Ocean Science Trust Releases South Coast Kelp Snapshot Report

As a lead up to the State of the South Coast region report in early 2017, throughout the summer and fall Ocean Science Trust is releasing series of snapshot reports that highlight key findings from South Coast baseline monitoring projects. Their first report on rocky intertidal monitoring can be found here.

Most recently, they’ve released a Kelp and Shallow Rock Report, focused on the findings of two state Ocean Protection Council funded research projects led by Reef Check, and Vantuna Research Group in collaboration with PISCO.

Ocean Science Trust is currently reaching out to collaboratives, local agencies, collaborative member organizations, and the broader South Coast ocean community to welcome feedback and continued engagement regarding baseline monitoring on the South Coast.

MPAs Protect Valuable Habitat, Boost Ecosystem Health

Kelp forests provide vital habitat for numerous fish species, seabirds, invertebrates, and marine mammals, and offer exciting recreational opportunities for divers, kayakers, and fishermen. They are also significant to our state’s ocean economy – researchers analyzed fishing data from 1980-2009 to show that South Coast kelp forests support the largest recreational fishing industry on the West Coast, and generate 10% of the State’s commercial fishing revenue.

The good news is that marine protected areas seem to be working to increase the biomass of fish species targeted by fishermen both inside and outside of reserves. On the Channel Islands, where a large network of no-take marine reserves was established in 2003, researchers detected biomass increases in fish and invertebrate species both inside and outside of MPAs, but the rate of change was much greater inside MPAs.

These data provide context and hope for MPAs on the South Coast. After just five years, there are not sufficient data to show a difference in mainland MPAs, but researchers think that the biomass increases in the Channel Islands MPAs may similarly occur in South Coast MPAs over time.

Marine protected areas are a long term investment in the health of our oceans and fisheries. Scientists and fishermen are hoping that these investments yield a future full of fish. Moving forward, supporting the continuous scientific monitoring of reserves and fished areas will be necessary to ensure that scientists, policymakers, and fishermen fully understand how well California’s marine reserves are functioning.

Photo credit: Dana Roeber Murray