Ocean Updates - March 2008
March 27, 2008
Seabirds to Guide Fisheries Management?
The low returns of Coho and Chinook salmon have worried many ecosystem scientists, fishery managers, fishermen and local residents regarding the state of this precious marine resource. Across the coast of California, there has been a 73% decline in returning adults in 2007/08 compared to the same cohort in 2004/05. Recent studies on this phenomenon as well as other marine indicators suggest that these changes are largely due to alterations in the local oceanic conditions off of California and Oregon.
Currently, jack (2 year old male) returns have been a useful predictor of the following year run size, but perhaps another indicator can also be used. Jennifer Roth, biologist at PRBO Conservation Science, suggests in an article for the Press Democrat that seabirds such as Cassin’s auklets may be used as indicators of the ocean conditions that are affecting salmon, which could in turn help predict future salmon returns. This is because seabirds often feed on the same food source that juvenile salmon feed on. In 2005 and 2006, researchers found that nesting seabirds at the Farallon Islands experienced poor breeding success or complete breeding failure. Cassin’s auklets feed on krill and apparently could not find enough food to successfully raise chicks. Diet analysis of other fish-feeding seabirds indicate that they turned away from their usual prey such as juvenile rockfish towards anchovies, which are farther away and less accessible.
In addition to having another (possibly earlier) indicator of salmon spawning runs, we are reminded that our ecosystem is beautifully and intricately connected. Nothing ever stands or falls alone. Rather, we each study small portions of a large web whose mysteries we are slowly starting to tease apart.
"We have been working for 50 straight hours, since most of us have been thinking about the proposals even in our sleep," commented Samantha Murray of The Ocean Conservancy during group presentations of the final three Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) North Central Coast Regional Stakeholder Group proposals last Wednesday in San Rafael. The stakeholders had gathered for a marathon work-session to negotiate and finalize the final three proposals in a meeting that commenced last Monday at 5pm and didn’t end until Wednesday at 7pm. For a group that started out with ten different proposals, this was a tremendous undertaking that required significant compromising on all fronts.
Among the thirty-two stakeholders are many individuals well known to Point Reyes National Seashore: longtime docents Rick Johnson and Patricia King, West Marin conservationist Fred Smith, and local fisherman Tom Baty, Superintendent Don Neubacher, and Learning Center Director and marine ecologist Ben Becker. Other interests represented by the stakeholder group include other public agencies, abalone divers, recreational and commercial fishermen, scientists, conservationists, and educators.
The Result? After months of negotiations between these different interests, three final proposals have emerged: one strong conservation proposal, one “fishermen’s proposal”, and one cross-interest proposal that twenty stakeholders were working on. There are some areas for which the three proposals are nearly identical, such as Point Reyes headlands, where all three proposals suggest a 9 square mile reserve including Drakes Estero south of the oyster lease and a marine conservation area extending south to the state line that would only allow salmon trolling and crabbing. Other areas such as Double Point/Duxbury Reef have different MPAs in all three proposals, with the “fishermen’s proposal” not having any marine protected areas at Double Point and Duxbury Reef at all. The existing Tomales Bay State Marine Park was removed in two of the three proposals, and none of the proposals had MPAs at the Bird Rock area. If you want to see maps, come find me in the Science office and I’ll be happy to show them to you.
Next steps for these proposals include a Science Advisory Team (SAT) evaluation, which according to SAT member Sarah Allen has already begun. Then, the Regional Stakeholders Group (RSG) presents the final proposals to the 5-member Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF), who evaluates them and makes a recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission. The BRTF meeting will be held on April 22-23 in San Rafael. At this meeting, there will be opportunities for public comment, which are valuable and carefully considered by both the RSG and BRTF. There needs to be a lot of public support for an effective and well-founded array of MPAs along our coast. Come and make your voice heard! For more information go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa
March 13, 2008
The California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is progressing along to the final stretch! Next Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17-18 marks the final two days of meetings and negotiations of the North Central Coast Regional Stakeholder Group, of which Point Reyes National Seashore Superintendent Don Neubacher and Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center Director Ben Becker are members. The goal of the final two days of meetings is to produce 2-3 suggested proposals of MPA arrays for the north central coast. The meetings will take place at the Sheraton in San Rafael, and the public is invited to attend, observe and make comments on both days. For more information and meeting agendas go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa
Researchers Create Global Human Impacts to Marine Ecosystems Map
In the last three weeks, the buzz in the oceans community is over a global map of human impacts to marine ecosystems , produced by scientists from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara. This oceans impact study is significant for 1) its global scale and 2) the large amounts of impacts included – seventeen maps on human impacts such as fishing, pollution and climate change were overlaid. This map synthesized global data on human impacts to marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, seagrass beds, continental shelves and the deep ocean. Past studies have focused largely on single activities or single ecosystems in isolation, and rarely at the global scale. In this study the scientists were able to look at the summed influence of human activities across the entire ocean. They have found that more than 40 percent of the world’s oceans are heavily affected by human activities, and few, if any, areas remain untouched.
"My hope is that our results serve as a wake-up call to better manage and protect our oceans rather than a reason to give up," lead author Ben Halpern said in an interview. "Humans will always use the oceans for recreation, extraction of resources, and for commercial activity such as shipping. This is a good thing. Our goal, and really our necessity, is to do this in a sustainable way so that our oceans remain in a healthy state and continue to provide us the resources we need and want." For more information, visit the project's website: http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/GlobalMarine
Did You Know?
In addition to raising sea levels and temperatures, the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is changing ocean chemistry by reducing the pH of the ocean. This decreased pH reduces the availability of minerals which marine organisms use to build shells and reef structures. More...