• ecosystem-based fisheries management;
  • groundfish;
  • northeast Pacific Ocean;
  • oceanographic data products;
  • oceanographic datasets;
  • oceanographic habitats


Ecosystem-based management places a strong emphasis on habitat, but little work has been done to examine how water column properties may influence the distribution, abundances and structure of groundfish assemblages. We identified and described oceanographic habitats in the northern California Current based on temperature, salinity, chlorophyll-a and the inherent variability in these factors. We then examined the distribution and the abundance of groundfishes in relation to these oceanographic habitats and conditions with the long-term goal of improving science for ecosystem-based management of the groundfish fishery of the west coast of the USA. Five summertime oceanographic habitats with distinct physical and biological characteristics were identified in the northeast Pacific Ocean off the northwest Coast of the USA: Offshore Habitat, Upwelling Habitat, Highly Variable Upwelling Habitat, River Plume Habitat, and Highly Variable Habitat. Overall, the species composition differed among the five oceanographic habitats, with certain groundfish species being highly indicative of some habitats; however, the majority of the associations were weak due to overlap of species distributions in the nearshore oceanographic habitats. In contrast, groundfish species showed strong associations with individual oceanographic factors, primarily depth, surface chlorophyll-a, and bottom salinity and temperature. In addition, latitudinal variations in upwelling intensity, river discharge and productivity led to the identification of three regions where high chlorophyll-a concentrations were associated with large abundances of specific groundfish species. The combined oceanographic datasets and data products that we produced have the potential to be a powerful tool for improving our knowledge of the west coast ecosystem.