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Monterey Bay Issue Name: Wildlife Disturbance – Tidepools


The MBNMS currently lacks an overall strategy to address impacts to tidepools from human disturbance. Although a comprehensive regional analysis of the locations and extent of tidepool impacts is lacking, public concerns have been raised about disturbance to tidepools in many different areas of the Sanctuary including Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Pigeon Point, Bean Hollow, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Big Sur and Cambria. Concerns raised in areas of high visitor traffic include trampling of the resources, turnover of rocks, displacement of both living and nonliving resources, and collecting of intertidal species or shells that can provide habitat. More...

Issue Summary
  See the Proposed Action Plans
Draft Action Plan
  Tidepool Draft Action Plan (pdf 2.6M)
Working Group Roles and Responsibilities
  Roles and Responsibilities (pdf 24K)
  Consensus Based Decision Making (pdf 24K)
Meeting Preparation
  Meeting 4 Agenda (pdf 8K)
Additional Information
  JMPR Documents

Working Group Participants:
~Working Group Contact~
Name Affiliation Email Phone
Holly Price MBNMS 831-647-4247
~Sanctuary Advisory Council Members (SAC) & Other Stakeholders ~
Name Affiliation
Paul Reilly MBNMS SAC, California Department of Fish and Game    
Harriet Mitteldorf MBNMS SAC, At Large    
Berkeley White MBNMS SAC, Diving Alternate    
Ron Massengill MBNMS SAC At Large    
Art Seavey President, Monterey Abalone Company    
John Pearse UC Santa Cruz    
Robin Stierwalt-Booth Fitzgerald Marine Reserve    
Fleur O'neill Save Our Shores    
Pete Raimondi UC Santa Cruz    
Milos Radakovich Director, Bay Net Program    
John O’Sullivan Monterey Bay Aquarium    
Susan Goldbeck Pacific Grove Tidepool Coalition    
Mary Trotter Big Sur Land Use Advisory Committee    
Tim Olivas California Department of Fish and Game    
Scott Kimura Tenera Environmental     
Fiorenza Micheli Hopkins Marine Station    
Linda Locklin California Coastal Commission    
~MBNMS Staff ~
Name Affiliation Email Phone
Andrew DeVogelaere MBNMS 831-647-4213
Liz Love MBNMS 831-647-4255
Huff McGonigal MBNMS 831-647-4254
Steve Lonhart SIMoN 831-647-4222

Working Group Timeline:
Start: January, 2002
Date Time Location Documents
January 15 1-5pm MBNMS Main Office Meeting 1 Agenda (pdf 116K)
February 12


MBNMS Main Office Meeting 2 Agenda (pdf 16K)
March 12


MBNMS Main Office Meeting 3 Agenda (pdf 16K)
April 9


MBNMS Main Office Meeting 4 Agenda (pdf 8K)
Complete: April, 2003

Issue Summary:
The MBNMS currently lacks an overall strategy to address impacts to tidepools from human disturbance. Although a comprehensive regional analysis of the locations and extent of tidepool impacts is lacking, public concerns have been raised about disturbance to tidepools in many different areas of the Sanctuary including Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Pigeon Point, Bean Hollow, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Big Sur and Cambria. Concerns raised in areas of high visitor traffic include trampling of the resources, turnover of rocks, displacement of both living and nonliving resources, and collecting of intertidal species or shells that can provide habitat.

Potential Visitor Impacts to Resources:

Tenera Environmental (2002) provided a useful literature summary from studies outside the Sanctuary region outlining the types of visitor impacts to intertidal resources. Trampling is defined as when animals are crushed or dislodged or algae are damaged. Disturbance may also occur if animals or substrate are not returned to the same location. Collecting is defined as picking animals out of the intertidal area, an activity conducted by casual individual visitors, school groups, aquaria, biosupply companies and for consumption. The largest and most common organisms are most often collected since they are most easily found. In the Sanctuary region, species selectively harvested for consumption commonly include owl limpets, black turban snails, abalone and others.

In addition to direct losses from disturbance and collecting, secondary changes may result from changes in distribution, prey availability, and habitat competition. Under heavy use, patches of habitat become more frequently disturbed, allowing less time for recovery.

Within the Sanctuary region, several studies on human impacts have been conducted at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in San Mateo County. Small areas of the reef that have been protected from human impact show increases in biodiversity, based on a monitoring program begun in 1994. Many typical intertidal biota are underrepresented or absent from the unprotected part of Moss Beach Reef, the most heavily visited portion of the reserve. Also, invertebrate populations have been shown to increase during fall and winter when high tides and bad weather reduce visitation.

Unfortunately, although there is a wealth of knowledge about tidepool life within the Sanctuary, there have not previously been studies that focused on evaluating the extent of human impacts at tidepool locations other than Fitzgerald.


How is MBNMS Currently Addressing Tidepools?
Although the Sanctuary does not currently have a comprehensive regional program on tidepools, considerable staff time has been devoted to a range of individual tidepool projects in collaboration with a variety of partners. An understanding of these existing efforts provides a basis to build upon in the revised management plan.

MBNMS continues to work with various partners to produce interpretive signage to provide information about tidepools and tidepool etiquette aimed at reducing impacts to heavily visited locations. Completed signs are in place in Pacific Grove, and new ones are underway in San Mateo County and San Simeon/ Cambria region. To supplement the signage, staff assisted California State Parks in the production of a new video for school groups and teachers that focuses on tidepool etiquette, and will be working on the local distribution of that product. As part of the Sanctuary’s new multicultural education program (MERITO), staff worked with the Monterey County Office of Migrant Education to provide guided intertidal field trips for Latino students, again emphasizing tidepool etiquette.

MBNMS has supported Bay Net in its efforts to develop a docent program that includes training volunteers to interpret at strategic tidepool locations along the Pacific Grove shoreline and elsewhere. Staff assisted in the development of a long-term intertidal monitoring program (LiMPETS) that provides education and training for high school students and other volunteers to collect intertidal data that can be used to detect changes in the ecosystem. Nine intertidal sites have been established within the MBNMS ranging from northern Santa Cruz County to San Simeon.

The Sanctuary has also compiled a detailed survey of the research and monitoring programs focused on rocky intertidal habitat within the Sanctuary (DeVogelaere et al, 1998). This provides basic information on tidepool resources, and also may serve as an initial estimate of locations of intertidal habitats that are accessible to visitors Staff also collaborate with the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO), a consortium of academic scientists which has been conducting extensive monitoring of rocky intertidal habitats.

The Sanctuary participated in the Point Pinos Tidepool Task Force, a citizen-based group established several years ago in response to public concern about degradation of tidepool habitats in Pacific Grove. This group focused on improving public awareness about tidepool conservation and conducting research about the role of human impacts in changes that occur in rocky intertidal communities.

In collaboration with the Point Pinos Tidepool Task Force Research Committee, the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation is overseeing a contract to evaluate visitor use patterns and resource impacts at Point Pinos. This study is evaluating locations, amounts and types of visitor uses, assessing documents and conducting interviews about historical patterns at the site. It also includes field monitoring of intertidal organisms to evaluate species abundance, distribution patterns, size-frequency and other factors at sites that differ in their levels of visitor use, in an attempt to distinguish visitor impacts from other factors that may influence tidepool life such as oceanographic temperature change. Sanctuary staff are also participating in a similar study of tidepool impacts which is beginning at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve under the direction of the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Division. This study will build on initial work conducted by the Reserve to evaluate impacts of visitor use via use of control sites that limit access. At the southern boundary of the Sanctuary, Sanctuary Advisory Council member Ron Massengill and MBNMS staff are conducting initial efforts on both tidepool monitoring and educational outreach.

The Sanctuary is also involved with a variety of other programs which could potentially be further developed as partners in addressing tidepool impacts, such as SIMoN, the Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network, a Sanctuary enforcement program conducted in collaboration with the state, and development of an interpretive Sanctuary Trail underway initially in Santa Cruz County.


Existing Regulatory Framework:
The intertidal zone within the Sanctuary is governed by a complex array of multi-jurisdictional and occasionally conflicting laws and regulations. A brief summary is provided below, with links to more detailed descriptions.

California Fish and Game Code 8500 restricts the taking of mollusks, crustaceans, or other invertebrates for commercial purposes by any person in any tidal area without a valid tidal invertebrate permit. This restriction covers tide flats or other areas between the high tide mark and 1,000 feet beyond the low tidemark.

For non-commercial collection, a more complex set of constraints is outlined in Title 14 §29.05 of the California Code of Regulations. In general, tidal invertebrates may not be taken in any tidepool or other areas between the high tide mark and 1000 feet seaward and lateral to the low tide mark. However, exceptions are made for abalone, limpets, moon snails, turban snails, chiones, clams, cockles, mussels, rock scallops, native oysters, octopuses, squid, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, sand dollars, sea urchins and worms, all of which may be taken, unless prohibited by additional restrictions imposed in a designated protected area or special closure (see below). For non-commercial collection, the bag limit on all invertebrates for which take is authorized is 35 specimens without a permit, unless the code establishes a different specific bag limit for that species. The full text of the Code and Regulations for commercial and non-commercial collection, including various exemptions, can be found at

In certain locations within the Sanctuary there is an additional layer of regulation imposed by city ordinance or by virtue of its state or local designation as a protected area. There is a panoply of these small protected areas within the MBNMS including state beaches, state parks, state ecological reserves, state marine reserves, state fish refuges, and city marine refuges. These designations restrict the take and disturbance of the intertidal zone to varying degrees, but generally afford tidepool habitats and organisms greater protection from both commercial and non-commercial impacts. Some allow the take of specified plants and invertebrates while others may prohibit both take and disturbance. A comprehensive list of these sites and their associated regulations is available at With certain exceptions, the general rule provides that when separate entities issue conflicting permits, the more restrictive requirement controls.

The Sanctuary itself prohibits the alteration of the seabed without a permit However this regulation has generally been applied to tidepool visitation only if rocks are being removed from the site. MBNMS is a partner with other agencies who directly regulate collecting of intertidal organisms in their efforts to prevent adverse impact to the intertidal zone.


Workgroup Planning Topics:
Despite the initial efforts outlined above, most tidepool areas of the Sanctuary do not have significant monitoring and enforcement, signage or educational outreach strategies to minimize impacts. In addition, there has not been a regional effort to assess usage and potential impacts and to prioritize sites that need additional attention. Working with the MBNMS Tidepool Workgroup, MBNMS will develop a framework to collaborate with agencies and local communities to more thoroughly evaluate the issue and develop guidelines and programs for comprehensive education, enforcement, monitoring and management of the region’s tidepools. Strategies will likely involve recommendations for actions by a range of players in addition to actions that should be undertaken by the Sanctuary itself.

As a starting point for Workgroup discussions, a list of potential topics to be addressed is provided below. The Workgroup will be asked to review, revise and add to or delete items from this topic list over the course of its meetings, and to jointly develop specific, more detailed recommendations for those topics which emerge as priorities.

Further evaluation of the problem:

  • Regional identification and prioritization of tidepool locations most subject to damage, considering natural resources and heavily used access points
  • Assessment and prioritization of types and extent of impacts including collecting, trampling, and other disturbances from people
  • Long-term intertidal monitoring to understand natural versus human-caused changes, including adequate control sites to distinguish impacts

Gaps in the existing system of protection:

  • Lack of clarity on regulations and multiple jurisdictions—among both public and agencies
  • Inadequate coordination among agencies with jurisdiction
  • Lack of adequate education about tidepool etiquette and impacts
  • Lack of targeted education to school groups and ethnic groups
  • Limited enforcement of existing regulations
  • Insufficient number of docents
  • Lack of adequate training of enforcement personnel and docents on how to effectively address issue.
  • Ineffective tracking of use under collection permit system
  • Potential need for other types of management strategies at key locations--e.g. state marine reserves, restriction or redirection of coastal access, temporary closures, etc.

DeVogelaere, A.P., M. Jacobi, R. Walder, M. Foster. 1999. A Summary of Rocky Shore Monitoring Projects in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Final Report to the California Urban Environmental Research and Education Center. No. 51-33-017-009.

Tenera Environmental, 2002. Proposal to Develop and Implement a Resource Assessment Project. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. For San Mateo County Parks and Recreation.


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