Black Rockfish are an important sport fishery in Oregon. In 2017, 1.8 million individual black rockfish were caught in Oregon, weighing about 1,960 metric tons.

Photo courtesy of California Dept. of Fish and Game

Over 25 different rockfish species are caught by sport and commercial fishers in Oregon. Black Rockfish are sometimes called: black or sea bass, and black snapper.

Body characteristics

Black rockfish have a mottled dark gray-black body, often with dark strips. Belly color is lighter, and dorsal fins have black spots. Notice the dorsal fin. The spines are poisonous and can cause pain or infection. Fortunately the toxin is not extremely toxic.  

The bass-shaped body measures up to 27.6 inches in length. Adults typically weigh up to 11 pounds.

Habitat

Black Rockfish inhabit rocky reefs around 180 feet deep or less in large schools with other rockfish species. Rockfish often congregate around jetties and other estuary structures.

What’s on the menu?

Rockfish are opportunistic predatory fish that eat squid, octopus, krill, crab larvae, crustaceans, and other fish.  They readily take bait and lures. Lures commonly used include rubber-tailed lead head jigs and shrimp flies.

Predators

Predators for young black rockfish include: sablefish, Pacific halibut, other fish species, and pigeon guillemot.

Typical Black Rockfish (courtesy of Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife)

Reproduction

Fish in the Sebastes genus use a different reproduction process compares to other fish–fertilization and embryo development is internal.

Adult Black rockfish mate in late summer. The eggs (between 125,000 and 1,200,000) are not mature yet. Females store eggs and sperm temporarily.

Fertilization completes when eggs mature. About one month later, live young are spawned.

Barotrauma

Black rockfish do not have a vent on their swim bladder. Rockfish use the swim bladder to adjust buoyancy.  Changes in air pressure can damage or kill the fish. ‘Barotrauma’ symptoms include bulging eyes, tight gill membranes, and the esophagus protruding from the mouth.

Future

Managers are watching this species closely for signs of overfishing. This is currently not a problem.

REFERENCES:
–Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (https://www.dfw.state.or.us/mrp/finfish/sp/rockfish.asp and https://myodfw.com/fishing/species/black-rockfish
–Pacific Fisheries Management Council (https://www.pcouncil.org)
–Oregon State University Fish and Wildlife program (https://www.pcouncil.org/groundfish/stock-assessments/by-species/black-rockfish/)
–Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Species profile, Black rockfish  (http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=blackrockfish.main)  
–California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Abbreviated Life History of Black Rockfish (https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Groundfish/Nearshore-Finfish#26187347-black-rockfish)

Where does the tuna in your sandwich come from?
               That can over there.
Is that where it lives?  
                      Mmmm it seems a little small.
How does the tuna get into the can?
                               I don’t know but probably angry.

What you know may not be what’s important.

If you have only seen something in a little can it may be difficult to envision it as a top level, hard hitting ocean predator. Tuna is more than what you see in the can.

Dressed like a rock star

Albacore Tuna are handsome fish with torpedo-shaped bodies, smooth skin, and long, streamlined fins. The pectoral fins may be at least half the length of their bodies. Their metallic, dark blue back and silvery white sides make them nearly invisible in the water.

They can grow up to nearly four feet in length and weigh almost 80 pounds. In our waters they average 20- to 30-inches and up to about 35 pounds. These fish belong to the North Pacific stock and are generally juvenile or sub-adult fish that have not spawned.

Eats like an athlete

Albacore can swim over 50 miles per hour which facilitates long annual migrations and successful predation. They have a high metabolism and thus may consume as much as 25 percent of their own weight every day. 

Albacore tuna are unique among the tunas because their primary food sources are octopus and squid, versus fish. As a top ocean carnivore, they prey on schooling stocks such as squid, sardines, anchovy, crabs, lobsters, shrimp.

Albacore predators include larger species of billfish, tuna, sharks, and humans.

Hunting and Hunters

This fish has a highly evolved circulatory system that regulates body temperature, increases muscle efficiencies, supports high metabolism, and high blood pressure, volume and hemoglobin.

All of this helps tuna increase their ability to absorb oxygen. They lack structures needed to pump oxygen rich water over their gills. To compensate they must constantly swim and keep their mouths open to breathe.

Going to School

Similarly-sized Albacore swim together in a school. Each school is very large and can be up to 19 miles wide. Migrating Albacore may cover over 50 miles each day when migrating. Migration timing and distance vary based on oceanic conditions.

There are six distinct Albacore stocks that generally do not mix (North Pacific has two groups one that heads for Baja California and the other for the coasts of Oregon and Washington). Other stocks include Atlantic and Indian oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Migrations

North Pacific 2- to 4-year old Juveniles begin in spring and early summer from waters near Japan. They spawn between March and July. Females broadcast eggs near the surface for fertilization. They may release between 800,000 and 2.6 million eggs every time they spawn.

By July, they move into inshore waters 15-200 miles off the U.S. Pacific coast and hang out through September. They spend fall and winter in the western Pacific Ocean.

Management of

The migration across several international boundaries complicate specie management along with its economic importance. The gross national product of several countries depends on the tuna.

In the U.S., the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries have been tagging and studying the fish and recommending management actions to avoid overfishing. Several stocks are in significant decline and the species’ overall population trend is decreasing. Albacore are considered to be ‘Near Threatened.’

Bait and Switch

Albacore demand is sometimes fraudulently met through substitution.  Escolar (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum) has been frequently substituted, or ‘confused,’ with Albacore.

Escolar are known to create potential health problems when consumed. While it is not toxic per se it has caused enough concern for several countries to ban it.

REFERENCES:
–Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (https://myodfw.com/fishing/species/albacore-tuna, commercial landing statistics, and 2018 Albacore Annual Reports)
–NOAA Fisheries (https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/pacific-albacore-tuna)
–Wikipedia Albacore (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albacore)
–The Atlantic, 59% of the tuna Americans eat is not tuna (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/59-of-the-tuna-americans-eat-is-not-tuna/273410/

Gorse Photo by K. Collier

Is it possible to say something good about Gorse?

Maybe. Depends on if you have ever tried to get rid of it or not.

Some consider Gorse as a pretty, fragrant shrub. Others class it as something akin to devil spawn.

Gorse maintains a love-hate reputation not only with humans but other plants. In both cases, it has earned this reputation well.

Is anything good?

Gorse was commonly used in several ways including as a:
–Food source (the flowers are edible). Plant can be used as livestock feed as it is high in protein. Pollen from the various varies help pollinators, such as bees.
–Product creation such as soap making, yellow dye, cleaning tools
–Traditional Medicines (listed as one of 38 plants in the Bach’s Flower Remedies.

Lots o’ Bad

Gorse has earned a dubious reputation in several ways and is now on several invasive and noxious lists for States and countries. Bandon is no stranger to this plant that arrived over 100 years ago thanks to ‘Lord’ George Bennett, an Irish immigrant. In Ireland, the plant had many uses and natural biological controls generally not present here.

Bandon is ‘ground zero’ for gorse removal and fire risk reduction. The rumor is that gorse helped fuel the Bandon Fire of 1936 that burned down most of the town. A Gorse Action Group in Bandon is working on the problem (see What’s the Deal with Gorse? (https://sea-edu.org/2019/12/17/whats-the-deal-with-gorse/). Then again, dried gorse was used as kindling and a fire fuel for bread making ovens.

More Hate than Love

There is a lot more hate than love now-a-days, and fortunately controls that can help manage this noxious weed. Here is a quick comparison:

A Small Gorse Spider Mite Experiment

Mites control gorse through extensive feeding pressure. The mites will through feeding kill shoots, reduce plant growth and overall plant biomass, and abort the production of flowers. It can take a long time for these mites to control the gorse. What if we could help this along?

This is our little experiment:
Year 1: We took a few, small cuttings from mite-infected plants and threw them on some bushes. Result: Mite spread slow but evident, and did not persist on some bushes.
Year 2: We took larger cuttings off of several bushes that exhibited mite infestation. Placed several 6-inch sprigs on approximately 12 other bushes with light or relatively no infestation. Result: All bushes infected; most showed some stress.
Year 3: Mechanical removal employed on several large, bushes. Result? Can’t wait to plant the area. More mechanical and hand removal is in progress. It will be interesting to look back next year and see the results. I think I also spotted a Gorse soft shoot moth on my shovel handle. There is hope.  

OTHER REFERENCES:
–Wikipedia, Ulex (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulex_europaeus)
–Tasty Natives, Ulex europaeus (https://www.greenlab.org/tastynatives/2018/11/01/gorse/
6 organic ways to get rid of gorse (https://thisnzlife.co.nz/5-organic-ways-get-rid-gorse/) (Note: link does say 5 rather than 6 as in title, error in link naming)
What are the effects of gorse on the ecosystem? (http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/pests-diseases-and-weeds/weeds/a-z-of-weeds/gorse)
–University of Washington, 66-8633 Gorse Soil Effects (https://portal.nifa.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0213036-66-8633-gorse-soil-effects.html)
Victorian Gorse Taskforce (https://www.vicgorsetaskforce.com.au/biological-control/)