Using Habitat Specific, Spatial Demographic Information to Improve Stock Assessments of Groundfishes

Principal Investigator: Jameal Samhouri, Scott Hamilton, Jason Cope

Co-Principal Investigators:

External Collaborators:

Progress report November 2016

Demographic rates and life history traits are the building blocks of modern stock assessment models. Using lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) as a focal stock, our project plans to develop a new framework for collecting key, smaller spatial scale, habitat-specific data about lingcod in order to determine if these data can improve stock assessments regionally along the US West Coast. Toward this goal, we have made significant progress towards meeting the project objectives, including:

  1. Logistical planning and coordination amongst agencies was a major task for this reporting period. We arranged contracts for chartering sportfishing boats to sample lingcod on high relief rocky reef habitat along the West Coast with the assistance of PSFMC and obtained signed contracts from captains in all 16 ports we sampled in the 2016 season (Table 1). We also worked with state fisheries management agencies in Washington, Oregon, and California to secure scientific collecting permits for the work and secured our federal Scientific Research Permit from NOAA.
  2. Continuation of a special projects collaboration with the NWFSC trawl survey team. This collaboration has already yielded ~1,000 lingcod fin rays collected during 2014 from soft bottom habitats in all 5 regions. These fish can be used to examine regional differences in lingcod size, weight-length relationships, length- and weight-at-age, and to obtain mortality estimates (via catch curve analysis). In addition, the NWFSC trawl survey team collected ~150 lingcod during 2015 for our project. A Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML) graduate student Laurel Lam participated on one leg of the cruise to collect lingcod in July 2015 and helped organize the transport of samples to MLML. Since that time, she has worked with two undergraduate assistants to dissect all the recently trawl-caught specimens, to obtain tissue samples, aging structures, weigh various organs, and preserve gut contents for dietary analyses. In June 2016, Laurel participated on another trawl survey cruise off Oregon and we received lingcod samples from soft bottom habitats from the trawl survey throughout the 2016 sampling season from stations located along the West Coast from Washington to Southern California.
  3. Establishment of a new collaboration with Krista Nichols and Kelly Andrews at NOAA NWFSC to conduct genetic testing on lingcod tissue samples. The goal is to use genomic techniques to identify the geographic scale of population genetic differentiation in lingcod and whether genetic population breaks correspond with life history and demographic breaks along the coast. To that end, on a sampling trip out of San Francisco we collected tissue samples from gill, blood, muscle, liver, and fin using multiple preservation techniques for genetic testing to identify which tissues yielded the highest quality DNA. This analysis identified gill tissue stored in ethanol as the best candidate and we modified the sampling protocol accordingly.
  4. Graduate student Bonnie Brown from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories joined the team and is studying geographic and ontogenetic variation in the trophic ecology of lingcod across the West Coast by using gut content and stable isotope analysis on the lingcod sampled during the project. Bonnie teamed up with Laurel to help lead lingcod collections throughout the summer and they had two undergraduate student interns (Bailey Warren and Kevin Critchlow) from CSU Monterey Bay through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Center (UROC) program that participated on the fishing trips and dissections. The UROC students also developed independent projects. For example, Bailey examined whether external copepod parasite loads differ geographically or with the size and sex of the lingcod.
  5. Procurement of field and lab supplies needed to catch and process lingcod, including fishing gear, tackle, and descending devices, coolers and other sample storage, foul weather gear, dissecting supplies, supplies for aging lingcod, and storage and preservation supplies for tissues and stomach contents.
  6. Collections of lingcod (Fig. 1) were completed at 7 ports by June 30, 2016 and we continued this large-scale sampling effort throughout the summer and fall (Table 1). In addition, all the lingcod collected for the rocky reef sampling efforts have been measured, weighed, and dissected to preserve spines for age and growth, gut contents and muscle tissue for diet, gill tissue for genetics, and liver and gonad weights for condition indices.

Table 1. Summary of collection activities for the current reporting period and future planned activities. Shown are the dates, ports, and boats used to sample lingcod, along with the number of fish collected and the number of unique volunteer anglers that participated on the project in each port.

Date(s)PortBoat name# lingcod collected# volunteer anglers
Jan 18-19Monterey, CAChubasco17113
Feb 3 & Mar 19San Francisco, CATigerfish16918
April 18-19Morro Bay, CAEndeavor9414
May 25-26Bodega Bay, CANew Sea Angler14413
June 21-24Westport, WAHula Girl17812
June 27-28Neah Bay, WAMalia Kai1085
June 29-30La Push, WAMalia Kai1005
July 5-6Garibaldi, ORGaribaldi Charters8411
July 8 & 11Newport, OROcean Captain6915
July 14-15Bandon, ORProwler129
July 17-18Brookings, ORTidewinds SF10118
July 21 & 25Ft. Bragg, CATelStarTBDTBD
July 26-27Eureka, CAReel SteelTBDTBD
Sept 19Santa Barbara, CAStardustTBDTBD
Oct 19-20San Diego, CATBDTBDTBD
Totals to date  1230133

Lingcod Sampling Trip

Figure 1. Photos from the lingcod sampling trip in out of Westport, depicting the range of sizes of lingcod collected from the open coast off Washington State.

Project #


InPort ID#




Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC)


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