Lingcod - Ophiodon elongatus (Girard 1854)

Edmonds Underwater Park Overview

The Edmonds Underwater Park (EUWP) is located along the waterfront of the city of Edmonds just north of Seattle, Washington on the eastern shore of Puget Sound (Lat. 47 49.00, Long.122 23.00).The EUWP, with over 27 acres of tidelands and nearshore bottom lands, was established in 1970 as a Marine Preserve and Sanctuary. It is one of the oldest marine life refuges on the Pacific coast. It is also a popular recreational scuba diving site.

The EUWP extends north of the Edmonds ferry terminal. Initially the tide and bottom lands portion of the park consisted primaryily of a gently sloping bottom composed mainly of sand and fine gravel with an occasional rock outcrop. Eelgrass meadows are currently found in the shallows and were likely more extensive prior to extensive development in the Puget Sound watershed beginning in the late 1800s. A region of cobble and glacial erratic rock north of the park provides anchorage for a kelp bed in the summer months. At the turn of the last century, saw mills were located at the site of the park and the substrate is still infused with woody debris.

The park and surrounding area are geographically isolated from the rocky reef habitat usually associated with lingcod spawing. Prior to 1970 the area was virtually barren of lingcod and rockfish (K.W. Johnson 2001).

The initial man-made feature in the park was the De Lion Dry Dock, which had been sunk to the north of the ferry dock in 1935 to protect the dock. In 1971 the wooden hull of the motor vessel Alitak, was sunk on the shoreward side of the Dry Dock.

After the establishment of the park, an extensive system of man-made features and trails has been created by volunteer divers led by Bruce Higgins. These volunteers are often referred to as "The Egyptians". The added features are arranged as isolated structures on the sand bottom in an “oasis” pattern. Materials used include stone and concrete rubble, concrete beams and arches, concrete and plastic pipe, large hollow concrete blocks, tires and a variety of boat hulls.The work of maintaining the existing trails and adding new features as old features break down is an ongoing effort. In 2007, the City of Edmonds recognized Mr. Higgins's outstanding contributions by naming the trail system the "Bruce Higgins Underwater Trails".

As the man-made structures were added, the habitats found within the park became more diverse, attracting a wide range of fish and invertebrates. The diversity of habitats combined with the safety provided by the Marine Preserve and Sanctuary status has allowed populations of many species of fish and invertebrates to thrive within the park.

In particualar, the artificial features began to provide nesting habitat for lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) a bottom fish species. As the number of features, and thus nesting habitat, increased so did the number of lingcod spawning within the park. The features also provide suitable habitat for the settlement of juvenile rockfish. While there is widespread concern that rockfish and lingcod populations are in general decline in Puget Sound, the park has recently been identified as having significantly larger and more abundant quantities of these fish than other areas (Palsson and Pacunski 1995).

 

 

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