Gulf of the Farallones Condition Report Header

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
Condition Summary Table

Coastal and Offshore Environment | Estuarine and Lagoon Environment

Estuarine and Lagoon Environment

The following table summarizes the "State of Sanctuary Resources" section of this report. The first column lists 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. Please see Appendix A for further clarification of the questions and the Description of Findings statements. Because of the considerable differences within the sanctuary between the environmental pressures and responses affecting the coastal and offshore zone and the estuarine and lagoon zone, this document breaks out status and trends to represent these two regions. The below table reflects the state of the estuarine and lagoon environment of the sanctuary.

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  Questions/
Resources
Rating Basis For Judgment Description of Findings Sanctuary Response
WATER
1. Are specific or multiple stressors, including changing oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, affecting water quality?
?
Land use pressures have caused changes to sediment and freshwater regimes; increased restoration activities and best management practices may offset water quality problems that have historically resulted in loss of eelgrass beds. Selected conditions may inhibit the development of assemblages, and may cause measurable but not severe declines in living resources and habitats. Regulations and enforcement prohibit, detect and prosecute illegal dumping and discharge of substances, with the exception of deck wash and fish parts related to commercial fishing activities. Increased sampling is planned to detect harmful algal blooms. New regulations prohibit anchoring a vessel in designated seagrass zones in Tomales Bay. Wetland restoration is planned for Tomales Bay and Bolinas Lagoon, including reduction of upland practices causing sedimentation, increased runoff and fresh water diversion. Update characterization of Esteros Americano and de San Antonio is planned, including better understanding of sediment transport. Develop monitoring to assess extent and trend of accumulated pollutants through the food chain and commercial fish. Outreach and education programs are planned to increase stewardship of marine resources and prevent non-point source pollution. Need improved control and understanding of introduced species.
2. What is the eutrophic condition of sanctuary waters and how is it changing?
?
High levels of nutrient input have caused eutrophication, severe oxygen depletion, and shellfish contamination in the Tomales Bay watershed. However, there have not been associated problems or reported loss of fish populations. Selected conditions may preclude full development of living resource assemblages and habitats, but are not likely to cause substantial or persistent declines.
3. Do sanctuary waters pose risks to human health?
?
Nonpoint source contamination has resulted in aquaculture and shellfish closures in Tomales Bay; two Norovirus outbreaks in Tomales Bay. Best management practices have been implemented and further studies are required to determine their success. Selected conditions have caused or are likely to cause severe impacts, but cases to date have not suggested a pervasive problem.
4. What are the levels of human activities that may influence water quality and how are they changing?
conditions appear to be improving
Land use pressures have caused changes to sediment and freshwater regimes; loss of eelgrass beds; increased restoration activities, increased regulations, and best management practices may allow for improvements. Selected activities have caused or are likely to cause severe impacts, and cases to date suggest a pervasive problem.
HABITAT
5. What are the abundance and distribution of major habitat types and how are they changing?
conditions do not appear to be changing
Habitat loss due to erosion, habitat conversion, and sedimentation. Selected habitat loss or alteration has caused or is likely to cause severe declines in some but not all living resources or water quality. Regulations prohibit disturbance of the seabed, including placement of rip-rap, laying of cables and pipelines, or construction on the seabed. New regulations prohibit anchoring a vessel in designated seagrass protection zones in Tomales Bay. New regulations for increased protection from discharges initiating from outside the sanctuary boundary that may cause injury and to prevent discharge of introduced species from ballast water. Wetland restoration is planned for Tomales Bay and Bolinas Lagoon, including reduction of upland practices causing sedimentation, increased runoff and fresh water diversion. Update characterization of Esteros Americano and de San Antonio is planned, including better understanding of sediment transport. Assess impacts from boat-works operation on Tomales Bay. Outreach and education programs improve stewardship of marine resources.
6. What is the condition of biologically structured habitats and how is it changing?
Loss of eelgrass in Bolinas Lagoon due to watershed issues causing sedimentation and elevation of mudflats. Loss of native oyster beds in Tomales Bay due to sedimentation, roadside maintenance activities, anchoring and mooring. 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?
?
Limited data, though bird studies in other estuarine areas strongly suggest the need for increased monitoring. N/A
8. What are the levels of human activities that may influence habitat quality and how are they changing?
Impacts from continued land use, urbanization, erosion, pollutants from closed mines, and vessel activities may be offset by reduced mining activities, restoration activities and new regulations. 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?
Species diversity changes due to eelgrass loss in Bolinas Lagoon and invasive species. Selected biodiversity loss has caused or is likely to cause severe declines in some but not all ecosystem components and reduce ecosystem integrity. Regulations prohibit disturbance to seabird and pinniped colonies. Increased monitoring is planned to detect persistent and ephemeral ecological hotspots and trends. New regulations prevent impacts to eelgrass beds. Wetland restoration is planned for Tomales Bay and Bolinas Lagoon, including reduction of upland practices causing sedimentation, increased runoff and fresh water diversion. Characterization of Esteros Americano and de San Antonio is planned. Habitat characterization will occur within the next five years. New regulations for increased protection from discharges initiating from outside the sanctuary boundary that may cause injury and to prevent discharge of introduced species from ballast water. Sampling for planktonic and intertidal non-indigenous species is planned Increased vigilance of ecological hotspots, non-point source pollution and persistent pollutants within the benthic habitats. Species inventory will occur within the next five years. Outreach and education programs improve stewardship of marine resources.
10. What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?
Minimal extraction. Extraction does not appear to affect ecosystem integrity (full community development and function).
11. What is the status of non-indigenous species and how is it changing?
?
High numbers of invasive species including European green crabs, Japanese mud snails and smooth cordgrass. Limited data are available on the density or geographic extent of most non-indigenous species. Non-indigenous species have caused or are likely to cause severe declines in some but not all ecosystem components and reduce ecosystem integrity.
12. What is the status of key species and how is it changing?
Keystone and some key species are at reduced levels; eelgrass decline in Bolinas Lagoon is likely to diminish recovery potential; abundance of the tidewater goby has declined substantially due to habitat loss and degradation; brant populations had been on the decline and are now increasing, but recovery is slow. 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?
?
Insufficient data. Some fish have high mercury levels; it is unknown how this may impact fish populations. Disturbance to harbor seals may impact their health. N/A
14. What are the levels of human activities that may influence living resource quality and how are they changing?
Impacts resulting from urbanization, changing uses that affect watersheds, and wildlife disturbance caused by visitor activities; management activities to increase monitoring of and outreach about introduced species are needed; restoration planning needs to be implemented in Bolinas Lagoon and completed for vessel activities in Tomales Bay. Selected activities have caused or are likely to cause severe impacts, and cases to date suggest a pervasive problem.
MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCES
15. What is the integrity of known maritime archaeological resources and how is it changing?
?
No wreck sites have been visited or investigated. N/A Regulations prohibit disturbance or removal of archaeological resources. Increased outreach to improve awareness of cultural resources and prevent illegal removal of archaeological resources.
16. Do known maritime archaeological resources pose an environmental hazard and is this threat changing?
Unlikely that the wrecks (mostly schooners) contain hazardous cargo. 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?
?
Bottom fishing, aquaculture and habitat and living resource restoration activities could affect resources. Some potentially relevant activities exist, but they do not appear to have had a negative effect on maritime archaeological resource integrity.

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