The tragic recent oil spill at Refugio State Beach is a prime example of why Reef Check’s long-term monitoring along the California coast is so valuable. Without information about the reef ecosystems, we would not be able to understand the impacts accidents like this might have on our environment. Since it is impossible to know where accidents like the one at Refugio will happen, a large network of sites is necessary to establish baselines of the ecosystem conditions along our coast. Reef Check California’s monitoring site at Refugio State Beach was established as a Reef Check site in 2006. Since then, Reef Check California teams of divers have been monitoring the kelp forest community of fish, invertebrates and algae every year and they have completed 13 surveys over the last 9 years. The reef supports a relatively dense kelp forest compared to other sites along the Santa Barbara coast and in the northern Channel Islands. The rocky seafloor is mostly low relief bedrock substrate that is covered in a layer of understory brown algae which provides habitat for many fish and invertebrate species. Sea urchins and giant spine sea stars were some of the most common invertebrate species at this site until the sea stars were wiped out by the recent sea star wasting syndrome. Common fish species at this site include surf perches, such as the black perch and striped perch. We also commonly observe blacksmith and senoritas at Refugio. Other monitoring sites along the Santa Barbara coast that are monitored by Reef Check are located in the Naples and Campus Point MPAs. Reef Check volunteers are ready to survey and we are making every effort to monitor these sites again as soon as it is safe to do so.
Check out this flyer from our partners at Ocean Science Trust for more details of post-spill monitoring efforts: http://reefcheck.org/PDFs/refugiooilspill.pdf