- Establish a baseline of data on lingcod spawning effort within the park as a reference point for the future.
- Provide a record of changes in the use of the EUWP by lingcod as the physical features in the park change.
- Provide a record to help evaluate the success and failures of resource management practices.
- Provide a record to help understand the impact of the protection offered by the Marine Protected Area status and how this might change over time.
- Identify the characteristics of artificial structures that are attractive to fish and marine life as a guide to designing future enhancements for the EUWP and the Bruce Higgins Underwater Trail System.
- Demonstrate the capability of an volunteer effort to carry out a long-term scientific study that yields scientifically valid data.
- Test and improve on nest census methods.
Lingcod reproduction was selected as the subject of the surveys because lingcod are one of the top predators in Puget Sound and are highly sought game fish. The success of this important predator species is an indicator of the health of the entire local ecosystem and the impact of the protected status of the site. The conspicuous white egg masses and aggressive behavior of the nest guarding male lingcod make the task straightforward and achievable by unsophisticated means.
The study was initiated in 1995 with the first full season of data collection in 1996-97. The census has been carried out in each year since then. To-date, at total of 34 volunteer divers have helped with the survey, with the bulk of the work being done by a core group of five people. There are no plans to terminate the study.
The artificial nature of the EUWP and its features greatly facilitate the study. Named rope trails running both north to south and east to west have been laid out throughout the park dividing the park into rectangles. Many of the features are unique in shape and size and many have been named. The named trails and features are useful in identifying the location of nest sites. The artificial nature of the features makes it relatively easy to place identification tags close to nest sites. Placement of identification tags in a natural environment would be very difficult if not impossible due to a lack of usable attachement points.
Unique aspects of the EUWP Lingcod Nest Census are the sustained time period involved and the artificial habitat in which the lingcod spawn. The methods used in the study are patterned after surveys conducted by the Vancouver Aquarium in Howe Sound, B.C. Canada (Martell, 1997) and have been adapted for use in this study.
Data from the Lingcod Nest Census has been used in a variety of ways, including the development of proposed changes in fishing regulations. The data is available for use by other researchers on a confidential basis.