, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 1032–1043

Evidence for a regime shift after the 1997–1998 El Niño, based on 1995, 1998, and 2001 acoustic surveys in the Pacific Eastern Boundary Current


DOI: 10.1007/BF02803361

Cite this article as:
Swartzman, G. & Hickey, B. Estuaries (2003) 26: 1032. doi:10.1007/BF02803361


Increasing physical oceanographic evidence suggests that a regime shift, which featured increased equatoward surface winds and upwelling in the Eastern Pacific Boundary Current region, occurred following the 1997–1998 El Niño. We expect the signal of this change in biota to be stronger in euphausiids than in pelagic fishes such as Pacific hake (Merluccius productus) because lower trophic levels are more responsive to changes in upwelling and primary production. We used acoustic backscatter data from acoustic surveys in summer 1995, 1998, and 2001 to explore whether significant changes in abundance and distribution of euphausiids and fishes have occurred between 1995 and 2001. Graphical and statistical results show that the density of fish schools and euphausiid patches increased significantly south of Cape Blanco between 1995 and both 1998 and 2001. North of Cape Blanco there was no consistent change in euphausiid abundance, although both fish and euphausiid distributions in 2001 appear to be significantly higher nearshore than in the other years. Pelagic fish abundance distributions appeared more closely linked to El Niño than to regime shifts, with abundance shifted much farther north in 1998, an El Niño year, than in the other years, while 1995 and 2001 fish abundance distributions are similar to each other. The regime shift appears so far to have had a stronger effect on euphausiids than on pelagic fishes. The change in euphausiid abundance and distribution between the survey years was linked, through a conceptual model, to the relative strength of the poleward flowing California undercurrent and equatorward flowing California current and to the distribution and abundance of hake.

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© Estuarine Research Federation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied Physics LaboratoryUniversity of WashingtonSeattle
  2. 2.School of OceanographyUniversity of WashingtonSeattle