Deepwater habitat and fish resources associated with the Big Creek Marine Ecological Reserve,
Big Creek Marine Ecological Reserve (BCER), located off the central California coast, has been closed to fishing since January 1994. We used side scan sonar and an occupied submersible to collect baseline information on species-habitat relationships, density, and species and size composition of fish inside and outside BCER. Forty-three dives were made in the fall of 1997 and 1998, at depths of 20-250 m. From 142 video transects, we identified over 70,000 fish from 82 taxa, including 36 species of rockfish. About 93% of the 25,159 fish inside BCER were rockfishes representing at least 20 species. Young-of-the-year rockfishes dominated rock outcrops in 20-90 m depth inside and outside BCER. Four distinct fish assemblages were associated with (1) fine, smooth sediment in deep water; (2) bedrock with uneven surface in deep water; (3) sand waves and shell hash in shallow water; and (4) boulders and organic habitats on rock in shallow water. There were no significant differences in fish density among locations (inside and outside BCER) and depths or between years. Density was significantly higher in high-relief rock habitat than in low-relief soft and mixed sediments, regardless of location. There were no consistent patterns of larger fish inside compared to outside the protected area. We recommend development of a monitoring program to continue these surveys after increased time of protection and with increased assessment effort in the appropriate habitats of economically valuable species. In addition, extending the boundaries of BCER seaward would protect habitats and fish in water depths greater than 100 m., Cited By (since 1996):18, , , Downloaded from: http://calcofi.org/publications/ccreports.html (05 June 14).