The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is the lead management agency for Oregon's marine reserves. The goals of the reserves are to conserve marine habitats and biodiversity and serve as scientific reference sites to learn about marine reserves and inform nearshore management. Each of Oregon's marine reserve sites are unique - they have different sizes, are located in different places along the Oregon coast, and have unique coastal communities associated with them. By studying each of these places throughout time, we can better understand the values and contributions of these sites to Oregon's ocean health and Oregonians.
In addition to monitoring different aspects of Oregon's marine reserves, ODFW is studying "comparison areas," or places near the marine reserves that are open to fishing (the marine reserves are not open to fishing). This will allow them to compare the amount of change that occurs over time in a comparison area relative to a marine reserve. ODFW and its partners are monitoring five components of the reserves and comparison areas: invertebrate species, algal communities, habitat characteristics, and oceanographic conditions.
ODFW is using four sampling tools to conduct monitoring: video lander surveys, remotely-operated video (ROV) surveys, hook and line surveys, and subtidal SCUBA surveys.
ODFW uses divers to identify and count macroalgal, invertebrate, and fish communities in rocky reef habitats, counting organisms, noting habitat types, topographic relief of the substrate, invertebrates, algae, fish species.
ODFW collects fish data through the help of volunteer anglers aboard chartered fishing boats to catch and release fish. All fish caught by the volunteers are measured and released. to assess differences in average fish length before and after the reserve is closed to fishing, both inside the reserve and outside in the comparison areas (monitoring sites open to fishing). By sampling over time, ODFW determines whether fish sizes as well as catch rates (catch per unit effort) are changing due to cessation of fishing.
The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is driven by an operator from a boat, controlled via an umbilical cable. The ROV can swim up, down, and around obstacles and follow along a transect line, like a SCUBA diver. The high-definition video is later analyzed for fish, invertebrates, and habitat type. The ROV is perfect for surveying rocky habitats all the way out to the deepest parts of the reserves.
The video lander is a stationary, underwater camera system using high-definition GoPro™ cameras to assess relative abundance of invertebrates, fish species, and habitat characteristics.
ODFW is working with partners to quantify abundance and diversity of pelagic juveniles fishes settling into the nearshore habitats. SMURF (Standard Monitoring Units for the Recruitment of Fishes) devices attached to moorings are currently in use in two marine reserves to sample juvenile fishes. While monitoring fish settlement is still in its infancy along the Oregon coast, eventually this information can be used to inform managers how to best design, place, and manage these reserves into the future.
Thanks to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for the use of their graphics, icons, and photos.