Oceanographic effects on rockfish (Sebastes spp.) reproductive success and consequences for population dynamics

E/PD-18
Start/End: August, 2018 to July, 2020

Rockfish populations on the West Coast plummeted in the late 20th century, due to a combination of overfishing, poor ocean conditions and nearly a decade of poor recruitment. The situation has improved, and populations are now rebuilding, but there are large annual differences in the number of young that are produced and survive to adulthood, and very little is known about why this is the case. In order to aid the recovery of rockfish species, researchers and fisheries managers need a better understanding rockfish reproduction and population dynamics.

In this project, the fellow will explore how fecundity, which is the number of larvae released by a female each year, and population productivity change in connection with ocean conditions. She aims to develop a model that can predict variability in reproductive output based on a female’s age, size, and body condition as well as ocean conditions. She will then use the model to simulate the effects of changes in environmental conditions, and compare the success of different reproductive strategies used by various rockfish species.

Despite declines in the late 20th century, rockfish remain an important fishery. This research will provide a quantitative method to more accurately estimate larval production in relation to oceanographic conditions, which could aid fisheries managers in producing more accurate population projections. The research will also provide important insights about how climate change could affect the fishery, allowing managers to better account for species’ ability to respond to climate change.