By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
Reef Check California’s (RCCA) summer survey season is in full swing. We have conducted trainings and recertifications of RCCA divers from San Diego in the south to Mendocino in the north. Numerous new divers have joined us in our effort to survey the rocky reefs along the California coast this year and many RCCA veterans have returned this year to continue their important work and help to improve marine management in their state. Now with this great group of volunteers ready to go we have started surveying our sites. Highlights of this year’s surveys so far have been the sightings of sevengill sharks in southern California and of a sturgeon by one of our volunteers surveying off Mendocino.
In addition to surveying the sites of our extensive network along the California coast, RCCA has become part of a team of academic and non-profit organizations that has begun the monitoring of marine protected areas (MPAs) that were newly established on May 1st along the north central coast under the MLPA initiative. As part of this project, RCCA is working on establishing a baseline dataset of the rocky reef communities inside and outside of these new MPAs. This data will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the new MPAs. In this region, we will continue to monitor sites that we established before the MPAs were put into place and add new monitoring sites. In addition to these RCCA surveys, we will be working with the Partnership of Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) to monitor the density and size distribution of two important invertebrates in this region: sea urchins and abalone.
To coordinate RCCA’s work in this study region and to foster collaborations within this research group, we have hired a coordinator for the MPA baseline monitoring. It is a pleasure to introduce Narineh Nazarian who joined Reef Check California last month. Narineh moved across the country to return to this region that she has come to love during her time at Humboldt State University, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Scientific Diving. Narineh has hit the ground running: she has already completed the Reef Check training in Monterey, the scientific diver training with the Department of Fish and Game on Catalina and is working with PISCO to coordinate our surveying efforts. Narineh is located in the Santa Rosa area to be near the study region that stretches from Point Arena to Bodega Bay. We are very excited to have her on board as our newest staff member. Her background in the marine biology of northern California and her extensive diving experience along the north coast provide her with the necessary skills to work along this challenging stretch of coastline.
If you are interested in participating in surveys along the North Coast please check the RCCA forum for survey dates in this region. There is also still one more opportunity to become an RCCA EcoDiver in this region this year. We are offering our last training in northern California in Sonoma in July. For this and other trainings, please check the training schedule to sign up to become a Reef Check California diver and help work towards a sustainable future for California’s coastal ecosystem.