By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
Reef Check California has already surveyed 30 of its monitoring sites this year. So far, we have been very fortunate with the ocean conditions, as waters have been calm and visibility has been good for most of the year. This has allowed us to complete surveys at many sites that we were struggling to finish by this time last year. In August we started our second year of baseline monitoring of the MPAs in the north-central California study region between Bodega and Point Arena in Mendocino County. This is the final year of the two year monitoring program and we will collaborate with our partners to survey the 39 sites done last year for a second time. In addition to our sites where we do full Reef Check California surveys, we are also characterizing the population size, structure, and density of red abalone and sea urchins at an additional 34 sites.
In central California, we have surveyed most of our sites in Monterey Bay and are now focusing on the amazing sites in Carmel Bay and Pt. Lobos. Recently, there have been many exciting sightings of seasonal visitors to the Monterey Bay. Several basking sharks have been spending time around the Monterey Peninsula, and leatherback sea turtles and giant sunfish have also been seen frequently. These species come into the bay to feed on the abundant food that is available this time of year. The turtles and sunfish feed on the jellies that have come in with the oceanic water in recent weeks, while the basking sharks follow the plankton that is abundant in the upwelling zones along the coast. In addition to these large species, sardines and squid have moved into the bay and with them their predators, including salmon and white seabass. The bay is buzzing with life right now! If you want to come out and survey either in central California or in southern California, please check our online forum at: http://forum.reefcheck.org/phpbb3/viewforum.php?f=3 . We hope to see you soon!