The Fisheries Resources Division genetics program has developed many genetic markers for several important fish species, such as groundfish, billfish, and coastal pelagic species, and is working to determine stock structure, dispersal distances, and the design of MPA networks.
The laboratory also houses a collection of over 20,000 groundfish tissue samples, which includes virtually all extant rockfish species and DNA extracted from museum specimens. In addition, SWFSC Genetics has pioneered the development of automated molecular ID of eggs and larvae from RFLPsto Multiplex PCR and finally gene arrays. Presently they have a 20+ species gene array that covers most species encountered in the CalCOFI grid. One new molecular genetic species identification method uses DNA-specific probes and optical detection to identify larval rockfish samples in real-time (hours, not months), at sea (Fig. 1). This method improves our observations by allowing for real-time adaptive sampling, and gives us a better understanding of the early life history of over-fished rockfish stocks.
Figure 1.Agaroseminigelof Sebastes (pteropodus) identification PCR
In cooperation with the NWFSC we have also developed statistical techniques for analysis of bomb radiocarbon data and have completed several projects to assess ageing error of black and canary rockfish, using bomb radiocarbon and stable isotopes (papers submitted in 2004). Currently these methods are being applied to other rockfish species.
Among the facilities at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) in La Jolla, CA, is a 3,500 square foot sea-water experimental aquarium, in operation since 1965. The Center is located at the top of a cliff, 210 feet above the Pacific Ocean, to the north of Scripps Institution of Oceanography(SIO), on the campus of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). The University upgraded and extended an existing sea-water pumping, filtering, and delivery system to provide SWFSC and the expanded SIO facilities with water. Aquarium research efforts are centered on rockfish reproduction, culture and early life history, along with various other concurrent projects. Rockfishes of the genus Sebastes comprise one of the most important and heavily utilized groups of commercial and recreational fishes occurring off California. Over the last few years there has been increasing concern that certain populations and species of rockfishes are showing signs of overutilization. One of the goals of our research is to learn more about the life-history of various species of rockfish, given that much of this information is incomplete or lacking.
The SWFSC FRD has maintained over 10 species of rockfish in the experimental aquarium and has succeeded in getting some to mate, brood, and produce viable larvae. Larvae have been reared (not without difficulty) to the juvenile stage and papers describing larval and juvenile morphology have been produced. Collaborations with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and oil companies have resulted in establishment of captive brood stocks of bocaccio, vermillion, and cowcod. Currently, several species of rockfish are housed in the aquarium, although no experiments are associated with them at this time.
Molecular Genetics Lab and Aquarium Team