Dietary variations in three co-occurring rockfish species off the Pacific Northwest during anomalous oceanographic events in 1998 and 1999


Lee, Yong-Woo, and David B. Sampson
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Stomach samples from three rockfish species, yellowtail (Sebastes flavidus), widow (S. entomelas), and canary (S. pinniger) rockfish, seasonally collected off the Pacific Northwest in 1998 and 1999, provided quantitative information on the food habits of these species during and after the 1997–98 El Niño event. Although euphausiids were the most common major prey of all three predators, gelatinous zooplankton and fishes were the most commonly consumed prey items during some seasonal quarters. The influence of the El Niño event was evident in the diets. Anomalous prey items, including the southern euphausiid species Nyctiphanes simplex and juveniles of Pacific whiting (Merluccius productus) frequently appeared in the diets in the spring and summer of 1998. The results of stomach contents analyses, based on 905 stomach samples from 49 trawl hauls during seven commercial fishing trips and from 56 stations during research surveys, were consistent with the timing of occurrence and the magnitude of change in biomass of some zooplankton species reported from zooplankton studies in the northern California Current during the 1997–98 El Niño. Our findings indicate that the observed variations of prey groups in some rockfish diets may be a function of prey variability related to climate and environment changes.