Oregon’s Coastal nearshore ecosystems are a nexus between living marine resources and coincident human recreational, industrial and socio-economic development. These nearshore regions also provide habitats vital to early life history stages of commercial non-whiting groundfish species, which supplied 21% of the Oregon fishing economy in 2018. The very shallow portions of the Oregon Coast (the area of the shelf inshore of ~30fm (180 ft or 55m) have been the subject of little to no scientific survey monitoring, and much of the details of the ecology, health and processes in these habitats remain poorly understood. Furthermore, while the activity of the offshore Pacific Whiting (Merluccius products) fleet and deeper water demersal fisheries have remained more consistent from 1976-present, the nearshore sector (which for the purposes of this thesis is defined as the region of shelf extending seaward to a water depth of 110 fathoms (200 meters or 660 feet)), has become increasingly underutilized by the Oregon commercial groundfish trawl fleet.
This thesis assesses the potential for a more comprehensive reconstruction and understanding of broad-timescale trawl effort in the Oregon nearshore to be extracted from the combined knowledge of the commercial fishing community, fisheries managers, and fisheries scientists. By better defining what has impacted Oregon’s small nearshore fleet members, this thesis explores whether the collective experiences of fishermen in the nearshore sector through time may contribute local ecological knowledge (LEK) to lesser-studied groundfish fishery habitats in Oregon. Fisheries-dependent data were collected in the form of commercial trawl logbooks, fish ticket landings, and industry interviews and assessed using mixed quantitative and qualitative methods. Results expose the nearshore sector of Oregon’s groundfish trawl fishery as a niche fishery recovering from a 20-year period of management reform and fisheries rebuilding. Less tangibly, it recognizes the self-contained identity of a small, specialized subset of the broader Oregon groundfish trawl fleet, whose endemic knowledge and experiences of the nearshore shelf prove valuable to reconstructing the history and social-constructs of the unique nearshore ecosystem.
The experiential knowledge and consistency in the exposure of the nearshore groundfish trawl fleet offer a detailed and long-standing record of the drivers and health of the groundfish fishery both spatially and temporally. Findings from this research provide an opportunity to utilize LEK to augment scientific ecological knowledge (SEK). Adopting the LEK and contacts established within the Oregon nearshore groundfish fleet from this thesis establishes a baseline for ongoing conversations, cooperation and prospective collaboration among scientists, fisheries managers and fishermen moving forward.