National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2008

Modeling larval dispersion of rockfish: a tool for marine reserve design?

Stockhausen, W.T., and A.J. Hermann

In Biology, Assessment, and Management of North Pacific Rockfishes, Proceedings of the 23rd Wakefield Fisheries Symposium, J. Heifetz, J. DiCosimo, A.J. Gharrett, M.S. Love, V.M. O'Connell, and R.D. Stanley (eds.), University of Alaska Sea Grant, AK-SG-07-01, September 13-15, 2005, 251–274 (2007)

Marine reserves have been suggested as an important tool for rockfish management and conservation in the northeast Pacific Ocean. One issue confronting effective reserve design is to ensure that larvae released within a reserve system are not lost through dispersal but actually contribute to the population within the reserve areas and beyond. As a first attempt to address this issue for marine reserves in the Aleutian Islands (AI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA), we modified the particle-tracking module of a three-dimensional circulation model for the northeast Pacific to incorporate simple larval behaviors such as diel vertical migration. We used the model to simulate dispersal of rockfish larvae during peak months of larval release from a suite of potential reserve locations in the AI and GOA. Because larval behavioral patterns are unknown for most rockfish species, we incorporated several alternative behavioral models in the simulations. We also addressed intra- and interannual variation in dispersal by repeating the simulations with larval release occurring during several different months for two different years. Model results indicate that retention of larvae near release sites is greatest for sites in the AI and least for sites in the GOA. However, we regard these results as preliminary and as a demonstration of the modeling approach rather than as an actual basis for selecting reserve areas.

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