Ancient DNA Analysis of Indigenous Rockfish Use On the Pacific Coast: Implications for Marine Conservation Areas and Fisheries Management

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (PhD)
Final version published as: 

Rodrigues AT, McKechnie I, Yang DY (2018) Ancient DNA analysis of Indigenous rockfish use on the Pacific Coast: Implications for marine conservation areas and fisheries management. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0192716. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192716.

Date created: 

Rockfish (Sebastes spp.) are a common marine fish in nearshore and continental shelf environments in the North Pacific Ocean. They are frequently identified in coastal archaeological sites in western North America; however, the morphological similarity of rockfish species limits conventional zooarchaeological identifications to the genus level. This study applies ancient DNA analysis to 96 archaeological rockfish specimens from four sites on separate islands in an archipelago on western Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Two of the archaeological sites are located within a marine protected area specifically designed to facilitate the recovery of inshore rockfish populations; two sites are located outside this boundary and remain subject to considerable fishing pressure. Using mitochondrial 16S and control region DNA sequences, we identify at least twelve different rockfish species utilized during the past 2,500 years. Identification of rockfish at closely spaced and contemporaneously occupied sites confirms that a variety of Sebastes species were consistently exploited at each site, with more exposed areas having a higher number of species present. Identification results indicate that four of the twelve species did not occur within the conservation area boundary and, instead, were found in sites where commercial and recreational fishing continues to be permitted. This study demonstrates that ancient DNA identifications of archaeological assemblages can complement and expand perspective on modern day fisheries conservation and management in this National Park Reserve and First Nations ancestral territory.

Document type: 
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)