Case Study: Cowcod Conservation Areas
Cowcod rockfish are found at depths of 70-350 meters, primarily in the Southern California Bight where adult habitat is most common. The CCAs are depth-based closures, aimed to prevent bottom trawling and fishing of Cowcod. They span from Pt. Conception to the Mexico Border, and have been in place for over 15 years. Because they have been in places for so long, they have yielded great success.
While commercial fishermen argued that the closures were crushing their livelihoods, environmental groups pushed for more conservative measures. But in 2019 the groups came together and changes were made to the RCA and CCAs, based on new scientific evidence. The depth limits of both were expanded, allowing more fishing especially for recreational fishermen. These changes were thanks to new scientific evidence that shows that the Cowcod and Yellow-eye populations are recovering faster than anticipated! Surveys showed that for some species, catch limits are more than doubling.
Case Study: Canary Rockfish
Canary rockfish stocks are the most recently rebuilt. Due to overfishing, their stocks were at an all-time low in 2000. If the trend would have continued, then they might have disappeared from the west coast altogether. To prevent that from happening, a multitude of conservation efforts were established including area closures, which prohibited the removal of all groundfish within designated boundaries, and careful monitoring of times and seasons fishermen were able to go out and fish. Area closures, mainly RCAs, aided in the stocks recovery by prohibiting the take of all rockfish and reducing fishing pressures.
Established in 2002 to minimize catch of overfished species such as Darkblotched and Canary Rockfish, the RCA closed a coast-wide ribbon of ocean between depths of 100 and 150 fathoms. The boundaries were set so that overfished species aren’t in the areas where and when fishing is allowed, helping protect those species. Although appropriate for its time, the RCA was a tough regulatory blow to the fishing community. While it closed some areas of sensitive, high value habitat like underwater cliffs, rock piles, and pinnacles where several species that were considered overfished congregate and reproduce, it also prevented access to vast areas of sandy, soft-bottom seafloor where more plentiful target species like Dover sole and Sablefish are found.
However, through these combined conservation efforts, canary numbers were able to recover and grow, and their full comeback was declared rebuilt in 2015, fifteen years ahead of schedule! This was evident as the catch quota for the commercial fishery increased from 1,800 lbs to 34,000 lbs. As a result, recreational fishermen have been provided with more fishing opportunities as they can now fish deeper waters in search for canaries.