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Black Rockfish Recovery in West Vancouver

The Aquarium team has been attempting to establish black rockfish where they were once abundant along the shoreline of West Vancouver.  Black rockfish are still abundant on the outer coast, but they were fished out around Vancouver after the advent of sport downrigger gear in the 1960s.

Black Rockfish


Black Rockfish Recovery

We are not really prepared to boast this to the world, but signs are emerging that our black rockfish transplants have succeeded.  For several years we have been seeing single individual blacks at sites like Hole in the Wall or Whytecliff, but this year we have seen two at Cliff Cove (Telegraph Cove), seven at Larsen Bay and ten at Point Atkinson.  There were two young year-classes mixed at Point Atkinson. 

The acoustic tag transplants in 2005/2006, from the same Ucluelet cohort as the 1997/1998 transplants, were pretty well mature fish (1996 brood year), so that may have added enough to enable a successful breeding colony.  We are learning with our Pacific Canada display at the Aquarium (coppers versus quillbacks) that a colony has to be over 10-12 fish or there will not be many pregnancies (and partial pregnancies will occur).

There have been observations of schools of black rockfish dwindling in other areas in the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound, and one possibility aside from fishing mortality is that the fish may have moved into deeper water as their body size increased.  Rockfish generally move deeper as they become older, so this is to be expected, but scuba divers tend to notice a “disappearance” and then interpret that observation as an indication of fishing losses.  Both processes can occur together, of course.

It is wonderful to watch the way these new, young fish use the exact same ledges as our original transplants did at the same body size.  When they get bigger we will probably only see them in the deeper caves, but our hope is that all of the bigger fish are still there, just beyond our diving reach.  The Aquarium fish research team plans to fold full details about all the transplants, as well as these recent observations, into the acoustic tagging manuscript that is underway. 

Young Black Rockfish Spotted

The video below was filmed in In January 2012 - we observed dozens of young black rockfish at Lighthouse Park - suspected offspring of fish we transplanted there from 1997 to 2006. These young also occur in abundance at nearby Bird Islets, but are not seen further away at Whytecliff Park, which lends to the argument that they were born in Lighthouse Park from the fish we transplanted there. Within a decade this species may repopulate all of Howe Sound and Vancouver Harbour.

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Did You Know?

Did You Know?

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