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Open Access Timing of juvenile fish settlement at offshore oil platforms coincides with water mass advection into the Santa Barbara Channel, California

Recent pathways taken by pelagic juvenile fishes to offshore oil platforms were reconstructed from remotely sensed and in situ measurements of currents and hydrography. Juvenile fishes comprised 52.8% (16,952 of 23 species) of all individuals (32,080 juveniles and adults of 35 species) observed during scuba surveys conducted about twice per week at two platforms in the eastern Santa Barbara Channel from May to August 2004. Blacksmith, Chromis punctipinnis (Cooper, 1863), and rockfishes (genus Sebastes, at least 18 taxa) comprised 95.1% of the recruits. Almost all rockfishes recruited to the deepest part of the platforms surveyed (26 and 31 m), while most blacksmith recruited in shallower waters. The onset of the recruitment season for juvenile rockfishes (genus Sebastes, Scorpaenidae) coincided with the advection of a low salinity water mass into the channel from the Southern California Bight. Before arrival of this water mass, water at the platforms resembled upwelled, high salinity water around the Point Conception region at the western channel entrance. Settlement pulses of rockfishes and blacksmith were observed during advective events when salinity decreased in the upper 40 m and currents turned northwestward or intensified in that direction. Two abundant rockfish species [bocaccio, Sebastes paucispinis Ayres, 1854, and treefish, Sebastes serriceps (Jordan and Gilbert, 1880)] showed synchronous patterns of juvenile settlement between platforms separated by 7 km. Our findings indicate that currents from the bight, rather than from central California, supplied recruits to settlement habitat in the eastern channel and that the spatial scale of connectivity for some fish populations in this region is greater than the channel itself.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106;, Email: [email protected] 2: Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106; Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106 3: Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106 4: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Pacific OCS Region, 760 Paseo Camarillo, Camarillo, California 93010

Publication date: October 1, 2019

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