Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) Studies

Rockfishes (genus Sebastes) are among the most numerous and important fishes (both commercially and recreationally) in California’s nearshore environment.  Due to previous overfishing of several key species, however, fishery management agencies have reduced allowable catches through a combination of bag limits, gear restrictions, and area closures.

In 2002, the Pacific Fishery Management Council enacted area closures in the form of Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs) because of the critically low population sizes of seven overfished rockfish species.  These areas prohibit the take of rockfishes across vast stretches of continental shelf along the west coast.  The assessment of these RCAs, which have now been closed for over a decade, is of keen interest to determine their effects on local rockfish populations.  As a result, the Fisheries & Conservation Biology Lab at MLML is conducting two separate collaborative fisheries projects to evaluate potential temporal changes in the species compositions, densities, length frequencies and bycatch of fishes in central California RCAs.

In one project (Rockfish Conservation Area Surveys), we are assessing the efficacy of the RCA by comparing new fishing surveys with historical catch data.  In another project, we are Ground-Truthing Models of Overfished Species using stereo-video to determine if models of fished populations can be used to help manage groundfish fisheries in a more refined way, over smaller spatial scales.

Click here for information on how to serve as a volunteer angler for RCA surveys.