By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
In November Reef Check California focused its energy on the southern region of the state. While the weather and sea conditions in northern California have become colder and stormy, we had great conditions in southern California. We surveyed sites at Catalina and Malaga Cove, went on a three day cruise of the Channel Islands on UC Santa Barbara’s research vessel Cormorant, and participated in workshops on the monitoring of marine protected areas (MPAs). For the remainder of the year, we have a few more surveys planned, so if you are interested in some year-end dives check out the RCCA forum’s southern California page.
On the Channel Islands we had more than perfect conditions and were able to survey six sites at Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands in three days with an awesome team of volunteers and staff. We would begin each day with a large breakfast on the boat and then complete three or four dives to survey our sites. In the evenings we watched amazing sunsets over the islands and enjoyed dinners together. Diving these sites, especially along Anacapa, where a small marine protected area has been in place for over thirty years, always reminds us of the abundance and size that California’s kelp forest fish and invertebrate species can reach when protected from fishing.
As the process of implementation of MPAs progresses in southern California, three workshops were held by the MPA Monitoring Enterprise in cooperation with the Department of Fish and Game to provide the opportunity for public participation in the development of methods for ecological and socio-economic monitoring of MPAs in southern California. The workshops were well attended and participants included representatives from commercial and recreational fishing, California tribes and tribal communities, conservation, local, state, and federal agencies and all kinds of ocean users. Our southern California Reef Check staff and I attended these meetings in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Carlsbad to provide input on the monitoring plans that are being developed to evaluate the long-term effects of MPAs in this region. The final decision about the implementation of MPAs in southern California will be made by the Fish and Game Commission at a meeting in Santa Barbara on the 15th and 16th of December. Stay tuned for these exciting developments in southern California or go to the public Fish and Game Commission meeting to participate in the process.