• Welcome to ScubaBoard

  1. Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

    Benefits of registering include

    • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
    • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
    • You can make this box go away

    Joining is quick and easy. Login or Register now by clicking on the button

A Guide To The Rockfishes, Thornyheads, and Scorpionfishes of the Northeast Pacific

Discussion in 'Apps, Book and Media Reviews' started by Soakedlontra, Jan 30, 2013.

  1. Soakedlontra

    Soakedlontra Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Northern Puget Sound
    A Guide To The Rockfishes, Thornyheads, and Scorpionfishes
    of the Northeast Pacific

    by John L. Butler, Milton S. Love and Tom E. Laidig

    University of California Press, 2012
    $ 29.95, 200 pages
    ISBN: 9780520270091

    I grew up spending my summer vacations snorkeling in the warm blue water of the Mediterranean Sea pretending to be an intrepid and curious Jacques Cousteau. In my childish mind, the idea of breathing air underwater with a regulator attached to a cylinder instead of a snorkel on the surface was a thought as unthinkable as the possibility of becoming the first female astronaut to land on the moon.

    Then, many years later, a convoluted chain of circumstances brought me to the chilly shores of the Salish Sea in Washington State, USA. In 2008 I became a certified scuba diver and discovered that seawater can be green and that it doesn’t necessarily need to be warm to sustain a myriad of extraordinary marine creatures. Some of these fabulous animals are the inquisitive and variably colored Rockfishes, which belong to the Scorpaenidae family, genus Sebastes. One of the most remarkable things about these fishes is that some species can live longer than my grandfather who died at the age of 104.

    Soon after I was making bubbles underwater, I became a member of an American non-profit organization of recreational divers called Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). Its main objective is to monitor fish population in North and Central America, Hawaii and the South Pacific through a program called the Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Since then, I have been listing the names of fishes and their abundance after a dive and adding the collected information to an electronic form on the REEF website.
    In order to submit reliable data to REEF I have to be sure that I name the species of fish accurately; therefore, a good fish identification book is essential to successfully carry out this task without getting lost inside the intricate and puzzling maze called fish identification.

    Since 2008 my knowledge about the local rockfishes has been based on the first editions of two books: “Whelks to Whales, Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest” by Rick M. Harbo and “Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest” by Andy Lamb and Phil Edgell. Recently, a third volume has found its way to my Pacific Northwest marine creatures ID book collection: “
    A Guide to the Rockfishes, Thornyheads and Scorpionfishes of the Northeast Pacific
    ” by John L. Butler, Milton S. Love and Tom E. Laidig, published by the University of California Press in 2012.

    This new book stands out from the previously mentioned volumes and others available on the market for several reasons. It focuses exclusively on the members of the Scorpaenidae family, which includes, as the title clearly tells us, Rockfishes, Thornyheads and Scorpionfishes.
    It was purposefully conceived to help divers to identify species under the changing conditions of underwater environments and make them understand better the chameleon-like behavior of these species of fish. As the authors point out in the preface of the book: ‘It is the continuing challenge posed by the identification of these fishes that inspired us to produce this book. Specifically, this is a guide designed to help differentiate species when fishes are observed underwater’.

    There are several factors that frequently make the correct identification of these animals underwater difficult: some species have very subtle physical variations from one another so they can be easily confused; they have the ability to change their body color and markings according to their surroundings and, often, the juveniles look rather different from the adults.
    Water complicates things further. It is much denser than air and absorbs light very quickly causing the various colors of the spectrum to fade way and disappear at different depths. So the color and markings of a fish can look very different whether the animal is resting on the bottom or swimming in the water column; whether it is in few feet of water or 100 feet deep.

    Unlike other fish ID books, “A Guide to the Rockfishes, Thornyheads and Scorpionfishes of the Northeast Pacific” leads the divers through all these variables with over 400 beautiful color photographs. Each species, apart from few exceptions, is visually recorded at various stages of its life under different lighting conditions and underwater backgrounds as if it were a fashion model wearing different sets of clothing for every season.
    After leafing through the book I was pleasantly surprised to discover how many more types of rockfishes do actually exist in the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean.
    Butler, Love and Laidig have masterfully documented sixty-seven species. The only sad note is that being a recreational diver I am able to see just a handful because a lot of them live at depths beyond recreational diving limits. However, I console myself thinking that with this guide I will be able to identify more juveniles than ever before.

    The three authors, John L. Butler, Milton S. Love and Tom E. Laidig are scientists who have been studying the fish population of the Pacific Ocean from Baja California to Alaska for decades. John L. Butler, now a retired Research Fishery Biologist, skillfully took the photographs of deeper water rockfishes using a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) with a still camera attached to it; Milton S.Love is a Research Biologist at the Marine Science Institute, Santa Barbara, CA, and author of an excellent and comprehensive book about all the species of fishes of the Pacific Coast titled Certainly More Than You Want to Know About The Fishes of the Pacific Coast. He has spent many years taking turns inside the cramped space of a manned submersible with Tom E. Laidig, a Research Fisheries Biologist at the Nation Marine Fisheries Service, to conduct surveys off the central and southern California coast. In Milton’s humorous words: “Between the three of us there is close to 100 years of experience working with rockfishes” and I would add “cozily held together by an eye-catching cover illustrated by Amadeo Bachar”.

    (Photo of cover by courtesy of University of California Press)


    A Guide to the Rockfishes, Thornyheads, and Scorpionfish of the Northeast Pacific, by John Butler, Milton S. Love, and Thomas E. Laidig. (c) 2012 by the Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2013

Share This Page