Research Technical Report
Long-term trends in catch composition from elasmobranch derbies in Elkhorn Slough, California
Carlisle, A., A. King, G.M. Cailliet, and J.S. Brennan (2007)
Marine Fisheries Review 69(1-4):25-45
Long-term trends in the elasmobranch assemblage of Elkhorn Slough, Monterey Bay, California, were analyzed by documenting species composition and catch per unit effort (CPUE) from 55 sport fishing derbies that occurred during May, June, and July, from 1951 until 1995. The most abundant species (bat ray, Myliobatis californica; shovelnose guitarfish, Rhinobatos productus; and leopard shark, Triakis semifasciata) were also analyzed for size-weight relationships, trends in size class distribution, stage of maturity, and sex ratios. Changes in species composition over the course of the derbies included the near complete disappearance of shovelnose guitarfish by the 1970's and a slight increase in the abundance of minor species (mainly smoothhounds, Mustelus spp., and thornback, Platyrhinoidis triseriata) starting in the mid 1960's. The relative abundance of bat rays in the catch steadily increased over the years while the relative abundance of leopard sharks declined during the last two decades. However the average number of bat rays and leopard sharks caught per derby declined during the last two decades. Fishing effort appeared to increase over the course of the derbies. There were no dramatic shifts in the size class distribution data for bat rays, leopard sharks, or shovelnose guitarfish. The catch of bat rays and leopard sharks was consistently dominated by immature individuals, while the catch of shovelnose guitarfish was heavily dominated by adults. There was evidence of sexual segregation in either immature or mature fish in all the species. Female bat rays and shovelnose guitarfish were larger than their male counterparts and outnumbered males nearly 2:1. Female and male leopard sharks were more nearly equal in size and sex ratio. Changes in species composition are likely due to fishing pressure, shifts in the prevailing oceanographic conditions, and habitat alteration in Elkhorn Slough. The sex ratios, stage of maturity, and size class distributions provide further evidence for the theory that Elkhorn Slough functions as a nursery habitat for bat rays and leopard sharks.