Monitoring and evaluation of mid-depth rocky reef ecosystems in the MLPA marine protected area

Project Number
Project Date Range
Funding Agency
California Ocean Protection Council (OPC)
Focus Area(s)
Healthy Coastal Ecosystems

Rocky reef habitats deeper than 30 meters represent at least 75% of all marine habitats in California state waters by area. Deep rocky banks and outcroppings, underwater pinnacles, and submarine canyons support a high diversity of ecologically and economically important fish and invertebrate species. These habitats also experience a much greater likelihood of habitat alteration than nearshore habitats due to the heavy use of trawls, longlines, and gillnets in deep water. However, little is known about these habitats due to the difficulties associated with sampling in deeper water.

This project will identify any observable MPA effects in deepwater habitats to date, via analysis of 25+ years of historical imagery and data from California waters as well as advanced modeling approaches integrating fisheries recruitment and physical oceanographic data. The researchers will conduct surveys using remotely operative vehicles, camera, and video tools to collect biological data. They will also synthesize analyses of historical and newly collected data to provide a comprehensive assessment of deep rocky reef ecosystem health across the MPA network. This integrative analysis will help fill a key gap in scientific understanding of these unique systems, and provide the state with recommendations for future monitoring in this habitat.

Project monitoring sites

This project plans to conduct monitoring at the following Tier I sites (listed from north to south):

  • Bodega Head SMRmap of sites
  • Bodega Head SMCA
  • Montara SMR
  • Ano Nuevo SMR
  • Carmel Bay SMCA
  • Point Lobos SMR
  • Point Buchon SMR
  • Point Buchon SMCA
  • Point Conception SMR
  • Campus Point SMCA
  • Harris Point SMR
  • Carrington Point SMR
  • Anacapa Island SMCA
  • Anacapa Island SMR



Principal Investigators
profile photo of Rick Starr Rick Starr
San Jose State University (San Jose State)
Co-principal Investigators
Jennifer Caselle
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)
Amanda Kahn
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)
Andrew Lauermann
Marine Applied Research & Exploration (MARE)
James Lindholm
California State University, Monterey Bay (CSU Monterey Bay) (CSUMB)
Brian Tissot
Cal Poly Humboldt

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