California’s Central Coast Marine Protected Areas Baseline Data Collection Summary

December 01, 2008
Media Contact— / dseiler@ucsd.edu / (858) 246-1661

Update: February 27, 2013

Our partners at the Ocean Science Trust (OST) complied the research findings into report titled: State of the California Central Coast: Results from Baseline Monitoring of Marine Protected Areas 2007–2012.  This report will be provided to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Fish and Game Commission to inform the recommended five-year management review of the regional MPA network. 

View the report here


This report summarizes the 2007–2008 Central Coast Marine Protected Areas Baseline Data Collection Projects, which were a collaborative effort between California’s State Coastal Conservancy, Ocean Protection Council, California Department of Fish and Game, and the California Sea Grant College Program.

The Central Coast Study Region (CCSR) was the first of five statewide study regions to complete the state’s 1999 Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) planning and implementation process. The region extends from Pigeon Point in San Mateo County, southward to Point Conception in Santa Barbara County.

Surveys of Shallow-Water Rocky Reef Communities
Baseline Data Collection for Rocky Intertidal Marine Protected Areas in the Central Coast
Baseline Surveys of Deep-Water Demersal Communities in and near Central Coast MPAs
Collaborative Surveys of Nearshore Fishes in and Around Central Coast MPAs
Socioeconomic Baseline Data Collection, Resource-Use Mapping and Rapid Social Assessment


R/MPA-1 Surveys of Shallow-Water Rocky Reef Communities
Mark Carr, UCSC, 831.459.3958, carr@biology.ucsc.edu

In this project, scientists quantified fish, benthic invertebrate and macro algal assemblages in kelp forests of the central coast marine protected areas (MPAs) and associated reference sites. The survey design and sampling protocols were modeled after the large-scale, long-term monitoring program developed by the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) and incorporated into the Cooperative Research and Assessment of Nearshore Ecosystems (CRANE) program. As in the CRANE program, the project used divers to count fishes, invertebrates and algae. The baseline data collected during this project will make it possible to monitor the effects of the MPAs on kelp forest ecosystems, including commercially and recreationally harvested species. “No one has ever mobilized such a massive survey to characterize kelp forest ecosystems throughout Central California,” says the project’s leader Mark Carr, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz. “The sheer amount of detailed data collected for this project is what is truly impressive.”


R/MPA-2 Baseline Data Collection for Rocky Intertidal Marine Protected Areas in the Central Coast
Peter T. Raimondi, UCSC, 831.459.5674, raimondi@biology.ucsc.edu

In this project, scientists surveyed rocky intertidal areas (tide pools) within the central coast marine protected areas (MPAs) and associated reference sites.

They coordinated their sampling with the two largest rocky intertidal monitoring programs in the state—Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) and Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe). The main goal was to document community structure of target assemblages (e.g., mussels, barnacles and surfgrass), as well as to quantify abundances and sizes of key species (e.g., abalone, owl limpets and seastars). They also recorded biodiversity hotspots and species-habitat associations. With this baseline data, scientists may be able to detect changes in intertidal areas associated with the MPAs.

“There is a great need to capture the diversity of sites and to map it in 3D,” says the project’s leader, professor Peter Ramondi of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz.

“The intertidal is where most people interact with the shoreline,” he says. “These areas are very sensitive to trampling, collecting, development and agricultural and urban runoff.”


R/MPA-3 Baseline Surveys of Deep-Water Demersal Communities in and near Central Coast MPAs
Richard M. Starr, CSGEP/MLML, 831.771.4442, starr@mlml.calstate.edu
Mary M. Yoklavich, NOAA/SWFSC, 831.420.3940, mary.yoklavich@noaa.gov

In this project, scientists surveyed the fishes and macro invertebrates of deep, rocky banks and outcrops, underwater pinnacles, submarine canyons, cobble fields and mud flats of eight of the new central coast marine protected areas (MPAs) and their associated reference sites. Because these surprisingly colorful demersal habitats are beyond the reach of divers and ROVs, scientists conducted their baseline study from the submersible Delta.

All observed fish were identified and measured (using paired lasers). Scientists also videotaped each dive and later analyzed the images to characterize all structure-forming invertebrates and benthic habitats.

A full-color, 21-page report summarizes the habitats, fishes and invertebrates seen in each survey area. Its bar graphs, pie charts and tables meaningfully distill for readers the huge wealth of data in an easily digestible format. This page summarizes some of what was seen during the dives.


R/MPA-4 Collaborative Surveys of Nearshore Fishes in and Around Central Coast MPAs
Dean E. Wendt, CPSLO, 805.756.2988, dwendt@calpoly.edu
Richard M. Starr, CSGEP/MLML, 831.771.4442, starr@mlml.calstate.edu

In this project, researchers and the local fishing community jointly developed statistically rigorous protocols for using volunteer anglers to collect fisheries management data. The test-bed for this citizen science/collaborative fisheries project was to collect baseline data for three of the new central coast marine protected areas (MPAs) and their associated reference sites. The project hinged on the volunteer participation of 174 experienced recreational anglers who caught and released fish in the survey sites for set periods of time and with standardized gear.

With this high level of community support, scientists were able to identify, measure, tag and release almost 8,000 fish in a three-month period. From a scientific perspective, the species caught, their sizes and relative abundances provide an immediate snapshot of the region’s bottom fishes in 2007. This snapshot or baseline can be used to track future ecological changes associated with the MPAs. The huge number of tagged fish now swimming in the region also have the potential to add substantially to what is known about local fish populations, growth rates and home range sizes of key species. Such information would be a boon to federal and state stock assessments. From a public relations and educational standpoint, the researchers leading the project strongly believe that stakeholder collaboration in the MPA monitoring project enhanced local support for the state’s bold conservation plan. The value of this, they say, cannot be over-stressed.


R/MPA-5 Socioeconomic Baseline Data Collection, Resource-Use Mapping and Rapid Social Assessment
John S. Petterson, IA, 858.459.0142, iaia.san.rr.com
Edward W. Glazier, IA, 858.459.0142, iaia.san.rr.com

In this project, anthropologists compiled a socioeconomic baseline for evaluating the effects of the central coast marine protected areas (MPAs) on the fishing industry and non-consumptive users, including divers, kayakers and surfers, among others. Although a wide range of information was collected, the project focused on documenting how fishermen have used coastal resources in the past and how they are currently using them. The data have been used to create a series of GIS maps showing the spatial distribution of fishing effort for various fisheries over time. This “human use” baseline will help managers assess the effects of MPAs on the fishing industry, while meeting the state’s conservation goals.

Download the full report for a complete summary of the sites surveyed, methods, key observations and conclusions.

About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Our headquarters is at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; we are one of 33 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.