Whatcom County MRC Project - Bottom fish
Bottom fish are a group of marine fish that have received far less local attention than other marine fish, such as salmon and forage fish. "Bottom fish” are a wide variety of bottom-dwelling (“demersal”) fish found in Whatcom County and Puget Sound waters. Bottom fish are generally long-lived fish and take a number of years to reach sexual maturity. Thus, it can take bottom fish populations decades to recover from population decreases.
There have been limited data collected on Pacific bottom fish populations, including those in Whatcom County. The Whatcom County Marine Resources Committee seeks to collect information about historical and current bottom fish populations and habitat. This information is used to help identify areas of focus for further community education, data collection, and/or recommendations to the fisheries co-managers regarding priority bottom fish populations and habitat for protection.
There are five main components to the bottom fish program including:
- Compilation of existing information about Whatcom County bottom fish populations and habitat.
- Interview surveys of local commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, and divers to identify historical and current bottom fish populations.
- Community workshops to describe bottom fish, the pressures on their populations and preservation and management techniques. These workshops also involved an interactive discussion with community participants to identify historical and current bottom fish population.
- Community outreach materials to describe bottom fish that are found in Whatcom County marine waters.
surveys to gather baseline data on rockfish populations
and locations. These surveys are accomplished using a
vehicle (ROV) in cooperation with Western Washington
The Whatcom County MRC worked with People for Puget Sound to host three community workshops in Febraury 2003 in an effort solicit “local knowledge” of bottom fish resources in Whatcom County waters. Two workshops were held in Bellingham and one workshop was held in Blaine. Approximately 50 community members attended the workshops. Participants identified themselves as recreational divers, commercial (trawl) fishermen, and interested residents, some of whom were sport fishers.
The workshops consisted of a presentation by MRC members describing bottom fish in Whatcom County, the threats to their populations, and different management techniques which may be helpful in protecting bottom fish. The presentation was followed by an open discussion with participants about where bottom fish are or used to be in Whatcom County waters. Maps were used to help further indicate areas with current and historic bottom fish populations.
These surveys and workshops led to the development of maps indicating areas where bottom fish had historically been fished. Whatcom County Bottomfish Project Final Report (March 2003) (PDF)Whatcom County Natural Resources Division. The three fact sheets focus on sole and flounder, rockfish, and lingcod.
Sebastes), are one group of bottom fish found in Puget Sound and off the coast from California to Alaska. Rockfish are an important food source for other fish, marine mammals, and humans. Additionally, they are prized for both their recreational and commercial fishing value and by divers. However, one common theme amongst rockfish species is the lack of biological and stock status information. Thus, the distribution and abundance of rockfish is not well documented in Whatcom County waters.
The Marine Resources Committee began rockfish surveys using a remotely-operated-vehicle (ROV) in 2007 to better characterize local rockfish populations and their habitats. This effort has been in coordination with Western Washington University faculty and students. These data are valuable as baseline values from which to compare future survey data against.
- ROV Assessment of Rockfish Abundance, Distribution, and Habitat in Whatcom County Marine Waters(Grove and Shull, June 2008) (PDF)
- Survey of Whatcom County, Washington Nearshore Rockfish by Remotely Operated Vehicle and Implications for Marine Protected Areas (Smith and Shull, June 2009) (PDF)