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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A historical perspective of California recreational fisheries using a new database of "trophy" fish records (1966-2013), combined with fisheries analyses of three species in the genus Paralabrax

  • Author(s): Bellquist, Lyall F.
  • et al.

Recreational fishing in the United States promotes economic growth, cultural traditions, and environmental stewardship, but can also negatively impact fish stocks when fisheries are mismanaged. The scale of recreational fisheries is often underestimated due to difficulties in monitoring their complex, dynamic, and often expansive nature. In California, the documented history of recreational fishing dates to the late 1800s, and the industry has grown since. In 2013, California marine anglers took 5.3 million fishing trips, landed 8.4 million fish, and contributed $2.8 billion to the economy. Despite this extensive history and the well developed fisheries of the present day, we have limited quantitative historical fisheries data as well as measurements of current fish population dynamics. We developed a new historical database of "trophy" fish catch records (1966-2013) that could provide early signs of fisheries overexploitation, given that these large size classes are generally the most vulnerable to the impacts of fishing. We also founded the Coastal Angler Tagging Cooperative in partnership with the recreational fishing community to conduct demographic analyses of three of the most important recreationally targeted inshore species in the genus Paralabrax. Historical analyses indicate that "trophy" sizes of pelagic and coastal pelagic species are generally showing little signs of decline, while most decreasing trends are exhibited by demersal species. Rockfishes in particular (Sebastes sp) have shown both temporal and spatial declines in trophy size. However, the demersal species are also the most likely to benefit from the recently implemented statewide network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and many rockfishes have begun to show positive trends since new management policies were adopted in 2001. Our analyses of Paralabrax populations indicate a positive response to the recently implemented increase in minimum size limits, as well as spatial and seasonal differences in both length frequency and catch-per-unit-effort, depending on the species. We documented a new spawning aggregation site for Barred Sand Bass (P. nebulifer), and we highlight the virtual absence of traditional spawning behavior for this species in both 2013 and 2014. Collaborations between the scientific and fishing communities can be highly successful, and we encourage this in future research efforts

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