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CalCOFI - California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations
The California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) are a unique partnership of the California Department of Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The organization was formed in 1949 to study the ecological aspects of the collapse of the sardine populations off California. Today its focus has shifted to the study of the marine environment off the coast of California and the management of its living resources. The organization hosts an annual conference, publishes data reports and a scientific journal and maintains a publicly accessible data server (www.calcofi.org ).
Since 1949, CalCOFI has organized cruises to measure the physical and chemical properties of the California Current System and census populations of organisms from phytoplankton to avifauna. This is the foremost observational oceanography program in the United States.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) contributes to the CalCOFI partnership in three major areas: 1) CalCOFI sea surveys, 2) scientific research on the fisheries, ecology, and oceanography of the California Current system, and 3) communication of the results of the CalCOFI surveys and related laboratory research to the scientific community, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, and to the public. The research vessel David Starr Jordan is used on two of the four survey cruises each year. NMFS personnel conduct the ichthyoplankton sampling on all survey cruises and process these samples at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) laboratory in La Jolla, California. There, plankton displacement volumes are obtained for each sample and the fish eggs, larvae, and juveniles are separated from the invertebrate zooplankton, and subsequently identified, staged, measured. The resulting data form the CalCOFI Ichthyoplankton Data Base. The fish eggs, larvae, and juveniles are archived in the SWFSC Ichthyplankton Collection and the invertebrate plankton is transferred to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Invertebrate Collection.
CalCOFI surveys are the basis for NMFS research on the population biology of the major coastal pelagic fishes (Pacific sardine, northern anchovy, hake, Pacific mackerel, and jack mackerel) of the California Current System. NMFS monitors these important commercial species and develops management plans for their fisheries with the California Department of Fish and Game and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council. Research on these species at the SWFSC has produced information on their vital rates and behavior that has led to improved sampling and analytical techniques such as the Daily Egg Production Method, a method that permits the direct measurement of absolute spawning biomass. The discovery of large numbers of Pacific hake larvae in the 1951 CalCOFI samples became important in the development and management of the hake fishery. Because all species in the survey samples are identified, when possible, fishery-independent data on population trends of important shelf and slope groundfishes (e.g., rockfishes, Dover sole, sablefish, California halibut) are becoming increasingly important to fishery managers.
The CalCOFI survey area overlays three coastal zoogeographic provinces, a coastal upwelling zone, and three oceanic water masses. The oceanographic and ecological complexity of this region has been a fertile research field for NMFS scientists since the beginning of CalCOFI. A key goal is to learn how dynamic oceanographic features affect the distribution and abundance of important fish species and fish assemblages. This is important if we are to progress from single species to multi-species and ecosystem management strategies. Close collaboration with Mexican research partners in relation to their biological-oceanographic survey (IMECOCAL ) is vitally important to this goal. Part of this is an extensive series of international training courses given by NMFS scientists over the past thirty years.
Ship Operations Staff
Supervisor: David Griffith