The historical ecology of central California coast fishing: Perspectives from Point Reyes National Seashore

Publication date: December 2018

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 100

Author(s): Gabriel M. Sanchez, Kenneth W. Gobalet, Roberta Jewett, Rob Q. Cuthrell, Michael Grone, Paul M. Engel, Kent G. Lightfoot


Archaeological sites represent long-term biological repositories, relevant for understanding ancient economies and ways of life that can provide historical baseline data for contemporary conservation biology, restoration ecology, and fisheries management. Small-scale excavations at nine archaeological sites within Point Reyes National Seashore, on the central California coast, led to the recovery of a large assemblage of fish remains from deposits dated from 800 to 770 cal BC to the historical era. These assemblages contained over 9000 fish remains identified to at least a family. Applying quantitative analysis and morphometric studies, these data suggest the indigenous fishery of Point Reyes in the homeland of the Coast Miwok people was directed toward the acquisition of mass-captured forage fish from the families Clupeidae, Atherinopsidae, and Engraulidae in addition to Embiotocidae. Perceived declines in contemporary forage fish populations within Point Reyes National Seashore, specifically Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), an important keystone, indicator, and umbrella species, suggest further protections are needed to ensure continued ecosystem services and prevent ecological extinction.