$4 Million Awarded to South Coast MPA Baseline Program

The projects, which will collect baseline information for up to three years, will target marine life and habitats, as well as commercial and recreational activities, inside and outside the protected areas in the South Coast region from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the California/Mexico border.

The South Coast MPA Baseline Program is a collaboration of the Ocean Protection Council, MPA Monitoring Enterprise, Department of Fish and Game, Ocean Science Trust and California Sea Grant. The projects funded through this program were solicited through a public call for proposals and were selected through a competitive, peer-review process administered by California Sea Grant.

Through the South Coast MPA Baseline Program, teams of researchers, citizen-scientists and fishermen will survey the region’s sandy beaches, rocky shores, kelp beds and deep-water ecosystems inside and outside the network of new MPAs. These surveys will include ecologically and economically important species of fishes and invertebrates, as well as a range of human activities, such as commercial and recreational fishing, and “non-consumptive” recreation such as tide-pooling, bird watching and scuba diving.

Researchers will combine new and historical data, collected inside and outside the MPAs, to document key aspects of the region’s ecological and socioeconomic characteristics at or near the time of MPA implementation. From this, they will be able to document initial changes in marine habitats, species, fisheries and recreation that may be associated with the new MPAs. The results of these projects will lay the foundation for future assessments of the effectiveness of the MPAs in meeting the goals of the Marine Life Protection Act.

Selected projects and their lead investigators are:

· Surveys of rocky intertidal ecosystems – Carol Blanchette, University of California, Santa Barbara; Pete Raimondi, University of California, Santa Cruz; Jennifer Burnaford and Jayson Smith, California State University, Fullerton; Julie Bursek, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

· Integrative assessment of baseline ecological and socioeconomic conditions – Jennifer Caselle and Carol Blanchette, University of California, Santa Barbara

· Surveys of sandy beach and surf zone ecosystems – Jenifer E. Dugan and Henry Page, University of California, Santa Barbara; Karina Nielsen, Sonoma State University; Julie Bursek, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

· Citizen-science scuba surveys of rocky reef ecosystems – Jan Freiwald and Gregor Hodgson, Reef Check California

· Baseline assessments of California spiny lobster populations, incorporating a collaborative fisheries approach – Kevin Hovel, San Diego State University; Ed Parnell, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; Doug Neilson, California Department of Fish and Game

· Remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) surveys of deep-water habitats – James Lindholm, California State University, Monterey Bay and Dirk Rosen, Marine Applied Research & Exploration

· Scuba surveys of kelp and shallow reef ecosystems – Daniel Pondella, Occidental College and Jennifer Caselle, University of California, Santa Barbara

· Surveys of seabird ecology and habitat use – Dan Robinette and Jaime Jahncke, PRBO Conservation Science

· Socioeconomics and demographics of coastal use – Astrid Scholz and Charles Steinback, Ecotrust; Chris LaFranchi, NaturalEquity

· High-resolution aerial imaging and habitat mapping of nearshore substrate – Jan Svejkovsky, Ocean Imaging Corp.

Further information about each of the projects will be available later this month on the California Sea Grant website at www.csgc.ucsd.edu.

The California Fish and Game Commission adopted the South Coast MPAs in December of 2010, as a step toward establishing a statewide network of MPAs, as required under the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act. The MPAs are scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1, 2011. MPAs in the Central Coast were established in 2007; baseline data collection in that region has been completed. Baseline data collection for the North Central Coast MPAs, which were established in 2010, is currently on-going.

The Ocean Protection Council has authorized approximately $16 million to support MPA baseline characterization in the Central, North Central, South and North Coast regions. Selected projects are required to provide at least 25 percent matching funds or in-kind contributions for each baseline project.

A map of South Coast MPAs can be viewed at www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/pdfs/scmpas121510.pdf.


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