Oregon State University

Lines in the Water - Video Transcript




Fish populations around the world are shrinking. Many species are in steep decline after decades of overfishing and pollution.  Climate change, too, is affecting sea life, altering the oceans’ chemistry, physics and biology in ways that are just beginning to be understood.


When fisheries collapse, it’s not only fish and their ecosystems that get hurt. The people who live in coastal communities feel the impact on their economies, their families and their way of life.


One solution is to create protected areas called marine reserves. A growing body of research suggests that reserves — areas that are off-limits to fishing — can help restore depleted fish stocks and revive damaged ecosystems.


A small town on Oregon’s rugged southern coast has taken a leadership role in developing marine reserves. At first glance, Port Orford may seem an unlikely spearhead for marine reserves, which have met with resistance in many other fishing communities. Several years ago, local leaders and fishermen — recognizing the deepening crisis in global fisheries — decided  that marine reserves were inevitable. So when the governor launched an initiative to create a network of reserves off the Oregon Coast, the town decided to step up and take an active role.



As we like to say with these marine reserves here, the fishermen too get involved with all this. Instead of having odds between the scientists and the fishermen, we actually have the scientists and fishermen working together to get both sides of the picture and a more rounded view of what’s going on.



The result was the establishment of one of the state’s first two pilot reserves at a reef called Redfish Rocks



The Redfish Rocks ecosystem. Well, that’s a very specific area of high rocky relief with emerging rocky pinnacles that you can see from land very nearshore. It’s home to several species of rockfish. It’s a very biolgically diverse ecosystem.



Today, scientists at Oregon State University are part of a multi-agency research project led by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to study the effectiveness of Redfish Rocks reserve.


The reef was designated off-limits to fishing in 2008 so the scientists could investigate how well it protects reef-dwelling organisms and their habitats.


A big unknown is how often and how far various fish species travel outside the boundaries of the reserve. To find answers, one OSU study is using acoustic technologies to track rockfish as they forage for food.



Well, in my work I’m going to be tagging — I’ve begun to tag I should say — members of six different species. Five of those species are rockfishes. I’m tagging canary rockfish, China, quillback, copper and black rockfish. The sixth species is not a rockfish but a sculpin, and its common name is the cabezon.



We go out, and we collect fish, bring the fish to the surface. We put it in a surgery cradle. And we have salt water being pumped over its gills to keep it oxygenated. We make a small incision into the abdomen, and we insert a tag. It’s a pinger really. It’s a small tag that is battery powered and has a microchip in it. This tag will send out a chirp. It just says “beep,” here I am. If that fish is within about 300 to 400 meters of one of our hydrophones, that hydrophone will record that chirp. And so we insert the tag. We stitch up a couple of sutures really quick. And then we put the fish into a large cage that we put over the side with a camera on it. We lower the cage down to the bottom. And when it gets to the bottom, we pull a release lever, the bottom of the cage drops out, and we can watch on the camera as the fish swims away to ensure that it swam away under its own power.



The goal for all the stakeholders is to learn how and to what extent marine reserves benefit biodiversity in Oregon’s coastal waters. At stake is nothing less than the long-term sustainability of the state’s fishing industry, as well as the overall health of ocean ecosystems.



If we can see that with these reserve areas, with the research, that we are gaining, get that spillover effect to where it promotes a very sustainable fishery, a lot of the guys fall into the area where that support it and they will support it.



Together, Oregon’s scientists, fishermen, lawmakers and community leaders are working toward a healthier future for oceans and the people who depend on them.

Contact Info

Copyright ©  2014 Oregon State University