November 24, 2009

Reef Check California November 2009 Update

By Reef Check California Director of Science Cyndi Dawson

November marks the official end of the survey season. As I write this, we still have Humboldt State University out completing surveys during Thanksgiving week but we are on track to complete 70 sites statewide. This is an especially noteworthy accomplishment given the challenging fundraising climate we faced this year. Our staff and volunteers really stepped up and went the extra mile to once again show continued growth of the program, adding an additional 10 sites which increase our ability to improve marine management in California.

This month saw some firsts for the California Program. Our partnership with the LA Port Police came to fruition with the completion of a site just inside the LA Harbor Breakwall. We also began work in a new location in Baja at Bahía Magdalena. This is an incredibly interesting place that is located in a transitional area between temperate and tropical oceanic zones. I joined Director of Science Andrea Sánez-Arroyo (Communidad y Biodiversidad, COBI) and Mary Luna (RC Program Manager, Mexico & Outreach) on a trip to the southern end of the Baja Peninsula to start work with a Cooperative of Fishermen located on Isla Magdalena which is a large barrier island (314 km2) in front of Bahía Magdalena. 

The Isla Magdalena Cooperative had heard of COBI and RC’s work with the Coop on Isla Natividad and invited us to come start a similar marine reserve project in their fishing grounds. Unlike the Natividad Coop that have exclusive rights to the area around their island, the situation is much more complex in Bahía Magdalena with literally tens of different Coops with fishing concessions in overlapping areas. However, COBI successfully negotiated a new marine reserve that was unanimously approved by the Coop in June as well as securing funds for the purchase of a vessel to help with enforcement of the new reserve. The goal of our trip was to continue to develop a relationship with the community and make dives to determine the species assemblages and adjust the monitoring protocol accordingly. We found a system dominated by tropical species such angelfish and butterflyfish swimming among a sub-canopy of often dense Southern sea palm (Eisenia arborea). We also were lucky enough to see several Gulf grouper (Mycteroperca jordani).


We are making the final adjustments to the protocol and the training of the local Coop members will begin next May with their certification as scuba divers. We are looking forward to another successful project involving marine reserves and providing the community with data that will help them make the best decisions for the long-term sustainability of their resources.

If you want the inside scoop on what is happening with RCCA you can follow me on Twitter. I will continue “tweeting” throughout the season to keep everyone updated on the RCCA program and my exploits as RCCA’s Director of Science. All relevant updates will also be posted on the Forum including daily blogs when I am on the road spreading the word about Reef Check.

As you all know, this has been a challenging year financially for most of us and RCCA is no exception. Please consider making an end-of-the-year donation to help us finish 2009 in a healthy financial condition. We continue to be on the front lines of improving marine management in California and we need your continued support! Your donations to RCCA go directly to supporting the collection of the critical data needed to sustainably manage California’s marine resources. Please join us and help ensure the sustainability of reefs worldwide!