Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Monitoring Project

1978 - 1998 DFG Fishery-independent Hook-and-line Fishing Surveys Along Central California Coast

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Anne Elston
    California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Paulo Serpa
    California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • David Ven Tresca
    California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Start Date: July 18, 1978
End Date: September 20, 1998

The California Department of Fish and Game's Central California Marine Sport Fish Survey (Refugia Project) conducted fishery-independent hook-and-line fishing surveys along the central California coast in nearshore waters, adjacent to kelp beds and over rocky reefs, from 1978 to 1998. The goals of these surveys were to: 1. Tag and release sport fish species for studies on residentiality and growth;
2. Recapture fishes tagged on previous cruises;
3. Translocate fishes to neighboring reef systems to determine homing behavior;
4. Sample nearshore reef systems for sport fish species on which fishing pressure is light or non-existent;
5. Determine species and size composition and gather information on length, weight, age, and reproductive state of the various sport fish species collected within the study area.

Findings of this study are summarized in Fish Bulletin 177, Biological aspects of nearshore rockfishes of the genus Sebastes with notes on ecologically related species (Lea et al. 1999). This project make these data available the scientific community or fisheries managers. The data may be used to evaluate future trends in central California coastal fisheries, and to serve as a baseline in assessing the potential for effectiveness in proposed MPAs. These data have been entered into a Microsoft Access database which is available for download on the internet at the Department's website as well as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network (SIMoN) web site.

Summary to Date

The decline in the success and quality of central California's nearshore fisheries which occurred from the 1980s to the 1990s has underscored the need for management strategies based on historical time-series of species composition, densities, and length information. Without such baseline information it is very difficult to develop a proactive fishery management plan.

The overarching goal of this project is to provide a benchmark historical dataset from past Refugia Project fishing surveys to the scientific community and fishery managers for evaluation of future trends in central California's coastal fisheries. Additionally, this information will serve as a baseline to assess the effectiveness of currently proposed MPAs. Although data collection via fishing surveys for the Refugia Project was opportunistic, the data still provide insights into the spatial and temporal changes in species composition, mean lengths, and CPUH in central California's nearshore fish stock.

Data summaries by area and 3-year periods portray where and when survey effort occurred, and provides valuable information about the resultant catch. When opportunities arise to conduct additional surveys at many of the locations fished during this project; hopefully, these surveys will be more systematic and focused on colleting a robust dataset.

More information on this project, including data summaries can be found at


David VenTresca of CDFG writes June 2007:
The California Department of Fish and Game's Central California Marine Sport Fish Survey (Refugia Project) has collected both fishery-dependent and fishery-independent data on nearshore sport fish species along the central California coast from 1958 though 2006. These research and monitoring efforts included: sport and commercial creel surveys; hook-and-line tagging surveys to assess fish movement; underwater surveys using scuba to assess numbers, sizes and habitat associations of young-of-the-year and adult fishes; life history studies of the age, morphometric, meristic, somatic and reproductive characteristics of finfish species; oceanographic surveys; and bottom mapping.

By 2004, although the results of many of these studies were published in Department in-house reports, scientific journals and on Internet web sites, the scientific community did not have access to the digitized and edited "raw data" and metadata. From 2005 through 2007 an effort was conducted to centralize and archive the many Refugia Project long time-series datasets, associated metadata and supporting documentation. The staff that completed this project has great expectations that our efforts to facilitate access to these long time-series datasets will be useful and that they will be valuable resource for the future protection and enhance of our marine resources (see link below). We encourage you to disseminate this link to others.

The database can be found at:

David A. VenTresca
Associate Marine Biologist
California Department of Fish & Game
Marine Region Headquarters
20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100
Monterey, CA 93940
voice: 831/649-2881

Study Parameters

  • Range/Biogeography
  • Abundance
  • Migration/movement patterns
  • Reproduction
  • Tagging

Figures and Images

School of blue rockfish (Sebastes mystinus), a common mid-water species sampled in this study. Photo: King / MBNMS.

Copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus), a common benthic species sampled in this study. Photo: King / MBNMS.