Journal of Oceanography, Vol. 59 (No. 4), pp. 515-535, 2003
Richard D. Brodeur1*, William G. Pearcy2 and Stephen Ralston3
1Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, Newport, OR 97365, U.S.A.
2College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, U.S.A.
3Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, U.S.A.
(Received 19 July 2002; in revised form 14 December 2002; accepted 16 January 2003)
Abstract: The epipelagic and mesopelagic nekton communities of the northern California Current have been sampled somewhat continuously over the last four decades with bottom and pelagic trawls, small midwater trawls, and purse seines. We review the zoogeography and community and environmental associations of the dominant pelagic micronekton and nekton species in this region with a view to understanding their role in this dynamic marine ecosystem. As is typical of many upwelling eastern boundary current regions, the pelagic biomass is dominated by a few species that fluctuate dramatically through time. The abundance trends of pelagic nekton caught in this region demonstrated large-scale ecosystem changes about the time of the regime shifts of 1976/77 and 1989 and possibly another beginning in 1999. The rapidity of the changes in composition indicates that the response was due to a change in migration or distribution patterns as opposed to recruitment patterns. The 1989 regime shift led to a dramatic increase in sardine and a decrease in anchovy populations. The most pronounced interannual signals were attributed to strong El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions in 1983 and 1998 that altered the latitudinal ranges and proximity to the coast of many pelagic species. Variations in abundance and cross-shelf distribution patterns were noted for both pelegic nekton and micronektonic from surveys off California, Oregon, and Washington.