A vast array of fish, invertebrates, marine mammals, birds, algae, plants, and micro-organisms live in Oregon Nearshore waters.
Oregon Nearshore waters are home to to a vast array of fish, invertebrates, marine mammals, birds, algae, plants, and micro-organisms. Photo Credit: Scott Groth

Species that are key to ecosystem function and health are at the heart of the State Wildlife Grants Program. The Program (discussed in the Nearshore Strategy Context section) specifies inclusion of a Strategy Species list, and directs states to:

  • address the full array of wildlife and wildlife related issues,
  • prevent species from being listed as threatened or endangered,
  • keep common species common, and
  • focus on species in greatest need of management attention that are indicative of the diversity and health of the State’s wildlife and habitats.

The 2006 Oregon Conservation Strategy and Nearshore Strategy documents each contained a separate list of Strategy Species to focus management and conservation needs in accordance with the guidelines of the State Wildlife Grants program. In this revision, these two lists are merged into one that is included in the Oregon Conservation Strategy. The updated Nearshore Strategy also includes a copy of the nearshore Strategy Species list, with the subset of species relevant just to the nearshore. This chapter describes the process and criteria ODFW Marine Program used in developing the list of nearshore Strategy Species, and provides information about those species.

The State Wildlife Grant elements helped guide the ODFW Marine Program in developing a method to identify key nearshore species whose conservation needs are of the greatest interest to managers. Strategy Species are those species of the greatest concern and which meet the State Wildlife Grants Program requirements for State Wildlife Action Plans. Additionally, the Oregon Nearshore Strategy designates Watch List Species (those that do not meet the Strategy Species criteria, but which may in the future when sufficient data is available to make that determination), and Commonly Associated Species, (including common nearshore species whose conservation needs can best be met through habitat management or through management of communities of organisms).

Species information was used in conjunction with information about the habitats, factors and stressors affecting species and habitats, conservation research and monitoring needs, and public input to formulate overall recommendations.

Nearshore Strategy Species

Nearshore Strategy Species species were determined by ODFW to be in greatest need of management attention. Identification as a nearshore Strategy Species does not necessarily mean the species is in trouble. Rather, those identified as Strategy Species have some significant nearshore management and/or conservation issue connected to that species that is of interest to resource managers.

Development of the 2015 Strategy Species list began with a review of the original list of Strategy Species developed a decade ago, including species that utilize the nearshore but that had only been included in the Oregon Conservation Strategy. The species that were still recognized as species of concern, at risk, important, or a priority by federal or state agencies, stakeholders, experts, non-government organizations, scientific researchers, tribes or other conservation processes were included on the revised list. In addition, a comprehensive list of species that occur in the nearshore was evaluated for potential new additions to the Strategy Species list. To maintain a nearshore ecosystem focus, attention was focused on both harvested and non-harvested species that predominantly occur, or are common, within Oregon’s nearshore environment.

To assist with the identification of Strategy Species, the following information was compiled from published literature (see References section), available online data, scientific databases, and personal communication from experts, for each species on the list:

  • taxonomic information
  • distribution, including species geographic range and depth
  • harvest/collection information, including sector(s) (commercial, sport, aquarium trade, and/or scientific/medical research) and whether targeted or incidental catch
  • life history information, including mode of reproduction, fecundity, timing of reproduction, timing of egg/larval/juvenile stages, longevity, age at maturity, and migratory behavior or seasonal distribution
  • habitat use for each life history stage
  • trophic interactions, including prey, predators, and competition
  • population status information, including whether a population assessment has been conducted, listed as overharvested, listed as a threatened or endangered species, whether species has experienced a population decline, whether the species is rare, has small range or is endemic, if species has specialized habitat requirements, and if the species has low productivity.

This information was used to help examine the conservation needs of each species with regards to four separate criteria (each weighted equally). Each species was evaluated for each of these four criteria to identify those species in greatest need of management attention:

1) Species status – examples of species status include overharvested, rare, declining population throughout its range or in Oregon.

2) Ecological importance – examples of ecological importance include habitat forming, habitat engineer, keystone species, prey species.

3) Vulnerability to human or natural factors – examples of vulnerability include susceptible to oil spills or water pollution, life history traits that render it particularly vulnerable (low productivity, specialized habitat requirements, climate change or ocean acidification effects, etc.), or there are significant data gaps or research needs on vulnerability for that species.

4) Economic/social/cultural importance – examples of importance to humans include commercially important, recreationally important, culturally important to Oregon tribes, flagship or sentinel species.

Those species whose conservation needs were determined to best be met through existing management affecting habitats or communities of organisms were separated from the list. Through extensive examination, deliberation, and consultation with subject matter experts, 74 species were identified as nearshore Strategy Species. These species, or distinct populations, were determined to have conservation needs in greatest need of management attention and to have the greatest potential for benefit from management actions. Changes to the nearshore Strategy Species list include: one marine mammal was removed and three species of fishes were moved to the nearshore Watch List; 15 Strategy Species, six anadromous fishes and ten birds, identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy that utilize nearshore habitats were included; and nine new species were added. The nine new Strategy Species added include: three fishes, one of which is a newly discovered species; four invertebrates; one marine mammal; and one plant.

Table 5.1 presents the list of all 74 nearshore Strategy Species, including notes on special needs, limiting factors, data gaps and conservation actions for each species. This information is provided for use by managers, research and monitoring projects or programs, those producing education and outreach materials, planners, and the general public. Readers should note that the management jurisdiction varies for each species. For instance, some nearshore Strategy Species are managed by ODFW, others by NOAA Fisheries or USFWS, and many species are under shared management authority by multiple resource agencies and institutions.

Table 5.1. List of Nearshore Strategy Species. Click the links in the table below for more information on each species.

Birds

Black Brant

(Branta bernicla nigricans)

Black-Brant_Dow-Lambert_USFWS_460.jpg

Black Oystercatcher

(Haematopus bachmani)

Black_Oystercatcher_Amanda_Gladics_USFWS_IMG_0237_460.jpg

California Brown Pelican

(Pelecanus occidentalis californicus)

CA-brown-pelican_Kathy-Munsel_460.jpg

Caspian Tern

(Hydroprogne caspia)

Caspian Tern

Fork-tailed Storm Petrel

(Oceanodroma furcata)

Fork-tailed-Storm-Petrel_dpereksta_4235_460.jpg

Leach’s Storm Petrel

(Oceanodroma leucorhoa)

Leach's Storm-Petrel

Marbled Murrelet

(Brachyramphus marmoratus)

Marbled_murrelet_USFS_460.jpg

Rock Sandpiper

(Calidris ptilocnemis)

Rock-sandpiper_USFWS_460.jpg

Tufted Puffin

(Fratercula cirrhata)

Tufted-Puffin_USFWS_460.jpg

Western Snowy Plover

(Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus)

Western-Snowy-Plover_USFWS_460.jpg

Fishes
Big skate

(Raja binoculata)big_skate_Oregon_Coast_Aquarium_460.jpg

Black rockfish

(Sebastes melanops)Black-Rockfish_Janna_Nichols_460.jpg

Blue rockfish

(Sebastes mystinus)Blue_rockfish_NOAA_460.jpg

Brown rockfish

(Sebastes auricluatus)Brown_rockfish_Oregon_Coast_Aquarium_460.jpg

Cabezon

(Scorpaenichthys marmoratus)

Cabezon

Canary rockfish

(Sebastes pinniger)Canary_rockfish_Janna_Nichols_460.jpg

China rockfish

(Sebastes nebulosus)China_rockfish_ODFW_460.jpg

Chinook salmon

(Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Fall Run – Lower Columbia SMU, Mid–Columbia SMU, Snake SMU, Spring/Summer Run – Coastal SMU, Rogue SMU, Lower Columbia SMU, Mid Columbia SMU, Lower Snake SMU, Upper Snake SMU, Willamette SMU

Spring-Chinook_980

Chum salmon

(Oncorhynchus keta)

Lower Columbia SMU; Coastal SMU

Chum Salmon

Coastal cutthroat trout

(Oncorhynchus clarki clarki)

Lower Columbia SMU

Coastal-cutthroat-trout_Doug-Markle_460.jpg

Coho salmon

(Oncorhynchus kisutch)

Coastal SMU; Rouge SMU; Klamath SMU; Lower Columbia SMU
Coho_salmon_BLM_460-4.jpg

Copper rockfish

(Sebastes caurinus)Copper_rockfish_Janna_Nichols_460.jpg

Deacon rockfish

(Sebastes diaconus)

Note: See Frable et al., 2015 for description of this newly discovered cryptic species formerly consider to be Blue rockfishDeacon_rockfish_ODFW_460.jpg

Eulachon

(Thaleichthys pacificus)

Southern DPSEulachon-juvenile_Doug-Markle_460.jpg

Grass rockfish

(Sebastes rastrelliger)Grass_rockfish_Oregon_Coast_Aquarium_460.jpg

Green sturgeon

(Acipenser medirostris)

Northern DPS; Southern DPS

Green Sturgeon

Kelp greenling

(Hexagrammos decagrammus)Kelp-Greenling_Janna_Nichols_460.jpg

Lingcod

(Ophiodon elongatus)Lingcod_Taylor_Frierson_460.jpg

Longfin smelt

(Spirinchus thaleicthys)Longfin_smelt_Trevan_Cornwell_ODFW_460.jpg

Northern anchovy

(Engraulis mordax)Northern anchovy in neritic, or open water, habitat.

Pacific herring

(Clupea pallasii)Pacific-Herring_Janna_Nichols_460.jpg

Pacific lamprey

(Entosphenus tridentatus)

Pacific Lamprey

Pacific sand lance

(Ammodytes hexapterus)

Pacific Sand Lance

Pile perch

(Rhacochilus vacca)Pile_perch_Oregon_Coast_Aquarium_460.jpg

Quillback rockfish

(Sebastes maliger)Quillback_rockfish_Michael_Carver_CBNMS_NOAA_460.jpg

Redtail surfperch

(Amphistichus rhodoterus)Redtail_surfperch_Oregon_Coast_Aquarium_460.jpg

Rock greenling

(Hexagrammos lagocephalus)

Rock Greenling

Shiner perch

(Cymatogaster aggregata)shiner_surfperch_Oregon_Coast_Aquarium_460.jpg

Spiny dogfish

(Squalus acanthias)Spiny_dogfish_Rick_Starr_NOAA_CBNMS_460.jpg

Starry flounder

(Platichthys stellatus)starry-flounder_credit-Taylor_Frierson_460.jpg

Striped perch

(Embiotoca lateralis)striped_perch_Oregon_Coast_Aquarium_460.jpg

Surf smelt

(Hypomesus pretiosus)

Surf Smelt

Tiger rockfish

(Sebastes nigrocinctus)Tiger_rockfish_Janna_Nichols_460.jpg

Topsmelt

(Atherinops affinis)Topsmelt_Oregon_Coast_Aquarium_720.jpg

Vermilion rockfish

(Sebastes miniatus)Vermillion_rockfish_Dan_Howard_NOAA_CBNMS_460.jpg

Western River Lamprey

(Lampetra ayresii)

Western River Lamprey

White sturgeon

(Acipenser transmontanus)White_sturgeon_ODFW_460.jpg

Wolf-eel

(Anarrhichthys ocellatus)wolf-eel

Yelloweye rockfish

(Sebastes ruberrimus)

Yelloweye_rockfish_Taylor_Frierson_980

Yellowtail rockfish

(Sebastes flavidus)

Yellowtail_rockfish_Linda_Snook_NOAA_CBNMS_NOAA_photo_library_crop

Invertebrates

Blue mud shrimp

(Upogebia pugettensis)

Blue_mud_shrimp_Gregory_Krutzikowsky_ODFW_460.jpg

California mussel

(Mytilus californianus)

California_mussel_Gregory_Krutzikowsky_ODFW_460.jpg

Dungeness crab

(Cancer magister)

Dungeness_crab_ODFW_460.jpg

Flat abalone

(Haliotis walallensis)

Flat_abalone_Scott_Groth_only_460.jpg

Native littleneck clam

(Leukoma staminea)

Native_littleneck_clam_ODFW_460.jpg

Ochre sea star

(Pisaster ochraceus)

Ochre_sea_star_Roy_Lowe_USFWS_460.jpg

Olympia oyster

(Ostrea lurida)

Olympia_oyster_Scott_Groth_onlyNS_460.jpg

Pacific giant octopus

(Enteroctopus dofleini)

Giant_Pacific_Octopus_Janna_Nichols_460.jpg

Purple sea urchin

(Strongylocentrotus purpuratus)

Purple_sea_urchin_Kelsey_Adkisson_460.jpg

Razor clam

(Siliqua patula)

RazorClam_ODFW_460.jpg

Red abalone

(Haliotis rufescens)

Red_abalone_Brandon_Ford_ODFW_460.jpg

Red sea urchin

(Mesocentrotus franciscanus)

Red_sea_urchin_Janna_Nichols_460.jpg

Rock scallop

(Crassadoma gigantea)

Rock Scallop

Sunflower star

(Pycnopodia helianthoides)

Sunflower-Star_Janna_Nichols_460.jpg

Marine Mammals

Gray whale

(Eschrichtius robustus)

Gray_whale_Craig_Hayslip_OSU_Marine_Mammal_Institute_460.jpg

Harbor porpoise

(Phocoena phocoena)

Harbor_porpoise_Craig_Hayslip_OSU_Marine_Mammal_Istitute_460.jpg

Northern elephant seal

(Mirounga angustirostris)

Northern_elephant_seal_Susan_Riemer_ODFW_460.jpg

Pacific harbor seal

(Phoca vitulina)

Harbor_seal_ODFW_460.jpg

Killer Whale

(Orcinus orca)

Southern Resident DPS

Killer_Whale_Southern_Resident_DPS_credit_NOAA_Fisheries_460.jpg

Steller sea lion

(Eumetopias jubatus)

Steller-sea-lions_ODFW_460.jpg

Plants and Algae

Bull kelp

(Nereocystis luetkeana)

Bull_Kelp_Janna_Nichols_460.jpg

Native eelgrass

(Zostera marina)

Native_Eelgrass_Janna_Nichols_460.jpg

Sea palm

(Postelsia palmaeformis)

Sea_palm_Gregory_Krutzikowsky_ODFW_460.jpg

Surf grass

(Phyllospadix spp.)

Surf_grass2_Gregory_Krutzikowsky_ODFW_460.jpg

Watch List Species

Brandt's cormorant is a Watch List species. They nest on islands and rocky headlands along the Oregon coast and forage in Nearshore waters.
Photo Credit: Bird Research Northwest. Brandt’s cormorant is a Watch List species. They nest on islands and rocky headlands along the Oregon coast and forage in Nearshore waters.

ODFW identified a handful of species from the comprehensive species list to be placed on a Watch List. Watch List Species (Table 5.2) were determined to be important nearshore species that do not require immediate management action, but may in the future. Managers should be aware of conservation needs and potential factors that could affect these species and consider them for future nearshore Strategy Species status if sufficient data can be gathered to support the change. Examples of future information that may warrant status change include a change in harvest status, or the occurrence of an anthropogenic or natural event (water pollution, climatic event, etc.).

Table 5.2 Watch List Species

Watch List BirdsComments
Brandt’s Cormorant
(Phalacrocorax penicillatus)

Utilizes rocky cliffs and islands for nesting. Forages in nearshore habitats. Sensitive to environmental change. Localized population fluctuations.
Cassin's Auklet
(Ptychoramphus aleuticus)
Nests in burrows on offshore islands with no mammalian predators. Vulnerable to nesting area disturbance, predation, oil spills and environmental change.
Common Murre
(Uria aalge)
Nests in colonies on offshore islands and coastal cliffs with no or minimal mammalian predators. Vulnerable to nesting area disturbance, predation, oil spills and environmental change. About 66% of the population from British Columbia to California nest in Oregon.
Pelagic Cormorant
(Phalacrocorax pelagicus)
Utilizes rocky cliffs and islands for nesting. Forages in nearshore habitats. Sensitive to environmental change.
Pigeon Guillemot
(Cepphus columba)
Population potentially declining, data inadequate. Vulnerable to ground predators, oil spills and environmental change. Breeding attempts may fail during climatic shifts (e.g., climate change).
Sanderling
(Calidris alba)

Highly dependent on specific nearshore feeding areas during migration. Susceptible to coastal habitat disturbance, degradation and destruction. Current population size unknown. Populations highly variable among years. Potential for long term declines.
Rhinoceros Auklet
(Cerohinca monocerata)
Nests in burrows on offshore islands. Forages in nearshore waters while nesting. Prefers nesting sites on cliffs and elevated areas to aid in take-off. Sensitive to nesting disturbance and oil spills.

Watch List FishesComments
Black-and-yellow rockfish
(Sebastes chrysomelas)
Low to moderate productivity. Commercial harvest. Periodic recruitment dependent on favorable oceanic conditions. OR northern extent of range.
Blue shark
(Prionace glauca)
Global concern regarding shark harvest and management. Low productivity. Lack of scientific knowledge.
Bocaccio
(Sebastes paucispinis)
Low productivity. Northern stock population abundance unknown.
Brown Irish lord
(Hemilepidotus spinosus)
Recreational harvest. May be getting reported as Red Irish lord. Little known about abundance.
Brown smoothhound
(Mustelus henli)
Global concern regarding shark harvest and management. Low productivity. Lack of scientific knowledge.
Buffalo sculpin
(Enophrys bison)
Recreational harvest. Little known about abundance.
Butter sole
(Isopsetta isolepis)
Commercial and recreational harvest. Population status unknown.
California halibut
(Paralichthys californicus)
Certain years found and caught on OR’s south coast. Population status unknown.
California skate
(Raja inornata)
Late maturation, longevity, and low productivity. Inadequate population status information.
Common thresher
(Alopias vulpinus)
Global concern regarding shark harvest and management. Low productivity. Lack of scientific knowledge.
Curlfin turbot (sole)
(Pleuronichthys decurrens)
Commercial harvest. Population status unknown.
English sole
(Pleuronectes vetulus)
Sport and commercial harvest. Formal stock assessment has been conducted.
Flathead sole
(Hippoglossoides elassodon)
Commercial harvest. Population status unknown.
Giant wrymouth
(Cryptacanthodes giganteus)
Concerns that they’re being caught and reported/confused with Monkeyface pricklebacks. Inadequate population status information.
Gopher rockfish
(Sebastes carnatus)
Low productivity with periodic recruitment dependent on favorable oceanic conditions. Inadequate population status information.
Leopard shark
(Triakis semifasciata)
Global concern regarding shark harvest and management. Low productivity. Lack of scientific knowledge. Collected for public aquarium display.
Monkeyface prickleback
(Cebidichthys violaceus)
Concerns regarding potential of increased harvest in OR (actively harvested in CA).
Pacific angel shark
(Squatina californica)
Global concern regarding shark harvest and management. Low productivity. Lack of scientific knowledge.
Pacific sanddab
(Citharichthys sordidus)
Commercial and recreational harvest.
Pacific sandfish
(Trichodon trichodon)
Forage fish. Population status unknown and life history information limited.
Pacific sardine
(Sardinops sagax)
Forage fish known to have large population fluctuations thought to be linked to environmental change, but mechanisms not understood. Target of commercial fisheries.
Pacific staghorn sculpin
(Leptocottus armatus)
Recreational catch. Little known about abundance.
Red Irish Lord
(Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus)
Minor commercial and recreational harvest. Collected for public aquarium display. Population status unknown.
Rock sole
(Lepidopsetta bilineata)
Commercial and recreational harvest. Population status unknown.
Salmon shark
(Lamna ditropis)
Global concern regarding shark harvest and management. Low productivity. Lack of scientific knowledge.
Sand sole
(Psettichthys melanostictus)
Commercial and recreational harvest. Population status unknown.
Shortfin mako shark (Bonito shark)
(Isurus oxyrinchus)
Global concern regarding shark harvest and management. Low productivity. Lack of scientific knowledge.
Soupfin shark
(Galeorhinus galeus)
Global concern regarding shark harvest and management. Low productivity. Lack of scientific knowledge.
Spotted ratfish
(Hydrolagus colliei)
Low productivity.
White shark
(Carcharodon carcharias)
Global concern regarding shark harvest and management. Low productivity. Lack of scientific knowledge regarding movements, spawning season, spawning grounds, and fecundity of females, population abundance.

Watch List InvertebratesComments
Butter clam
(Saxidomus gigantean)
Important commercial and recreational species. Subtidal broodstock unknown. Limited information on essential habitat.
California sea cucumber
(Parastichopus californicus)
May be important agents of bioturbation; during feeding and reworking of surface sediments, they can alter the structure of soft-bottom benthic communities.
Cockle clam
(Clinocardium nuttallii)
Important commercial and recreational species. Subtidal broodstock unknown. Limited information on essential habitat.
Coonstripe or Dock shrimp
(Pandalus danae)
Population status in Oregon unknown. Target of commercial fishery in CA.
Fat gaper clam
(Tresus capax)
Important commercial and recreational species. Subtidal broodstock unknown. Limited information on essential habitat.
Flat-tipped piddock
(Penitella penita)
Important commercial and recreational species. Subtidal broodstock unknown. Limited information on essential habitat.
Market squid
(Doryteuthis opalescens)
Important prey. Used in medical research. Commercial and recreational harvest.
Oregon triton
(Fusitriton oregonensis)
Potential for extended planktonic larval duration up to 4.5 years. Commercial harvest of all snails prohibited. Oregon state seashell.
Red rock crab
(Cancer productus)
Potential for harvest concerns. Not actively managed (though has regulations in place). Population status and trend information lacking.

Watch List Marine MammalsComments
Sea otter
(Enhydra lutris)
Documented sporadic occurrences along the OR coast thought to be strays from WA rather than established OR population. Population status in OR unknown.

Other Commonly Associated Species

Some species which did not meet criteria to be included in the nearshore Strategy Species or nearshore Watch Lists were identified to be important to nearshore ecosystems. These species were included on the list of commonly associated species (Appendix F). The conservation needs of these species will most likely be met through habitat management or management of communities of organisms.