One new strategy that has gained in popularity in recent years is the establishment of marine sanctuaries, which are areas of coastline where the harvesting of plants or animals is prohibited (Davis, 1989). These "no harvest" areas offer protection to multiple species of fish and the habitat required for restoration of fish populations (Schmidt, 1997). As fish numbers increase within these protected areas some fish will "spill over" the sanctuary boundaries, contributing to fisheries in adjacent areas (Holland et al., 1996; Russ and Alcala, 1996).

Although the concept of marine sanctuaries has been strongly supported both by conservation groups and fishers, their placement and size is still largely debated (Schmidt, 1997). Much of the debate is attributed to the lack of scientific information available on the movement patterns and habitat preferences of target fish species, species of recreational or commercial value (Holland et al., 1993; Zeller and Russ, 1998). Without knowing how far juvenile and adult fish range on a daily basis and the habitat they prefer, it is difficult to determine the most effective size and location of these sanctuaries for the protection of these stocks.

Big Fisherman’s Cove, located on the east side of Santa Catalina Island, has been a marine sanctuary for nearly 30 years. This location provides an excellent opportunity to quantify the daily range of movements and habitat preferences of target fish species within an existing marine sanctuary. We have been quantifying the daily movement patterns of fish in Big Fisherman's Cove using acoustic telemetry techniques.

The California Sheephead will be our next species of interest in Big Fisherman's Cove. Adult kelp bass tracked in our study remained within the boundary of the marine reserve. Their home ranges were on average only 3% of the size of the entire marine reserve. Fish were active during both day and night and covered the same amount of area during both times of day. Kelp bass tracked near artificial habitats, such as the pier and rip rap, had smaller home ranges than fish tracked in the center of Big Fisherman’s Cove. These differences are probably due to differences in habitat quality. Kelp bass seem to prefer rocky habitat that offers high vertical relief and shade (e.g. kelp, rock boulders, the pier, and rip rap).

Darin Topping deploying a VR2 acoustic monitor in the Catalina Island Marine Reserve. These monitors listen for kelp bass and sheephead surgically fitted with individually coded acoustic transmitters. These transmitters will last for up to 8 months.

Bathymetry map showing the home ranges of kelp bass tracked in the Catalina Island Marine Reserve. Each polygon represents the home range of each fish. The red dashed line represents the reserve boundary. Map by Darin Topping

This research is funded by USC Sea grant (, and through by CSULB Scholarly and Creative Activity faculty grant. This work couldn’t be done without the assistance of the many graduate and undergraduate students from CSU Long Beach. Additional logistical support has been provided by Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies and the Ocean Studies Institute. The movement patterns of sheephead research is part of a collaborative effort with Dr. Jennifer Caselle of UC Santa Barbara. Funds for this project have been provided through a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant awarded to Dr. Caselle.


Last Updated: Friday, 03-Dec-2004 00:27:15 PST                                                  Copyrighted Sharklab 1999-2004