Young-of-the-year recruitment does not predict the abundance of older age classes in black rockfish in Barkley Sound, British Columbia, Canada
Recruitment and connectivity are important criteria for designing effective marine protected areas, as coastal fish populations must be sustained by settling juveniles. However, patterns of recruitment are difficult to observe, and adults and juveniles may occupy distinct habitats. We examined patterns of adult black rockfish Sebastes melanops abundance with respect to habitat and spatiotemporal variability in recruitment of young-of-the-year (YOY) to determine how these variables influence population density in and around a rockfish conservation area (RCA). For most year classes, there was no relationship between the density of YOY and the density of 1 yr olds or the density of adults, and instead habitat variables such as topological complexity and the amount of rocky substrate predicted adult black rockfish abundance. For 1 year class of moderate abundance at the YOY stage but high abundance at the 1 yr old stage, a significant relationship between 1 yr olds and subsequent adults was observed. We surmise that overwinter survival of YOY fish may be an important determinant for year-class strength in black rockfish. Although a companion study found low recruitment of YOY inside the RCA, our data indicate that the density of many species of rockfish was higher inside the RCA. These results highlight how the density of adults can be determined by post-recruitment processes such as movement into suitable habitat and mortality, rather than by recruitment of YOY, and have implications for the design of marine reserve networks.