To obtain an ecosystem-level understanding of the OCS, biological and physical databases must be integrated. To date, most ecological studies are restricted in scale due tolimited funds and information. With the completion of region-wide oceanographic and geologic surveys, it is timely to link and expand biological surveys to match the spatial scale of these physical databases. Such integration will be important to all aspects of permitting, mitigation and decommissioning decisions of the OCS. The majority of marine species observed at oil platforms and natural reefs do not reside in these habitats for their entire life history. Population connectivity within and among habitats varies according to the life history of each species, oceanographic patterns, and distribution of hard bottom. One consequence of a spatially complex life history is that impacts of a reefed platform may propagate across regions and habitats and affect other populations. Therefore, some understanding of connectivity processes, both physical and biological, must precede predictions regarding the environmental consequences of platform decommissioning alternatives. We now have sufficient knowledge to address these large scale questions. Shallow water habitats of platforms are of particular interest to BOEM because these habitats function as nurseries to commercially important juvenile rockfishes, and because potential decommissioning options eliminate this habitat. BOEM information needs thus include establishing how the removal of such habitat will impact regional environments. This study is one of a series of juvenile rockfish studies in the POCS. Previously, BOEM funded the study Assessing the Fate of Juvenile Rockfish at Offshore Platforms and Natural Reefs in the Santa Barbara Channel NSL PC-04-02, which performed a longitudinal study on the fate of juvenile rockfish if platforms were not present. During FYs 2008-2011, BOEM will support the study Spatial and Seasonal Variation in the Biomass and Size Distribution of Juvenile Fishes Associated with a Petroleum Platform off the California Coast, which will use a hydroacoustic array to collect fine-scale data on the abundance and species composition of juvenile fishes recruiting to one platform. Using the GIS, this proposed study will extrapolate this fine-scale information across the regional scale. To accomplish this, new field data has to be collected across a regional scale concurrently with the above study (recruitment in spring of 2009 and/or 2010) because of the annual natural of juvenile rockfish recruitment. The proposed study represents a critical next step in a coordinated program that extends local scale studies across the entire region of interest to OCS activities.
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