Changes in Oregon’s nearshore fish assemblages, through the eyes of scientists and fishermen (2018-20)

Lorenzo Ciannelli
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
Oregon State University

Co-PIs: Flaxen Conway (Oregon State University/Oregon Sea Grant); Waldo Wakefield (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Northwest Fisheries Science Center); Robert Eder (ARGOS, Inc.); David Fox (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Fishing effort shifts over the past 30 years have reduced commercial trawling in Oregon’s nearshore waters. Currently, fishermen are interested in returning to these coastal sedimentary habitats and diversifying their fishing options. However, without a biological baseline in these areas, it is difficult to evaluate the economic and ecological consequences of increased nearshore trawling. A better understanding of this habitat, and its critical role as a nursery for commercially harvested species (e.g., Dungeness crab, coastal flatfishes, and several rockfish species), would fill data gaps for fishery scientists, inform management plans, and potentially restore historic harvest areas.

The project brings together fishermen’s knowledge (local ecological knowledge, or LEK) to augment and complement scientific surveys (scientific ecological knowledge, or SEK) on fish assemblages, or groupings, in the nearshore. A team of Oregon fishermen, managers, and scientists will generate information on nearshore fish assemblages by combining LEK and SEK, representing the state’s first use of these paired techniques. Several families have fished Oregon’s nearshore waters for decades, acquiring invaluable LEK about these areas. Spanning a similar time period, five separate surveys, beginning in the 1970s and continuing through today, assess Oregon’s nearshore fish community resources, producing SEK for these same waters. The resulting information will be used to characterize coastal fish assemblages over the past five decades and to inform fishermen, scientists, and managers about the use and sustainability of these habitats.

By studying the current and historical dynamics of fish assemblages and fishing activities, the collaborative team will establish a baseline for biological and industry activities in Oregon’s nearshore environment and build capacity for collaborative research among fishermen, scientists, and managers. A focus on understudied coastal habitats and fisheries resources allows a comprehensive look at both the ecological and sociocultural resilience of coastal habitats and fisheries resources.

OSG Thematic Areas: Human and natural dimensions of coastal and marine fisheries; Ecological, social, and economic aspects of coastal development; Cultural beliefs and learning valuation

National Sea Grant Strategic Plan Focus Areas: Healthy coastal ecosystems, Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture

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