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

Coastal and Offshore 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 coastal and offshore environment of the sanctuary. Note that the impacts from the Cosco Busan oil spill in November 2007 are in process of being evaluated and are not part of this assessment.

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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?
conditions do not appear to be changing
Decreased oil pollution, decreased sediment spills from barges, few harmful algal blooms, continued nonpoint source discharges from San Francisco Bay and Russian River, and coastal 303(d) listings. Selected conditions may preclude full development of living resource assemblages and habitats, but are not likely to cause substantial or persistent declines.

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. Several new regulations went into effect in 2009 for increased protection from discharges, including discharges initiating from outside the sanctuary boundary that may cause injury, discharge of introduced species from ballast water, and discharge from cruise ships. Increased sampling is planned to detect harmful algal blooms. Increased access to data sets of oil pollution and resources at risk. Complete site habitat characterization for improved identification of resources at risk, damage assessment protocols, restoration planning, and improved understanding of sediment transport. Develop research to assess extent and trend of accumulated pollutants through the food chain and commercial fish. Work with USGS and other Central & Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS) partners for additional modeling of processes and fate of sedimentation and pollutants. Outreach and education programs improve stewardship of marine resources.

2. What is the eutrophic condition of sanctuary waters and how is it changing?
?
No obvious problems, healthy phytoplankton constituents; only 15 years of monitoring for phytoplankton so trend undetermined. 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?
hyphen
Coastal 303(d) listings for discharges and beach closures; offshore dilution. 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?
Increasing vessel traffic (discharges and noise) and increasing urbanization are of concern, but decrease in acute and chronic oil pollution, decreasing sediment discharge; increasing management and enforcement actions. Selected activities have resulted in measurable resource impacts, but evidence suggests effects are localized, not widespread.
HABITAT
5. What are the abundance and distribution of major habitat types and how is it changing?
Conditions appear to be improving
Some benthic habitat loss from localized pressures related to increased human activities, reduced trawling impacts and improved enforcement of dredge disposal practices. Selected habitat loss or alteration has taken place, precluding full development of living resource assemblages, but it is unlikely to cause substantial or persistent degradation in 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. Outreach and education programs improve stewardship of marine resources. Increased monitoring of priority habitats such as rocky intertidal communities. Plans to increase integration of data sets for improved site characterization including benthic mapping, oceanographic features, ecological linkages, and to determine if further assessment of the radioactive waste dump site is warranted. Convert archived photos documenting beach erosion to digital format.
6. What is the condition of biologically structured habitats and how is it changing?
?
Prior alteration and loss due to trawling; substantial data gaps for a number of habitat types, including drift algae and beach wrack. Selected habitat loss or alteration has taken place, precluding full development of living resources, but it is unlikely to cause substantial or persistent degradation in living resources or water quality.
7. What are the contaminant concentrations in sanctuary habitats and how are they changing?
New but limited data indicates reduction of persistent contaminants and no obvious problems. N/A
8. What are the levels of human activities that may influence habitat quality and how are they changing?
hyphen
Activities relating to increased urbanization, visitation and shipping; decrease in trawling and chronic oil pollution, cessation of discharging of radioactive waste, increased regulations to prevent introduced species. Some potentially harmful activities exist, but they do not appear to have had a negative effect on habitat quality.
LIVING RESOURCES
9.What is the status of biodiversity and how is it changing?
Changes in relative abundance, particularly in targeted, by-catch, and sensitive species (e.g., Steller sea lions, northern fur seals, seabirds, rockfish and sea otters). Selected biodiversity loss has taken place, precluding full community development and function, but it is unlikely to cause substantial or persistent degradation of ecosystem integrity. Current regulations prohibit disturbance to seabird and pinniped colonies and to white sharks. Increased monitoring to detect persistent and ephemeral areas of ecological significance and trends. Sampling for planktonic, non-indigenous species is planned. Partnership with NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service to assess acoustic levels within the region. Increased vigilance for ecological hotspots, non-point source pollution and persistent pollutants within the benthic habitats. Species inventory and mapping the abundance and distribution of introduced species will occur within the next five years. Increased sampling is planned to determine trend in prey-base biomass. Increased monitoring of key species such as seabirds, marine mammals and prey species. Work with USGS and other CeNCOOS partners for additional modeling of chemical, biological, and physical processes. Plans to increase integration of data sets for improved site characterization including benthic mapping, oceanographic features and ecological linkages. Outreach and education programs improve stewardship of marine resources and prevent disturbance and illegal extraction of living resources.
10. What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?
Historical fishing impacts; recent improvements in some populations due to take reductions. Extraction may inhibit full community development and function, and may cause measurable but not severe degradation of ecosystem integrity.
11. What is the status of non-indigenous species and how is it changing?
Non-indigenous species are present (e.g. green crabs, plankton and striped bass), but there are no known ecosystem impacts; monitoring is required. 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?
?
Among sanctuary's list of 49 key species, populations are in varying states of integrity. 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?
conditions seem to be improving
Underweight gray whales; reduced Steller sea lion health and pupping rates; removal of oil from S/S Jacob Luckenbach has reduced seabird and marine mammal oiling incidents. The condition of selected key resources is not optimal, perhaps precluding full ecological function, but substantial or persistent declines are not expected.
14. What are the levels of human activities that may influence living resource quality and how are they changing?
conditions do not appear to be changing
Impacts from human population increases, urbanization and increased use of coastal areas. Increasing vessel traffic (discharges and noise) and increased documented disturbances to seabirds and marine mammals are of concern, perhaps offset by reductions in trawling and fishing pressure, and establishment of new marine zones. 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?
?
Sanctuary inventory contains information on known vessel losses; archaeological survey and monitoring needs to be conducted to determine status and trend. 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?
Deterioration of offshore wrecks could result in the release of hazardous cargo or bunker fuel. Selected maritime archaeological resources may cause measurable, but not severe, impacts to certain sanctuary resources or areas, but recovery is possible.
17. What are the levels of human activities that may influence maritime archaeological resource quality and how are they changing?
?
Trawling, anchoring or dragging of anchors, diving; lack of monitoring to determine trend; regulations to prohibit trawling in some areas; regulations to prohibit laying of cables. 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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