**This blog entry orginally appeared on the website oceanspaces.org.**/p>
I stood on the “landing pad” at the Mendocino Headlands site, also known as Pipeline, catching HSU students as waves pushed them one at a time onto the flat rocky outcropping which made this site dive-able. I saw the swell coming and signaled Jeramiah to wait, it was too big to catch, yet Jeramiah was already face down in the first wave kicking towards me. The wave hit me on the chest and kicked me off my feet at the same time my hand made contact with the first stage of Jeramiah’s tank. The water pushed us back and around slamming me into the rocks and Jeramiah into me in one second and in the next sucking both of us down the slope. My free hand grabbed at anything to prevent us from slipping all the way into the water. We managed to stay on the landing pad, and I reach down and unclip one of his fins before the next wave hit. All the while yelling “I got ya buddy, I got ya. You’re doing a good job!” After taking two more waves in this fashion Jeramiah began the steep hike up the rocks and I turned to ready myself for the next diver.
Pipeline is my favorite site along the north coast, the trickiness of the entry and exit is over shadowed by the splendor of the northern slot. The slot is about 40 feet deep and the western wall is covered in bright pink cup anemones; along the bottom large green anemones nestled up to abalone and giant spine sea starts as kelp greenling’s dart from rock to rock. I was lucky enough to get to survey the northern slot this past month. Within the first 8 meters of my transect I had already counted 50 abalone with sizes that ranged from 4cm to 24cm. The transects laid along the main slot also counted an abundance of abalone, urchins, sea stars and anemones and the team of nine HSU divers were able to conduct all 24 survey’s on two dives.
The next day we surveyed Frolic Cove inside the Pt. Cabrillo reserve. Frolic Cove gave us a gentle beach entry and exit but the hike down to beach made the site just as exhausting to survey as the Mendocino Headlands. But again we were spoiled by 8 meters of visibility, abundances of invertebrates, fish and algae. One lingcod along my transect made my day, and proved that fish at the top of the food chain are afraid of nothing. He sat in cave glaring at me as I attempted to scare him away so I could count any invertebrates that may have shared the cave with him. He didn’t budge as I flashed light in him eyes and nudged my slate at him. He gave me that look saying “This is my ocean, I am king here.” He was right though and after a few minutes I gave up and moved on.
Frolic Cove was an interesting site for me to finally get to survey. I have previously surveyed the northern and southern sides of Caspar Cove just a stone’s throw north from Frolic Cove. Both coves face the same direction and are equally sheltered from the open ocean; however Caspar Cove is significantly larger than Frolic Cove. The interesting part of me is that the three sites represent three levels of allowable fisheries. The northern side of Caspar Cove is open to all fishing, the southern side is open to fishing but closed to urchin fishing and Frolic Cove is closed to all types of fishing. I am looking forward to collect long term data on these three sites and being able to directly compare the effects of fishing on an ecosystem.