Identification of rockfish species in Monterey, CA Fishmarkets using DNA barcoding

Abby Gunter, Santa Catalina School, Marine Ecology Research Program, Monterey, CA, United States
The sustainability of global fish stocks is a concern for reasons for economy, ecological health, and food security. Ideally, fishers, managers, and consumers act synergistically to ensure stock persistence. An example of this might be the Alaskan salmon fishery, which is managed in a species and run specific manner, fishers increasingly work in named vessels or co-operatives to track fish from catch location to markets, and consumers seek fish from particular species and runs (ie Copper River King Salmon) which have their own “brand” specific market price points. In contrast, the rockfish (containing over 70 congeneric species in the Northeast Pacific) were managed until the year 2000 as one homogenous group, targeted by fisheries similarly, and are still marketed under a variety of non-biologically identifying names (etc rock-cod, black bass, Pacific snapper). This means that consumers interested in sustainable fisheries have no way to track whether the species they are purchasing is from a healthy stock or not- even in cases where species-specific stock information exists. To determine the extent of this issue, we sampled fish from a variety of markets in the Monterey Bay area that were labeled using any rockfish associated market name and used DNA barcoding methods (mt CO1 gene) to identify that fish to species. We are currently using published life history characteristics and recent stock assessments to explore the sustainability of species in the local market. We are gathering species maturity rate with observed market price per pound while looking at whether or not they are being overfished or underfished. Preliminary work indicates Sebastes flavidus and sebastes alutus were the two most common found rockfish in markets and published stock assessments indicate mid to low exploitation levels.