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Opah Fishery Development


PIER has recently partnered with the National Marine Fisheries Service to kick off a new electronic tagging project on opah, a poorly studied fish that is common off the California coast.

With support from the Offield Family Foundation and NOAA’s Saltonstall Kennedy Grant Program, PIER initiated a research project focused on filling important data gaps for opah, a poorly known resource that is seasonally caught off the California coast.  PIER’s interest in opah is also based on its common occurrence in the deep-set fishery and its potential role in helping diversify the fishery in the future.  

PIER has two ongoing lines of opah research:  1) A tagging study focused on fine-scale movements and fishery development and 2) An international aging study that works with US (PIER and NOAA Southwest Center) and Mexican (CICESE, Baja California Mexico) researchers. 

The aging work is focused on identifying the best structure for age determination, a vital piece of information for any resource.  The team has been working with CICESE scientists to assess the suite of options available for determining age, including the vertebrae, otolith (bones of the inner ear), fin rays and other bony structures.  

In recent months, the CICESE team has successfully extracted opah otoliths, a task that was previously considered to be impossible!  CICESE research technician Carmen Rodriguez developed a procedure to extract the tiny and delicate otoliths of the Opah.  Current efforts are focused on replicating the age estimation work and setting an international standard for age, growth, and maturity.  Only when these important life history metrics are understood can managers begin to create a plan for the sustainable harvest of a species.  This achievement marks a big step forward in the development of a fishery for this underutilized resource.

CISESE Research Technician Carmen Rodriguez at her lab in Ensenada