By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
Over the last two months, our staff and volunteers have been busy surveying the reefs off our coast. With the tireless efforts of our volunteers we have completed the survey season in two of our regions. In central California we had our last surveys on October 23rd. We had perfect conditions for this survey, with beautiful golden brown sea nettles, colonial salps and ocean sunfish in the upper water column and many juvenile rockfish on the reef. Over the last few years this last survey of the year in this region has been our Halloween underwater costume competition and again we had great diving bees, pumpkins and skeletons. It was the perfect end to a successful survey season!
Further north we have completed our first field season of collaborative work of establishing the baseline data for the new marine protected areas (MPAs) along the North-Central study coast of California. For the last two months our North-Central coordinator, Narineh, has been diving with PISCO (The Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) to complete abalone and urchin surveys at over 30 sites inside and outside of the new MPAs. In addition to this collaborative work, we had our annual Sonoma campout and extravaganza this month and finished most of our monitoring sites in this region. See Megan’s article and a recent newspaper article featuring this fun and productive annual Reef Check California event.
In Southern California, we have finished 18 sites but our survey season is still in full swing since we can work later into the fall in this region. We have many surveys left to do and if you are interested in getting out to survey, check our Southern California forum.
In September, for the 2010 California and the World Oceans conference in San Francisco, I organized a symposium called "Citizen Science Informing Marine Management in California" and presented a talk called "Reef Check California: A citizen-science program to inform marine management and conservation." Together with the California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program, LIMPETS, Beach Watch and MPA Watch, we presented our approach to working with state resource managers to improve conservation and sustainable marine resource use in California. This conference was a huge success and besides having a great response to our presentation, we gleaned a lot of interesting information about the future of California’s ocean management from this event.