Article

Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 161-178

First online:

An experimental study of the habitat preferences and movement patterns of copper, quillback, and brown rockfishes (Sebastes spp.)

  • Kathleen R. MatthewsAffiliated withFisheries Research Institute WH-10, University of Washington

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Synopsis

A study was designed to test whether habitat association affects the movement patterns and habitat preferences of copper, quillback, and brown rockfishes. Resighting of tagged rockfishes (512 tagged rockfishes and 726 resightings) from July 1986 through June 1988 indicated that home ranges, movements from reefs, and tendency to return from experimental displacement (up to 8.0 km) were significantly different on the three habitat types compared. On high relief rocky reefs, rockfishes maintained small home ranges (most within 30 m2) and displayed strong reef fidelity that was not affected by season; no off-reef movement was detected and rockfishes generally returned from displacements. On artificial reefs, rockfishes also maintained small home ranges (most within 30 m2), however, there were pronounced seasonal habitat preferences. In the summer, artificial reefs become less suitable; considerable off-reef movement occurred and rockfish did not return from displacements. In contrast, during fall and winter, rockfishes remained on artificial reefs and returned from displacements. On low relief rocky reefs, rockfishes maintained considerably larger home ranges (most within 400 m2 and some up to 1500 m2) and habitat use was strongly affected by season; rockfishes only inhabited low relief reefs in the summer and only returned from displacements in the summer coincident when peak algal cover. In addition, there was substantial movement between artificial reefs and adjacent low relief reefs; many rockfishes leave artificial reefs in the summer, move to low relief reefs, and return to artificial reefs in the fall when kelp disappears on low relief reefs. Through habitat assessment, movement in response to habitat quality, and ability to home, these rockfish maintain a flexible behavior for optimal habitat use.

Key words

Homing Fish behavior Habitat assessment Nearshore marine reefs Displacement experiments