more related to changes in availability associated with environmental perturbations.

Contributed by Dave Thomas (510-581-7358).

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1. Central California Refugia Study

Reserve Studies

The ability to quantify fish densities within and outside of marine reserves is pivotal to determining the effectiveness of marine reserves as a management tool. For the last 7 years our project’s research activities have been focused on the assessment of densities of sport fish populations and their habitat associations within and adjacent to marine protected areas. In 1999 we directed our efforts toward determining if stratification of sampling effort by substrate or habitat type was a more efficient sampling method than stratification solely based on the presence of kelp canopy. (We defined "sampling efficiency" as the precision of the mean estimate of fish abundance per unit sampling effort.) To address this question, we designed a study to determine whether mean fish abundance (or the variability of the mean) actually differed among substrate or habitat types. If no differences existed among different substrate or habitat types, we would have concluded that remote sensing was not necessary to stratify sampling effort, and stratification based upon the presence of kelp canopy was adequate.

To maximize sampling efficiency, we characterized substrate and potential fish habitat in the Big Creek Ecological Reserve (BCER) and the Point Lobos Ecological Reserve (PLER) using remote sensing techniques (bathymetry, sidescan sonar, and an acoustic seafloor classification system). Substrate types were identified and used as strata for the allocation of fish sampling effort to obtain a more precise estimate of total fish abundance of selected nearshore species in these reserves. We used scuba for assessments of selected fish populations and habitat associations.

Statistical analysis indicated that a transect length of 30 meters was optimal for sampling fish abundance. Transects were oriented perpendicular to depth contours (toward shore, generally) to sample across the variability of fish distribution. Divers swam transects approximately 4 meters apart along parallel courses, and each diver of a buddy pair enumerated fish of interest and habitat information (e.g. depth, percent cover of rock, algae abundance, relief, and crevice abundance) along a transect 30 meters long X 2 meters wide X 2 meters above the sea floor. Transects for sampling fish abundance randomly were chosen a priori using ArcView.

In addition to surveying sport fish densities the outer perimeter of the giant kelp surface canopy was mapped using an inflatable boat and a portable dGPS unit. These data were complementary to acoustic remote sensing data; as expected, kelp canopies were present only over hard substrate, and generally reflected the interface between hard and soft substrate. Also, twenty-seven points were "ground-truthed" by "drop camera" to determine spatial accuracy and confirm substrate interpretations. Further confirmation of substrate polygons was completed throughout the reserve using video transects and SCUBA.

Results of these studies as well previous baseline work at BCER and PLER available in two Sea Grant Reports which will be published in July 2000 (Grant # 8-BC-N and 8-BC-N Extension).

Recruitment Studies

The study period from 1990 to 1999 was characterized by oceanographic conditions with low upwelling indices (UPIs) and elevated sea surface temperatures (SSTs) along the central California coast. This represented a shift from relatively high UPIs and low SSTs prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s. Primary productivity was lower during the study period than during the 1960s and 1970s because it is positively correlated with UPI and negatively correlated with SST.

Based on 19 years of observations, we identified a positive correlation between march UPI and densities of young-of-the-year (YOY) blue rockfish. Within the nine-year period 1990-98 at Otter Point (southern Monterey Bay), densities of YOY blue rockfish were highest in 1991 and 1997, which fit the long term relation with March UPI. YOY recruitment was also strong in 1991 and 1997 for other nearshore rockfishes such as olive, yellowtail, and black. A complex of morphologically similar species (kelp, gopher, and black-and-yellow rockfishes), referred to as the "KGB" complex, showed strong recruitment in 1991and 1996 but not in 1997. Lingcod, which we have been observed as YOY only in shallow sandy areas, exhibited strong recruitment in 1991 and 1993. In 1992 and 1997 numerous southern California expatriate species YOY were observed at Big Creek Ecological Reserve and along the Monterey Peninsula, indicating substantial poleward advection of surface waters during these years.

Other Studies

Since 1981 we have monitored the condition factor (CF) and gonadal index (GI) of adult blue rockfish as an indicator species of the general health of rockfishes in nearshore kelp forests. The annual mean CF of adult blue rockfish recorded minimums in 1982-83, 1992-93 and 1997-98. All three of these periods coincided with relatively warm SSTs along the central coast associated with major El Niño events. Since 1990 we have also monitored the CF and mean monthly lengths of YOY blue rockfish as an indicator of the health of YOY rockfishes. These two indices were lowest in 1997, the onset of a major El Niño event.

Contributed by David VenTresca (831-649-2881).

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2. Nearshore Reef Fish Tagging Project (Northern California)

An ongoing fisheries independent tagging study of nearshore reef fish including rockfish, cabezon and greenling continued during 1999 in order to: a) evaluate movement and homesite fidelity by size and stage of maturity for nearshore species, b) determine growth rates in northern California and compare them to published studies elsewhere, c) determine if conventional external tags are less effective than coded wire tags with respect to mortality, loss rates, or effects on growth, d) establish relative fishing mortality from an expanding live-fish fishery to sport fishing both near and far from ports of access, and e) examine changes in size distribution and size frequency of nearshore reef fish during a period of expansion in the Mendocino county live fish fishery. A total of 12,307 nearshore reef fish were captured between 1996 and 1998. Preliminary recovery rates for individual species ranges from 0% to 25% with an average return rate of 6.2 percent for species in which tags have been recovered. The overall return rate including all tag types is 3.1% (305 tag returns/9,751 tagged fish released). We expect that tagged fish will continue to be recaptured for several more years, because a large share (over 30%) of the tag returns occurred in 1999.

Preliminary results:

Contributed by Dale Sweetnam (707-964-9078).

3. Punta Gorda Resource Inventory

This ongoing project is designed to inventory and quantify the fish, invertebrate and algal species on the Punta Gorda Ecological Reserve (PGER) by habitat type. PGER is a two mile reserve between the 18-180ft depth contours off Punta Gorda (south of Cape Mendocino, Humbolt County). Project biologists are developing fisheries-independent methodologies to evaluate stock abundance for nearshore reef fish and invertebrates of management concern. A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is being used in conjunction with bathymetric habitat maps to quantify intra-annual changes in abundance of near shore reef fish. These nearshore, sonar based, bathymetric habitat maps when combined with both diver and ROV video transects may provide a quantitative basis for stock assessment of near shore reef fish. The study is investigating whether the amount of variance associated with these new methodologies is low enough to discern intra-annual changes in abundance due to fishing pressure, lack of fishing pressure (refuges or areas far from fishing access), or changes in recruitment.

Contributed by Dale Sweetnam (707-964-9078).

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4. Central California Marine Sport Fish Project

This project was initiated to address concerns of recreational anglers and the CPFV industry related to apparent declines in the quality of fishing for rockfish and lingcod in central and northern California. Specific concerns were that the sizes of fish have decreased, catch rates have decreased, and that they must travel farther from port to achieve bag limits of quality fish. Declines have been attributed in part to commercial fishing activities at or near locations fished by sport anglers. The purposes of this project are twofold: to address these concerns, and to increase our understanding of how to provide better recreational fishing for rockfish and lingcod and implement that knowledge through effective management. We use onboard observers to document the species commonly taken by CPFV anglers fishing for rockfish and lingcod from Avila to Crescent City on a reef by reef basis. We are working with the CPFV industry to identify reefs important to them and to assess the quality of fishing at those reefs.

Onboard sampling of the commercial passenger fishing vessel (CPFV) fleet by this project began in May 1987. There has been data collection each year since then, although it has not been continuous. The area covered includes ten ports from Bodega Bay south to Avila Beach (Morro Bay area). Sampling is limited to trips targeting rockfishes and lingcod; our sampling effort goal is to cover up to 5% of those CPFV trips. From 1996 through 1998 sampling only occurred from July through December. We did not sample at all in 1999 and shifted effort to data analysis of 1993 through 1998; summaries of those data are available in an SFRA Final Performance Report (Wilson-Vandenberg and P. Reilly, 2000).

Sampling data routinely collected were:

In addition, field samplers contribute to Department public outreach efforts by providing life history information on rockfish and lingcod species to anglers and crew. Samplers are knowledgeable about current sport fishing regulations and share that information with anglers when asked.

From January 1993 through December 1998, project personnel sampled on board 1,347 CPFV trips and observed a total of 36,219 angler hours of fishing by 11,956 anglers. The observed catch of 169,909 fish represented 86 species, including 39 rockfishes. For all port areas combined, the top ten species in decreasing order of abundance were blue, yellowtail, rosy and olive rockfishes, lingcod, and canary, widow, chilipepper, gopher and black rockfishes. Blue and yellowtail rockfishes comprised 51.1% of the total catch. Observers measured 199,944 fish representing 55 species. Fishing was observed at 437 different fishing locations during the six years.

Highlights of our analysis by fishing area indicated that species composition of catches in the Eureka area was different than that observed on trips further south, likely due to the biogeographic boundary at Cape Mendocino. For example, black and canary rockfishes had higher relative abundance in Eureka area catches. In addition, for the few species with adequate sample sizes, fish were larger in the less fished areas from Fort Bragg north. The majority of project data have been collected from Fort Bragg south with very good coverage of the Monterey INPFC unit.

In general, areas of concern had been previously identified for two primary groups of fishes: 1) near shore benthic rockfishes, which are also harvested by an expanded near shore commercial hook-and-line fishery (aka the nearshore premium fishery); and 2) the midwater species chilipepper, bocaccio, and widow rockfish, which are subject to major commercial fisheries. These areas of concern were based upon long-term declines in average catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) and/or mean length. For our analysis of the six year period, we picked specific areas of the coast line to look for changes in CPUE or mean length because rockfishes are more susceptible to localized depletion. From 1993 through 1998, there was evidence of declining CPAH and/or mean length for twelve species (Table 1). Declines in CPUE were mainly observed in midwater schooling species including black, bocaccio, chilipepper, and yellowtail rockfishes, while declines in mean total length were more common for benthic species (brown, copper, gopher, and quillback rockfishes). It is notable that of these, the benthic species are also more common in commercial nearshore catches. Of potential concern were also those species with a mean size below female 50% sexual maturity, particularly widow, blue, gopher, olive and black rockfishes. Only the Big Sur coastline, and distant areas north of Bodega Bay showed clear differences in mean length between near and distant areas indicating that fishing pressure is not as heavy in these areas. In fact, mean lengths of blue, yellowtail, olive, gopher, copper and rosy rockfishes were significantly higher at shallow (less than 40 fm), distant locations when areas along the Monterey coastline were compared to areas close to port.

Percent similarity was used to compare the relative abundances of species of near shore fishes landed in the CPFV fishery and the commercial hook-and-line fishery in central California. Highest mean percent similarity (all years combined) occurred in Morro Bay (40.2%), followed by Monterey (35.9%). Bodega Bay had the lowest mean percent similarity. While there was some overlap between catches, CPFV catches are generally dominated by midwater schooling species, while commercial catches included a higher abundance of benthic species, lowering percent similarity values. However, benthic species play a key role in CPFV catches as they tend to be preferred by more experienced anglers, and some, such as gopher and vermilion rockfishes can be quite abundant in CPFV catches in some areas and years.

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Table 1. Status of selected rockfish species from observed CPFV trips

Declines in CPUE

Port Areas of Concern


Black rockfish






Canary rockfish






Yellowtail rockfish


Declines in Mean Total Length



Gopher rockfish



Olive rockfish



Quillback rockfish



Vermilion rockfish



Yellowtail rockfish


Declines in CPUE and Mean Total Length in the same Area


Brown rockfish



Copper rockfish



Greenspotted rockfish


*Note: BB = Bodega Bay, SF = San Francisco, MO = Monterey, MB = Morro Bay port areas

It is difficult to attribute observed declines to any single cause, although resulting concerns warrant further investigation. In the future, this project intends to continue longer term analysis using project data from 1987 to 1992, and with more historical datasets.

Benefits of this program include the use of project data to identify fishing areas important to sport anglers and of potential overlap with commercial fisheries. Fish length and catch rate data are used as indicators to monitor the status of fished populations. These data have been used in stock assessment reports to the Pacific Fishery Management Council for groundfish management as well as for management recommendations related to recent changes to statewide sport fishing regulations.

Contributed by Deb Wilson-Vandenberg (831-649-2892).

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5. Fishery Monitoring

Statistical and biological data from landings are continually collected and routinely analyzed by CDFG to provide current information on groundfish fisheries and the status of the stocks. Outside funding also enables California fishery data to be routinely incorporated into regional databases such as PacFIN, RecFIN and MRFSS.

Contact Dave Thomas for more information (510-581-7358).

6. Ageing Work

In recent years, CDFG has production-aged three species of groundfish by reading otoliths for annuli; Dover sole, chilipepper rockfish, and Bocaccio. During 1998, 2,000 Dover sole were aged from the Monterey and Eureka INPFC areas. During 1999, 2,200 Dover sole were aged from the Monterey and Eureka INPFC areas. A new data technician was trained in 1999, however due to other job demands chilipepper were not production aged. The data technician will begin production ageing of chilipepper rockfish in 2000 upon completion of Rockfish Identification Charts.

Contributed by Brenda Erwin (650-688-6349).

7. Prawn Trawl Bycatch

No onboard observations have been made on spot prawn trawl or trap vessels since March 1999. However, the Department has proposed a one-year observer program with the goal of observing 10% of all spot prawn trawl vessel trips, and two trips on each spot prawn trap vessel during July 2000 through June 2001. The program would be funded by an observer fee, which would be required for all vessels landing spot prawns in California during the period July 1, 2000 to March 31, 2001. This is at present only a proposal and will be considered for adoption by the Fish and Game Commission on May 4, 2000. The proposed observer fee is $250 for each trap vessel and either $250, $500, or $1,000 for each trawl vessel, based on recent landings.

The observer program is designed to obtain information on the composition and magnitude of bycatch in spot prawn fisheries. The Department believes that bycatch in the trap fishery is relatively minor and thus the proposed program is minimal. The trawl observer program should yield approximately 45-50 observed trips, based on an estimated 450-500 total landings statewide in 1999.

Logistics for implementing this program could prove challenging, as many trawl vessels and some trap vessels make multi-day (e.g. 3-6 days) trips at great distances from ports.

Results from the onboard observer program should improve management of the spot prawn fisheries, particularly in relation to gear specifications. New regulations adopted in February 2000 by the Commission require a functional finfish excluder with a minimum surface area of thirty-six square inches in all spot prawn trawl nets which do not have a double-walled cod end.

Contributed by Paul Reilly (831-649-2879).


1. Sablefish

The CDFG research vessel Mako was used during April-June, 1999 to conduct a sablefish tag and release study in shelf and slope waters of the Santa Maria Basin (Morro Bay area). The objective of the research cruise was to obtain information on sablefish age composition, growth, and movement in waters of central and southern California. The cruise was conducted in cooperation with NMFS-Tiburon Laboratory, and was a continuation of work initiated in 1991 by NMFS.

Sablefish were trapped, tagged with blue tags and injected with oxytetracycline. Ten sablefish traps of reinforced steel and mesh were deployed on each string. Although soak time varied greatly, a 24-hr. pop-up on the funnel of each trap ensured a standard catch period of only 24 hours per trap. Three strings were deployed in 75 fm increments starting at 300 fms and ending at 450 fms. The sets were made at previously selected stations in the Santa Maria Basin.

Plans for a continuous three week cruise were abandoned after gale force winds and large swell kept the Mako in port or from operating at our stations the first ten days of the cruise. On May 5, after a 48 hour soak, we successfully retrieved and reset a trap strings at 300 and 375 fms. A total of 269 sablefish were collected and tagged, 162 fish from 300 fms, and 107 from 375 fms. No young-of-the year sablefish were captured. The only bycatch was 2 dover sole, Microstomus pacificus, and 4 filetail cat sharks, Parmaturus xaniurus.

Survey operations were suspended until wind and sea conditions allowed us to return to our trap sites on June 2. Additional sablefish were captured at that time, but no attempt was made to measure or tag them because they had been confined in the traps for several weeks, and there was concern that the long captivity would affect future survival.

Contributed by Kristine Barsky (805-568-1220).

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2. Shoreside Whiting

General Season

California shore-based landings of Pacific whiting (Merluccius productus) totaled 1,306 metric tons (MT) in 1999, 1.6% of the 83,388 MT U.S. shore-based total. This was the smallest shore-based harvest in California since 1983 when 980 MT was landed and was 74% below the most recent 10 year average of 5,000 MT.

Targeting vessels were unable to locate any consistent whiting concentrations during the 1999 season; deliveries began on April 15, 1999 and ended September 1, 1999. Strong upwelling and cold oceanic temperatures may have caused whiting to bypass northern California and southern Oregon on their northward migration. Monthly upwelling indices ranged from 39 to 123 times greater than normal and sea surface temperatures ranged from 8 - 100 C.

In spite of low returns from the 1999 season, four designated processing plants and ten midwater trawlers have requested permits for the year 2000 EFP fishery.

EFP Fishery

Four midwater trawlers landed 1,272 MT of unsorted whiting at three designated shore-based processing plants during 1999 in California under the provisions of an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP). The EFP implements a cooperative state/federal/industry observation program to monitor the bycatch of salmon and groundfish in the shore-based component of the Pacific whiting fishery. The permit allows midwater trawlers to land unsorted whiting catches at designated shore-based processing plants without penalty for taking prohibited species or exceeding catch limits.

Groundfish technicians observed 5 of 20 EFP deliveries (a 25% observation rate). The observed landings included 245 MT of whiting, 1.2 MT of groundfish and 5 chinook salmon. Observed landings contained 0.02 salmon/MT and 11.1 groundfish/MT of whiting.

The overall bycatch calculated, from landing receipts, for the entire 1,272 MT California shore-based EFP fishery totaled 22 MT. Included were 9 chinook salmon (37 pounds) harvested at a rate of 0.007 per metric ton of whiting. The groundfish bycatch consisted of widow rockfish (12.7 MT), shortbelly rockfish (5.5 MT), splitnose rockfish (2.8 MT), unspecified mackerel (0.7 MT), and other fishes (0.3 MT). A Pacific halibut was included in the bycatch from an EFP delivery that originated of Cape Arago, Oregon. This was the first Pacific halibut landed in California since the observation program began in 1992.

Contributed by Lawrence F. Quirollo (707- 441-5755).


1. Habitat Mapping (GIS) Project

This project was initiated in F/Y 1997/98. Basic knowledge of the components of the nearshore marine ecosystem is essential to allow management of marine resources to move from individual species used in the past, to a more integrated ecosystem management approach. Integrated management is data intensive, requiring layers of information on a wide range of physical features, plants, and animals associated with utilization of natural resources.

The project is comprised of four tasks. The objectives for each task are:

Task 1. Bathymetry and Shoreline: To establish additional GIS capability within CDFG, design appropriate data bases and to develop the base bathymetry (description of the physical environment such as the depth of water) for the GIS data set. This task is critical to the success of the rest of the effort. We have just received baseline bathymetry which was completed under a contract with Teale data center.
Task 2. Marine Habitats. To identify, acquire and integrate appropriate baseline data on ocean floor features such as bottom type, kelp and eel grass beds and reef locations from CDFG, academia, other state and federal agencies, and the military. The first step is to get a fine-scale substrate map and classification. Our goal now is to map rocky intertidal at 2-5 meter resolution and sandy bottom at approximately 90 meter resolution. The combination of our new bathymetry and a fine substrate map can take us a long way toward better habitat identification. Under contract with CSUMB, we are exploring a combination of new and old technologies (side-scan sonar, lidar, multibeam) to find the most efficient and affordable method of mapping the nearshore (<25 meters depth) for the entire coast. By November of 2000 we will have substrate at a resolution of 1:250,000 for all of the Continental Shelf except this narrow nearshore band.
Task 3. Marine Species Habitats Associations: To identify, acquire and integrate appropriate information on the species of plants and animals with the baseline ocean floor features identified in the second task.
Task 4. Harvest and Other Use Information: To identify, acquire and integrate appropriate information on human use of living marine resources into the data base. Sources of data include commercial fish landing records. Commercial and recreational fishing logs (activity records) and recreational fishing surveys. Contracts with agencies such as the PSMFC and its PacFin data base for data will accomplish this task.

Contributed by Nancy Wright (831-649-2942).

2. Software Standard

CDFG employs Arcview 3.2 and Arcinfo 8.0.2 software for GIS applications.

Contact Nancy Wright for more information (831-649-2942).

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3. Existing GIS Databases

There are currently few GIS databases in use by CDFG in the marine environment. Existing applications are for Humbolt Bay, Tomales Bay, statewide landing receipts (pink tickets), kelp beds, and groundfish trawl logbooks.



1. Pacific Sardine

Pacific sardine landings for the directed fisheries off California and Baja California reached the highest in recent history during the 1999 calendar year with a combined total of 115,051 metric tons (mt) harvested. California landings for 1999, limited by a State of California management quota, were approximately 60,315 mt, 47% higher than 1998. The Ensenada, Mexico fishery experienced a 14% increase from the previous year, with final harvest projected to be 54,735 mt. The Ensenada fishery was not limited by a management quota.

For calendar year 1999, the Director of California Department of Fish and Game allocated a sardine quota of 120,474 mt to California’s sardine fishery. This quota was based on a July 1, 1998, ‘inside area’ biomass estimate of 1,073,091 mt. The wetfish fleet, which harvests sardine, concentrated effort on market squid, a more profitable species.

Pacific sardine biomass (age 1+ as of July 1, 1999) was estimated using an integrated stock assessment model called CANSAR-TAM (Catch-at-age ANalysis for SARdine - Two Area Model), which is based on the original CANSAR model described by Deriso et al. (1996). CANSAR-TAM was developed to account for the expansion of the Pacific sardine stock northward beyond the California bight to include waters off the whole northwest Pacific coast. CANSAR and CANSAR-TAM are age-structured analyses using fishery-dependent and fishery-independent data to obtain annual estimates of sardine abundance, year-class strength, and age-specific fishing mortality for 1983 through the first semester of 1999. Non-linear least-squares criteria are used to find the best fit between model estimates and input data. Biomass estimates were adjusted by the model to better match the fishery-independent (survey) indices of relative abundance, including: aerial spotter sightings, CalCOFI egg and larval data, spawning area, and spawning biomass estimated using the daily egg production method (DEPM). The assessment model is based on a semi-annual time increment (Jan-Jun, semester 1, and July-Dec, semester 2) and now includes seventeen years of data. CANSAR-TAM recalculates biomass for all years in the time series. Bootstrap procedures were used to estimate 95% confidence limits and CV’s for biomass and recruitment point estimates.

The CalCOFI, spawning area, and DEPM spawning biomass surveys indicate a steady increase in sardine relative abundance over the entire time series, with all three reaching their highest levels in 1999. The CalCOFI proportion positive index had undergone considerable saturation in recent years due to the higher frequency of positive stations as the sardine stock expanded throughout and beyond the Southern California Bight. This problem was addressed in the current assessment by expanding the offshore range of CalCOFI stations included in the index. In addition, the survey was fit with an exponent (b=0.3547) to accommodate the assumption that the index was a non-linear function of sardine egg production.

Unlike the other fishery-independent surveys, the aerial spotter index has displayed a dramatic downward trend since 1995, with 1999 relative abundance values as low as those projected for 1989. Reasons for this downward trend are uncertain, but may be related to the spotter index covering a relatively small portion of the total sardine distribution. Spotter pilot effort tends to be nearshore, southerly, and within the range of the wetfish fleet. Sardine sightings are primarily concentrated in nearshore areas where the majority of spotter and fishing effort occurs. Based on our knowledge of sardine egg distribution in 1996 through 1999, it is highly likely that the area of the stock extends well beyond the area of the spotter survey. Spotter index saturation was accommodated in the model by assuming a nonlinear function to sardine biomass, applying an exponent of b=0.4585.

Based on CANSAR-TAM, the July 1,1999 total age 1+ biomass was estimated to have been 1,581,346 mt. This estimate includes a bias correction based on 2,000 bootstrap runs. This estimate provides an approximation of coast-wide population biomass. Sardine biomass has increased dramatically from 1983 to 1999. Age composition data and model outputs provide preliminary indication of a strong 1998 year class, which dominated catch off southern California during semester 2, 1998. The 1998 year class contributed to the increase in total population biomass between 1998 and 1999.

Harvest Guideline for 2000

To calculate the harvest guideline for 2000, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) used the MSY control rule defined in Amendment 8 of the Coastal Pelagic Species-Fishery Management Plan (Option J; Table 4.2.5-1 in the CPS FMP, PFMC 1998). This formula should theoretically perform well at preventing overfishing and maintaining relatively high and consistent catch levels over the long term. The Amendment 8 harvest formula for sardine is:


where Ht+1 is the total U.S. coast wide harvest guideline, CUTOFF is the lowest level of estimated biomass at which harvest is allowed, FRACTION is an environmentally-dependent fraction of biomass above CUTOFF that can be taken by fisheries, and STOCK DISTRIBUTION is the fraction of total BIOMASSt in U.S. waters. BIOMASSt is the estimated biomass of fish age 1+ for the whole stock at the beginning of season t. Resultant values for the 2000 fishery are as follows:











186,791 mt

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FRACTION in the MSY control rule for Pacific sardine is a proxy for Fmsy (i.e., the fishing mortality rate for deterministic equilibrium MSY). FRACTION depends on recent ocean temperatures because Fmsy and productivity of the sardine stock is higher under ocean conditions associated with warm water temperatures. An estimate of the relationship between Fmsy for sardine and ocean temperatures (T) is:

Fmsy = 0.248649805 T2 - 8.190043975 T + 67.4558326

where T is the average three season sea surface temperature at Scripps Pier, California during the three preceding seasons. Under Option J (PFMC 1998), Fmsy varies between 5% and 15%. Fmsy will be equal to 15% under current oceanic conditions (T1999 = 18.04 degrees C).

Contributed by Kevin Hill (858-546-7052).

2. Pacific Mackerel

Pacific mackerel landings during the 1998 calendar year represented near-record levels for the combined directed fisheries off California and Baja California at 70,799 mt. California landings for calendar year 1998, limited by a seasonal quota, were similar to the previous calendar at approximately 20,073 mt. The Ensenada fishery experienced a 400% increase from the previous year at 50,725 mt. The Ensenada fishery is not limited by a management quota.

The 1998/1999 California commercial fishery was allocated a 30,572 mt quota based on a July 1, 1998, biomass forecast of 120,202 mt (Hill et al. 1999). As of June 30, 1999, the California fishery had landed 21,246 mt, with 9,326 mt of the quota remaining at the season’s end (Figure 2). Market squid availability remained high during the remainder of semester 1, 1999, so the wetfish fleet concentrated effort on this more profitable target species.

The 1998 Pacific mackerel biomass was estimated using an age-structured stock assessment model called ‘ADEPT’. ADEPT is a modified virtual population analysis (VPA) model which estimates abundance and biomass of Pacific mackerel using fishery-dependent (landings, age composition) and fishery-independent data. Biomass estimates are adjusted or "tuned" by the model to better match the fishery-independent (survey) indices of relative abundance, including spotter pilot sightings, California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) larval data, recreational fishery catch-per-unit-effort, triennial trawl survey, and power plant impingement rates. The assessment model is based on an annual time increment and now includes seventy years of fishery data.

ADEPT recalculates biomass for all years in the time series. Recent years were significantly higher than those estimated during 1998 and 1997 stock assessments. For example, this year’s estimate of July 1, 1998, biomass (193,503 mt) was 61% higher than the forecasted value from last year (120,202 mt). Much of this increase was driven by higher landings during calendar year 1998. In effect, ADEPT estimated higher recruitments and abundance levels back in time to account for losses due to fishing mortality. Moreover, several key survey indices indicated an increase in relative abundance in recent years. These included the aerial spotter index, the CalCOFI larval index, the northern California (CPFV) index, and the impingement index of fish caught in the San Onofre power plant intake. The southern California CPFV index has decreased steadily since 1980, but this survey has likely been affected by dramatic increases in the availability, catch, and retention of more desirable subtropical species such as barracuda, yellowtail, ocean whitefish, and barred sand bass over the same period.

The July 1, 1999 population forecast was based on ADEPT results and certain assumptions about fishing mortality during the first half of 1999. The ADEPT model was used to project biomass estimates through the end of 1998 (calendar years), and then projected an estimate of biomass for July 1, 1999, based upon: 1) number of Pacific mackerel estimated to comprise each year class at the end of 1998; 2) assumptions for natural and fishing mortality through the first half of 1999; and 3) estimates of age-specific growth. Based on these estimates and assumptions, the July 1, 1999, age 1+ biomass was estimated to be approximately 239,286 mt.

In Amendment 8 of the CPS FMP, the recommended maximum sustainable yield control rule for Pacific mackerel was:


where HARVEST is the U.S. harvest guideline, CUTOFF (18,200 mt) is the lowest level of estimated biomass at which harvest is allowed, FRACTION (30%) is the fraction of biomass above CUTOFF that can be taken by fisheries, and STOCK DISTRIBUTION (70%) is the average fraction of total BIOMASS in U.S. waters. BIOMASS (239,286 mt) is the estimated biomass of fish age 1 and over for the whole stock as of July 1, 1999. Based on this formula, the 1999/2000 season harvest guideline was 46,428 mt.

Contributed by Kevin Hill (858-546-7052).

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Butler, J.L., L.D. Jacobson, J.T. Barnes, H.G. Moser and R. Collins. 1999

Stock assessment of cowcod. In Pacific Fishery Management Council. 1999. Appendix: Status of the Pacific coast groundfish fishery through 1999 and recommended biological catches for 2000: Stock assessment and fishery evaluation. Pacific Fishery Management Council, 2130 SW Fifth Avenue, Suite 224, Portland, Oregon 97201.

Hill, K. T., L. D. Jacobson, N. C. H. Lo, M. Yaremko, and M. Dege. 1999. Stock assessment of Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax) for 1998 with management recommendations for 1999. Calif. Dep. Fish Game, Marine Region Admin Rep. 99-4. 94 p.

Hill, K. T., M. Levey, and M. Dege. 1999. Status of the Pacific mackerel resource and fishery in 1999. Calif. Dep. Fish Game, Marine Region, Report to the California Legislature. 65 p.

Hill, K. T., M. Yaremko, and L. D. Jacobson. 1999. Status of the Pacific mackerel resource and fishery in 1998. Calif. Dep. Fish Game. Marine Region Admin. Rep. 99-3. 57 p.

Lea, R.N., R.D. McAllister, D.A. VenTresca. 1999. Biological Aspects of Nearshore Rockfishes of the Genus Sebastes with notes on ecologically related species. California Department of Fish and Game, Fish Bulletin 177. 109p.

Lea, R.N. and P. Béarez. Occurrence of Chilara taylori (Ophidiidae), an eastern North Pacific cusk-eel from Ecuadorian waters. Cybium. 23(1): 99-100. Lea, R.N., R.D. McAllister, and D.A. VenTresca.. Biological Aspects of the Genus Sebastes with Notes on Ecologically Related Sportfishes Off Central California. California Department of Fish and Game, Fish Bull. 177. 109p.

Norton, J.G., C.S. Moore, F.B. Schwing, D. Husby, K. Baltz, H.Parker-Hall, D. VenTresca and D.M. Fernandez. 1999. Continuous high resolution shore station temperature and salinity data from Granite Canyon, California. NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS. NOAA-TM-NMFS-SWFSC-285.26P.

Wilson-Vandenberg, D. and P. Reilly. 2000. Final Performance Report, Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, California Contract F-50-R-11. Marine Sport Fish Management and Research, Project No. 14, Job 1.



Table 1. DRAFT

California 1999 Groundfish Landings (Metric Tons)




Percent change





Dover sole




English sole




Petrale sole




Rex sole








Other flatfish








Widow rockfish












Splitnose rockfish








Other rockfish
















Pacific whiting




















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