Their common name is red snapper, though that hardly does justice to the diversity of 70 different species off California's coast. Rockfish had been the mainstay of California's commercial fishing industry, so much so, that about 20 years ago, not many of them remained.
Now the question is -- are they coming back?
"This kind of species takes a long time to both deplete and rebound," Mark Carr said.
The University of California, Santa Cruz ecology and evolutionary biology professor is looking to answer that question. For the last several years, Carr and his staff have monitored rockfish numbers by placing traps just offshore.
"These fish are to their way to the kelp forests, and we intercept them with these collectors," Carr said.
In scientific terms, it is the routine stuff of random sampling, but in practice, it is hard work -- pulling the traps out, flushing the fish into a collector, then counting and cataloging.
All the debates about closing California's offshore fisheries may be paying off. Carr says we are beginning to see results.
The protected adults have begun to produce more offspring.
But one good season does not mean an easy fix.
"They were born this year, but it takes five or six years for these guys to get big enough to be legally caught," Carr said.
So for all the bad news one hears about the oceans, here is one success story.
It does not mean better rockfishing this year, or even next, but based on what Carr and his team are seeing now, 2014 ought to be a doozy.