Marine Reserves News: One fish, two fish, red fish, blue … lingcod?

A Deeper Dive

So What’s Up with Blue Lingcod?
New Scientific Paper

Blue and brown colored lingcod (photo by Laurel Lam)

Photo by Laurel Lam: Examples of the range of 'blue' and 'brown' color variants in lingcod as provided in a new paper by Galloway et al. (2021).

Ever come across a blue lingcod while fishing or SCUBA diving? Blue-colored flesh in fishes is relatively rare but occasionally seen in some sculpins, perch, and greenlings including lingcod.

A recent paper by Aaron Galloway, at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, and collaborators describes research looking at biological and spatial factors that could explain variation in blue coloration of lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus). The researchers sampled 2,021 fish across their range, from southeast Alaska to southern California. The samples from southern Oregon were collected in the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve and Humbug Comparison Area, by the ODFW Marine Reserves Program, during our hook-and-line and longline surveys. Our former team member, Jessica Watson, is one of the paper’s contributing authors.


Some of the findings by the researchers were that the probability of having blue flesh was highest for fish that were female, caught in shallower water, and smaller in body size. Occurrences of blueness varied by region (4–25% of all fish) but was also confounded by differences in sex ratios of fish caught among regions. Fatty acid concentrations were lower in blue fish suggesting differences in energetics and energy storage in blue vs. brown fish. The researchers noted that though their data reveal potential links between diet and blue flesh in lingcod, questions remain about the physiological mechanisms around blueness and its biological consequences.

Read the Paper to Learn More

Galloway, Aaron W. E., Beaudreau, A.H., Thomas, M.D., Basnett, B.L., Lam, L.S., Hamilton, S.L., Andrews, K.S., Schram, J.B., Watson, J., Samhouri, J.F. Assessing prevalence and correlates of blue colored flesh in lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) across their geographic range. Marine Biology (2021) 168:139

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Dick Vander Schaaf retrieves a sensor that is monitoring pH levels in the intertidal zone at Cascade Head Marine Reserve

Returning to the Reserves:
Dick Vander Schaaf’s Sense of Place

In 1983, a young ecologist from The Nature Conservancy stood atop Cascade Head and looked seaward. Dick Vander Schaaf had been hired to study the recently discovered silverspot butterfly, a threatened species that inhabits less than a handful of coastal headlands. As he recalls of his early work counting these insects, Vander Schaaf’s gaze was often interrupted by the expansive open ocean and stretches of rocky shoreline below. Coincidentally, effects of this shoreline were later discovered to support the butterflies’ critical habitat on the grassy headland above.

Since then, Dick has seen this and other stretches of Oregon’s coastline change as they host dynamic populations of both human and non-human communities. He’s also seen these stretches develop what are sometimes piecemealed protections intended to comprehensively conserve its ecosystems and their respective communities. These protections include marine reserves strategically positioned to interconnect with existing networks of protected areas on land.

Vander Schaaf’s own vantage point of these protection has also changed, and cascaded down from one coastal headland to the intertidal zone of each of the state’s five marine reserves. While Vander Schaaf has performed work in each of these five locations, he suggests he’s most closely connected to those at Cascade Head and Cape Falcon.

As he describes, Vander Schaaf attached himself to these areas in two ways. First, as a professional ecologist whose work has grown to encompass a variety of ecosystems. Second, on breaks from work at his family beach house directly adjacent to Cape Falcon. Here, he refers to himself as a recreational ecologist who has left no stone unturned while exploring the stretch of shoreline of Short Sand Beach in his downtime since the early 1990s.

Join us as we talk with this professional and recreational ecologist, and conservation advocate to explore his knowledge of the reserves, how he came to know these waters and their shorelines, and his continued connections with them.

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Jessica French

Reflections from Our Sea Grant Summer Scholar:
Jessica French

Photo: Summer Scholar, Jessica French, is an undergraduate at Oregon State University. This summer she has been working with our team conducting human dimensions research.

Just ten weeks ago my fellow scholars (Lisette and Phoenix) and I were headed to Otter Rock for our first practice run surveying visitors to Oregon’s marine reserves. Fast forward to today; Lisette and Phoenix have headed back to their home states, and I’ve had quite the week of finishing up data entry while adjusting to working from home and thinking about what comes next.

Throughout these ten weeks I saw how human dimensions research is carried out from survey design to report writing. I sat in on meetings with the team designing and drafting a survey that would be sent out to thousands of recreational fishers, created a codebook for data entry, conducted hundreds of surveys of visitors and businesses, and now I’m starting the report writing phase.

This “behind the scenes” look has made me feel more confident in my career goals going forward. Whenever I was asked what my long-term goals are I would confidently say, “to work in marine resource management” or “fisheries management,” without fully understanding what all that entailed. This experience was eye opening and helped me feel more confident in my stated career goals.
Not only was I able to get hands on experience and exposure to many different aspects of agency work but through my mentor Tommy, I have gained some insight into what it takes to get a permanent position at the state or federal level. I feel like I’m more prepared to make a plan for the future that will help me reach my goals. It looks more and more like graduate school is in my future.

In the short term I will be staying on with ODFW as a temporary Biological Science Assistant. This will allow me to continue helping write the reports for the data we collected this Summer. I’m excited to stick with the project a little longer and to have a job for the rest of the Summer!

Learn more about the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars Program.

Team members in the rocky intertidal conducting sea star surveys

Photo: Intertidal sea star monitoring at Cascade Head with the help of some eager volunteers

Updates From the Field

ODFW Updates

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Oceanographic Monitoring: Moorings that have been collecting data all summer at Otter Rock, Cascade Head, and Cape Falcon will be retrieved next month. These will tell us trends in temperature, salinity, and oxygen across our central and north coast reserves.


Sea Star Surveys: We conducted intertidal sea star monitoring at Cascade Head with the help of some eager volunteers. Despite some challenging low tides, we identified over 200 stars across a range of sizes and very few signs of sea star wasting disease.


Summer Student Interns: We hosted two Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars and a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar for 10 weeks this summer. These interns helped our team in conducting human dimensions research.


Business, Visitor and Recreational Fisher Surveys: To check on current perceptions of Oregon’s marine reserves, out summer interns conducted surveys of local business owners and coastal visitors at several of the reserves. They contacted over 340 area businesses and interviewed 1,482 visitors at the reserves. We also conducted a statewide survey of recreational fishing license holders and received 7,759 responses. We’re excited to see the results from these new studies and will compare these results to our earlier studies to see if awareness and perceptions of the marine reserves have changed over time since they were first implemented over a decade ago.

Collaborator Updates

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Juvenile Fish Surveys: Our OSU collaborators, with help from the Oregon Coast Aquarium, continued to collect juvenile fish samples at Otter Rock Marine Reserve and Cape Foulweather Comparison Area this month. After a huge pulse in the QGBC rockfish complex (Quillback/Gopher/Black-and-Yellow/Copper/China Rockfish) last month, the pulse seems to have subsided. The team plans on wrapping-up their field season at the end of the month, with the final collection of fish samples and retrieval of all eight moorings.

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