Fishing Impacts
Channel Islands

photo of a commercial fishing vessel
Most recent data shows that approximately 450 commercial vessels fish in the sanctuary.This photo shows a commercial squid fishing vessel. Credit: Robert Schwemmer, CINMS, NOAA

Why is it a concern?

Impacts from fishing within the Channel Islands through direct take, bycatch, and habitat damage affect the marine environment and marine organisms in numerous ways. Targeted species have exhibited high variability in landings from year to year and several species have seen extensive declines in catch. Fishing at unsustainable rates can alter ecosystem structure by removing species that play key ecological roles. In particular, declines have been observed in all species of abalone (except red abalone) and a number of rockfish species, partially as a result of overexploitation. Most recent data shows that approximately 450 commercial vessels fish in the sanctuary. Recreational fishing is primarily in the eastern half of the sanctuary that lies within easy boating distance to the mainland. Bycatch, defined as the unintentional take of non-target species, may be significant for some fisheries in the Channel Islands. Some fishing gear, such as trawls and dredging gear, can cause temporary or permanent damage to benthic marine habitats and fauna.

The sanctuarys response to pressures on living marine resources has been to work cooperatively on regulations, enforcement, and monitoring. Implementation of the network of marine protected areas within the sanctuary was accomplished by working closely with public stakeholders, the state, and NOAA Fisheries. Scientists at universities, government agencies, and non-profit organizations work in partnership with the sanctuary to monitor the effectiveness of the reserves. In addition, the sanctuary has a socioeconomic monitoring plan in place. The first five-year evaluation of these marine reserves occurred in 2008. Preliminary results suggest the reserves may have higher abundance and higher biomass of targeted species, but that more time is needed to confirm trends. Looking towards the future, the sanctuary aims to focus monitoring efforts on continuing long-term data sets and filling gaps in monitoring efforts.

Overview of Research

Project Name PI and contacts Links

Channel Islands MPAs: Report on the first 5 Years of Monitoring

California Fish and Wildlife

Kelp Forest Monitoring

Channel Island National Park, Dr. David Kushner

PISCO Monitoring and Surveys


PISCO Larval Monitoring


Small Scale Spatial Variation in Population Dynamics and Fisherman Response in a Coastal Marine Fishery


Sanctuary Aerial Monitoring and Spatial Analysis Program


Enhancing Marine Law Enforcement Data Collection in the Santa Barbara Channel Region Mobile iOS Application and Database Development Pilot Project


No URL available.

Science Needs and Questions

  • What sources of historical information are available on fishing landings?
  • What is the historic status of local marine resources such as fish, lobster, and abalone?
  • What is the historic level of extraction ranging from early native Americans to the 20th century?
  • What methods were used for fishing?
  • What species were targeted?
  • What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?

Education and Outreach Material

Thank You Ocean Marine Protected Areas

Channel Islands MPAs Website

CDFW MPA Website

CINMS Sanctuary Newsletter: Marine Reserves Monitoring

Santa Barbara Channel MPA Collaborative Website

PISCO Science of Marine Reserves Publications


pink abalone
Declines have been observed in abalone due to overexploitation.Credit: CINMS, NOAA

CDFG (California Department of Fish and Game), Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of
Coastal Oceans, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and Channel Islands National Park. 2008. Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas: First 5 Years of Monitoring: 2003-2008.

Dayton P.K., S. F. Thrush, M. T. Agardy, R. J. Hofman, 1995, Environmental effects of marine fishing. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 5(3)205-232.

Dugan, J.E. and G.E. Davis. 1993. Applications of marine refugia to coastal fisheries management. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 50:2029-2042.

Harrington, J.M., R.A. Myers, A.A. Rosenberg. 2005. Wasted fishery resources: discarded bycatch in the USA. Fish and Fisheries 6:350-361

Jones, J.B. 1992. Environmental impact of trawling on the seabed – a review. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 26(1):59-67.

Leeworthy, V.R. and P.C. Wiley. 2003 Socioeconomic impact analysis prepared for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Special Projects Office, Silver Spring, Maryland.

Love, M.S., J.E. Caselle, W. Van Buskirk. 1998. A severe decline in the commercial passenger fishing vessel rockfish (Sebastes spp.) catch in the Southern California bight, 1980-1996. CalCOFI Report 39:180-195.

Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. 2008. Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report 2008. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Silver Spring, MD. 42 pp.

Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. 2010. Channel Islands Science Needs, Fish Spawning. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Silver Spring, MD, Accessed: 7/22/2014

Rogers-Bennett L., B. L. Allen, and G. E. Davis. 2004. Measuring abalone (Haliotis spp.) recruitment in California to examine recruitment overfishing and recovery criteria. Journal of Shellfish Research 23(4): 1201-1207.

Senyk, N., D. Greenberg, B. Waltenberger. 2008. Changes in vessel distribution before and after state marine protected areas were established. Presented at the Channel Islands Marine Reserves Symposium Special Session, February 8, 2008.

Tegner, M.J. and P.K. Dayton. 2000. Ecosystem effects of fishing in kelp forest communities. ICES Journal of Marine Science 57(3):579-589.

Watling, L. and E.A. Norse. 1998. Disturbance of the seabed by mobile fishing gear: a comparison to forest clearcutting. Conservation Biology 12(6):1180-1197.