Over 400 species of fish have been documented in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The great diversity of fishes in the area occurs for three principal reasons: 1) the ranges of many cold temperate and warm temperate species extend into and terminate in the Southern California Bight; 2) the area has complex bottom topography and a complex physical oceanographic regime that includes several water masses and a changeable marine climate (Cross and Allen 1993; Horn and Allen 1978); and 3) the islands and nearshore areas provide a diversity of habitats including soft bottom, rocky reefs, extensive kelp beds, estuaries, bays, and lagoons.
The fish species found around the Channel Islands generally are representative of fish assemblages occurring along the southern California coast, with the addition of some central California species (Hubbs 1974). Abundance of fish assemblages is greater at the northern Channel Islands than at nearby coastal regions of the southern California mainland. Regional upwelling carries nutrient-rich waters from canyons and island shelf areas to surface waters. This results in increased primary productivity and large zooplankton populations, which support abundant populations of small schooling species, such as the northern anchovy, Pacific saury, sardine and mackerel. Larger pelagic (open water) fish prey upon these small schooling species, and together they form a significant contribution to the diet of marine mammals and birds. Island-associated pelagic fish are commonly consumed by pinnipeds and toothed whales.
Fishes commonly found in the sanctuary include: albacore, anchovy (northern), barracuda (Pacific), bass (various species), bat ray, blacksmith, bocaccio, bonito (Pacific), brown smoothhound, butterfish (Pacific), California scorpionfish, cabezon, California sheephead, California moray, California flyingfish, California halibut, croaker (various species), garibaldi, goby (various species), greenling (various species), grunion, gunnel, hake, Pacific half moon, horn shark, jacksmelt, kelpfish (various species), mackerel (various species), monkeyface prickleback, northern ronquil, ocean sunfish, opah, opaleye, orangethroat pikeblenny, queenfish, reef perch, rock wrasse, rockfish (various species), ronquil, stripedfin, salmon (king), sanddab, sarcastic fringehead, sardine (Pacific), sargo, saury, Pacific sculpin, seaperch (various species), señorita, shark (various species), silversides, sole (various species), spotted cusk-eel, surfperch (various species), swordfish, thornback, topsmelt, tube snout, turbot (various species), white sea bass, whitespotted greenling, yellowfin fringehead, and zebra perch.
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