In a report funded by the National Science Foundation, UCSB researchers Daniel Okamoto and Daniel Reed confirmed that adequate food supply increases reproduction and baby fish survival rates by up to ten times in black surfperch populations off Santa Cruz Island.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, stem from analysis of 16 years of data acquired from a study on black surfperch conducted from 1993 to 2008, which focused on surfperch due to its unpopularity among commercial fishermen. The study was led by UCSB professors Russell Schmitt and Sally Holbrook, both of whom teach in the department of ecology, evolution and marine biology as well as the Marine Science Institute.

Okamoto, a Ph.D. student in the department of ecology, evolution and marine biology, said tracking the surfperch proved easier than keeping tabs other species.

“The individual fish stay on their natal reef; they have low emigration-immigration rates, so we can actually track cohorts through time,” Okamoto said in a press release. “An adult gives birth to live, capable young, instead of laying eggs. Those young stay on the reef where the adults were, which is a really nice property. We can go to a reef in a given year, survey it for adults, then go to that reef again the next year and see the young that are there and know, for the most part, that those young came from the adults that were there the year before.”

According to Okamoto, food availability should be an important consideration in species conservation and fisheries management.

“If a management procedure has called for a certain harvest rate that is constant through time, that would be like saying we should harvest the same amount of corn through time, even though we know that corn can be influenced by things like drought,” Okamoto said in a press release.