UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An evaluation of the effectiveness of Rockfish Conservation Areas in British Columbia, Canada Haggarty, Dana Rochelle


Networks of Marine Protected Areas are implemented to conserve fish populations, yet their effectiveness is rarely comprehensively examined or adaptively managed. In this dissertation, I evaluate a network of Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs) implemented to reverse population declines of inshore Pacific rockfishes (Sebastes spp.). First, I used SCUBA surveys to examine patterns of Black Rockfish abundance compared to spatial and temporal variability in recruitment to determine how recruitment influences population density in and around a RCA. Habitat variables such as complexity and rocky substrate predicted adult Black Rockfish abundance while recruitment did not. Next, I surveyed the fish communities of 35 RCAs and adjacent unprotected areas using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). Habitat features such as percent rocky substrates and depth influenced the density of Quillback (S. maliger), Yelloweye (S. ruberrimus), Greenstriped Rockfishes (S. elongatus), Kelp Greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus), Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) and all inshore rockfishes combined, while reserve status did not. The results give little indication that demersal fish populations have recovered inside the RCA system. I used aerial observations of recreational fishing from surveys before, during and after 77 RCAs were established and found there was no evidence of a change in fishing effort in 83% of the RCAs. Compliance was related to the level of fishing effort around the RCA, the size and perimeter-to-area ratio of RCAs, proximity to fishing lodges and the level of enforcement. Non-compliance in RCAs may be hampering their effectiveness and impeding rockfish recovery. Lastly, I modeled rocky reef habitat using Random Forest Classification to assess habitat in the RCAs. I combined three habitat metrics with data on compliance, RCA size, rockfish bycatch, and connectivity into a single Conservation Score. The Conservation Score is related to the log reserve ratio, a measure of relative abundance, for Quillback Rockfish. RCAs with low Conservation Scores are not likely to be effective and managers should evaluate the reasons for low scores and address reserve shortcomings in an adaptive spatial management framework. Education and enforcement efforts are critical to the recovery of depleted fish stocks. Continued monitoring and evaluation of the RCAs is essential to rockfish conservation.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada