By Katie Kozma, Reef Check California SoCal Training Coordinator
In May 2016, Reef Check launched a month-long Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to help complete our assessment of California's Northern Channel Islands and Big Sur Coast for the second year in a row. With the support of 87 backers, we successfully raised the funds to complete both EcoExpeditions once again this year.
On the evening of August 29th, 2016, a group of 22 divers boarded the Conception of the Truth Aquatics Fleet in Santa Barbara and prepared to spend the next three days counting fish, invertebrates, and algae and doing substrate characterization. After looking at the large swell reports that were predicted, we made a plan and motored overnight toward the Northern Channel Islands.
On Day One we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise over Anacapa Island. After a thorough dive briefing, our dedicated and eager team suited up for the first dive of the trip. Surface conditions were calm and visibility was incredible with loads of fish to count, including large schools of blacksmith and señoritas. We were able to complete three survey sites around the island in three dives at Landing Cove, Cathedral Wall and Goldfish Bowl for a successful first day. Some divers encountered a giant black sea bass, a green sea turtle and some friendly California sea lions while collecting their data.
On Day Two we found ourselves anchored at Santa Rosa Island and prepared for another day of diving and data collection. Surface conditions were a bit rough, the current was strong, and the divers faced some moderate surge underwater, but visibility was still decent. There was a lot of giant kelp to count, many different species of rockfish to size, and bat rays all around. Once again we were able to complete three survey sites in three dives around the island with our enthusiastic team at East Point, South Point and Johnson's Lee.
The third and final day of our expedition found us at Santa Cruz Island. Our first dive of the day was at Scorpion Anchorage, where the kelp was thick and many of our divers subsampled spiny lobsters and warty sea cucumbers while collecting their invertebrate data. Our last two survey sites of the trip were Fry's Anchorage and Pelican Anchorage. These sites were urchin barrens, with little algae to count at either site.
Our devoted team of divers then headed back to port, with the knowledge we had successfully completed nine survey sites around the three islands. The data that was collected by the divers on this trip is currently being entered into our database and will soon be available on our Global Reef Tracker for scientists, marine managers and the general public to use.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who backed our Kickstarter campaign and helped make this trip possible. And of course, a huge shout-out goes to our amazing team of volunteers for their incredible efforts to help collect the data during this expedition!