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Summary and Findings
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary contains spectacularly rich and diverse marine life. With a variety of habitats including kelp forests, sandy bottom, and open ocean, it is home to diverse fish and invertebrate communities, serves as part of the migratory route of whales, and as feeding and breeding grounds for seabirds and marine mammals. more...

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Condition Summary Table

The following table summarizes the "State of Sanctuary Resources" section of this report. The first two columns list 17 questions used to rate the condition and trends for qualities of water, habitat, living resources, and maritime archaeological resources. The "Rating" column consists of a color, indicating resource condition, and a symbol, indicating trend (see key for definitions). The "Basis for Judgment" column provides a short statement or list of criteria used to justify the rating. The "Description of Findings" column presents the statement that best characterizes resource status, and corresponds to the assigned color rating. The "Description of Findings" statements are customized for all possible ratings for each question.

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Summary & Findings

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History and Resources

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State of Sanctuary Resources

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Concluding Remarks

Rating Criteria

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Developing the Report

Research Activity Panel Review

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  Questions/
Resources
Rating Basis For Judgement Description Findings Sanctuary Response
WATER
1. Are specific or multiple stressors, including changing oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, affecting water quality and how are they changing?
?
Distance from the mainland and regulations limit impacts; sampling generally indicates water quality is better at the islands than the mainland. However, there is concern about an apparent increase in the frequency and extent of diatom blooms. Also, the effects of ocean acidification, although not currently well understood, are expected to have significant impacts. Selected conditions may preclude full development of living resource assemblages and habitats, but are not likely to cause substantial or persistent declines. Current efforts include partnerships with researchers who sample bacteria levels and water characteristics. The sanctuary also participates in the Southern California Bight-wide surveys that take place every five years (1998, 2003, 2008) to study water quality and contaminants. The sanctuary is working to develop a water quality program that will include a more comprehensive monitoring and reporting effort.
2. What is the eutrophic condition of sanctuary waters and how is it changing?
Mainland runoff does not reach the island in significant amounts and lack of development on the islands means there is little local land-based nutrient inputs; island runoff is minimal. However, there may be localized inputs from marine mammals and possibly vessel discharge. Conditions do not appear to have the potential to negatively affect living resources or habitat quality.
3. Do sanctuary waters pose risks to human health?
There are no known occurrences of risks resulting from water contact or seafood consumption at the islands. However, there are known vectors for shellfish poisoning through Pseudo-nitzschia/domoic acid blooms although shellfish poisoning has not been reported in the sanctuary. Selected conditions that have the potential to affect human health may exist but human impacts have not been reported.
4. What are the levels of human activities that may influence water quality and how are they changing?
Many activities are present that have the potential to harm water quality: shipping traffic, vessel discharges, DDT, and mainland land use runoff. However, they are not causing significant damage at this time. Few or no activities occur that are likely to negatively affect water quality.
HABITAT
5. What are the abundance and distribution of major habitat types and how are they changing?
?
Past trawling, lost fishing gear, and marine debris have harmed habitats, although little is known about deepwater habitats. Recent trawl bans and other regulations may improve conditions. Selected habitat loss or alteration may inhibit the development of assemblages, and may cause measurable but not severe declines in living resources or water quality. Recent restrictions including bans on bottom fishing and the establishment of marine reserves may help habitats to recover over time.
6. What is the condition of biologically structured habitats and how is it changing?
Long-term loss of giant kelp and understory habitat-forming algae, trawling damage to hard-bottom coral communities, anchor damage to eelgrass and kelp, declines in eelgrass as a result of white urchin increases, decline in mussel bed community diversity, biomass, and bed thickness. Short term increases in kelp, an eelgrass restoration project, reserves, and trawl regulations may help habitats recover. Selected habitat loss or alteration may inhibit the development of living resources, and may cause measurable but not severe declines in living resources or water quality.
7. What are the contaminant concentrations in sanctuary habitats and how are they changing?
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Distance from mainland reduces impacts from mainland discharges, DDT still detectable but some species recovering, vessel discharges are present but regulations have kept contamination at low levels. Selected contaminants may preclude full development of living resource assemblages, but are not likely to cause substantial or persistent degradation.
8. What are the levels of human activities that may influence habitat quality and how are they changing?
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Impacts to habitat quality may have resulted from historic or current direct or incidental extraction of biogenic species, marine debris, vessel discharges, and anchoring; creation of reserves and other fishing regulations may improve conditions. Selected activities have resulted in measurable habitat impacts, but evidence suggests effects are localized, not widespread.
LIVING RESOURCES
9.What is the status of biodiversity and how is it changing?
?
Extraction of fish (e.g., sheephead, kelp bass, rockfish) and invertebrate (e.g., lobster and abalone) species has decreased biodiversity and simplified community structures (e.g., dominance of urchins and brittlestars). Selected biodiversity loss may inhibit full community development and function, and may cause measurable but not severe degradation of ecosystem integrity. Marine reserves and other regulations have recently been established which are expected to help some species recover over time. Early indications are that reserves will increase biomass, species numbers, and will allow parts of system to recover to a more resilient state.

Monitoring programs record presence of non-indigenous species if they are observed.

10. What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?
Declines have occurred in several species of sharks, giant sea bass, swordfish, various rockfish, and abalone populations; recent implementation of marine reserves may improve conditions. Extraction has caused or is likely to cause severe declines in some but not all ecosystem components and reduce ecosystem integrity.
11. What is the status of non-indigenous species and how is it changing?
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No problematic species have become established; there is concern that invasive algae from mainland harbors and Santa Catalina Island could reach the islands. Non-indigenous species are not suspected or do not appear to affect ecosystem integrity (full community development and function).
12. What is the status of key species and how is it changing?
Removal of key species, including sea otters, led to an increase in urchins and urchin barrens. Some species (black sea bass and lobsters) have shown recent increases, but do not approach historic levels. The reduced abundance of selected keystone species may inhibit full community development and function, and may cause measurable but not severe degradation of ecosystem integrity; or selected key species are at reduced levels, but recovery is possible.
13. What is the condition or health of key species and how is it changing?
?
Withering foot syndrome in abalone, small size of fished species, low fecundity in sea birds; although some birds have shown recent recovery from reproductive impairment from high levels of DDT. The diminished condition of selected key resources may cause a measurable but not severe reduction in ecological function, but recovery is possible.
14. What are the levels of human activities that may influence living resource quality and how are they changing?
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Increased visitation and potential disturbance along with expected climate change offset gains made in resource protection. Selected activities have resulted in measurable living resource impacts, but evidence suggests effects are localized, not widespread.
MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCES
15. What is the integrity of known maritime archaeological resources and how is it changing?
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Past looting of some shallow sites, natural deterioration of all sites contribute to declining integrity; integrity of deeper wrecks is unknown, but some accidental fouling by fishing gear may have occurred. The diminished condition of selected archaeological resources has reduced, to some extent, their historical, scientific or educational value and may affect the eligibility of some sites for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Education, outreach, enforcement efforts, and regulations have helped decrease looting and destruction. Increased efforts to inventory and monitor wrecks that may pose an environmental hazard.
16. Do known maritime archaeological resources pose an environmental hazard and is this threat changing?
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Sites just outside sanctuary boundaries pose a greater threat from leaching chemicals such as bunker fuels and cargos. Selected maritime archaeological resources may pose isolated or limited environmental threats, but substantial or persistent impacts are not expected.
17. What are the levels of human activities that may influence maritime archaeological resource quality and how are they changing?
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Impacts to maritime archaeological resources may result from site looting, injury by divers, and vessel activity. Increases in education, enforcement, and trawling closures may allow for improvement. Selected activities have resulted in measurable impacts to maritime archaeological resources, but evidence suggests effects are localized, not widespread.

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