Trophic Ecology of the Gopher Rockfish (Sebastes carnatus): Providing Baseline Information for Evaluation of Marine Protected Areas


How are the California Central Coast marine protected areas (MPAs), which were established in 2007, affecting gopher rockfish? This project will compare gopher rockfish diets inside and outside four MPAs: Año Nuevo, Piedras Blancas, Point Buchon, and the Point Lobos State Marine Conservation Areas. Previous studies have shown MPAs can increase the number of predators inside the protected areas and that this can alter the local trophic structure. The overall goal of this project is to discover the ecological impacts of no-take marine reserves, using the gopher rockfish as a case study. Since 2007, researchers have collected more than a thousand gopher rockfishes. Over the course of the next two years, their stomach contents will be analyzed for typical prey items. In addition, isotope samples will be analyzed from white muscle tissue, adding to the overall dietary information. Findings will provide ecological information on how these four MPAs affect the food web along the Central Coast.