Response to Pressures
This section describes current or proposed responses to pressures. Responses are based on the sanctuary's management plan that was released in November 2008 (NOAA 2008a). The management plan is the result of over seven years of study, planning, and extensive public input and addresses key issues and opportunities affecting the sanctuary. The plan contains information about the sanctuary's environment, priority management issues and actions proposed to address them, regulations, staffing and administration, operational and programmatic costs, and performance measures. Certain human activities within the sanctuary can have negative impacts on its sensitive physical and biological resources. One of the objectives of the plan is to minimize the adverse effects of permissible human activities on sanctuary resources. This is accomplished through a variety of approaches, including collaborative planning efforts to prevent and reduce human impacts, regulations, permits, and enforcement efforts. Management efforts also involve improving public awareness and understanding, conservation science, water quality, emergency response and enforcement, and maritime heritage.
The management plan was developed as part of a process known as the Joint Management Plan Review. The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries reviewed the management plans of the Monterey Bay sanctuary together with the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones because the three sanctuaries are adjacent to one another and share many of the same resources, issues, and user groups. Using a community-based process and providing numerous opportunities for public input, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries examined the current issues and threats to the resources and whether the original management plan is adequately protecting sanctuary resources. The sanctuary evaluated management and operational strategies, regulations, and boundaries.
The management plan includes 29 action plans that will guide the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary for the next five to 10 years. The management plan is available on the Monterey Bay sanctuary Web site.
Activities are in place to mitigate potentially harmful impacts resulting from vessel traffic. For example, the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Resource Protection Program has developed and implemented strategies, now approved at the international level, to move vessel traffic zones farther offshore and use north-south transit lanes to reduce threats of spills from vessels such as tankers, ships containing hazardous materials, barges, and large commercial vessels. Vessel traffic zones are managed by the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Transportation, NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce, International Maritime Organization, and the United Nations. Adherence is voluntary but recommended and accomplished by agreements between large vessel operators and agencies. Collaborative educational products and outreach programs on resource protection issues, including vessel traffic, have also been put in place by the sanctuary (NOAA 2008a).
To fulfill a congressional mandate, in 1997, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established a workgroup of key stakeholders, including representatives from federal, state and local governments, environmental groups and industry, to review existing practices and risks. In the addition, the working group was tasked with identifying strategies to maximize protection of sanctuary resources while allowing for the continuation of safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation. The group's recommendations included alteration of the Traffic Separation Scheme off San Francisco to move vessels away from the sensitive San Mateo shoreline. Most importantly, container ships, bulk freighters, and vessels carrying hazardous materials were moved approximately 10 kilometers farther offshore to reduce the risk of groundings, and organized into north-south lanes to reduce the risk of collision (Figure 75). These recommendations were ultimately approved by the International Maritime Organization, and implementation began in 2000.
The Sanctuary Aerial Monitoring and Spatial Analysis Program (SAMSAP) has been established within the area using local NOAA aircraft and has been incorporated into the sanctuary's monitoring program. The SAMSAP program is designed to monitor the locations of different kinds of commercial and recreational vessels as well as distributions of some species of interest, including cetaceans (whales and dolphins), and some physical conditions, such as spilled oil. (NOAA 2008a)
In 2004, a container ship lost 15 large cargo containers overboard within the sanctuary. The containers' contents included a variety of cargo furniture, thousands of tires, several hundred thousand plastic items, miles of cyclone fencing, hospital beds, wheel chairs, recycled cardboard and clothing items. Resource protection staff, in coordination with a variety of state, federal and local agencies, investigated these violations, followed up with the responsible parties, and identified ways to prevent similar violations in the future. In 2006, a settlement of $3.25 million was received from the parties responsible for accidentally discharging the shipping containers. The funds will be used to fund projects to protect and restore the seabed (MBNMS 2005, 2006) and to monitor the fate of the 15 containers.
Military activities that were specifically identified at the time of sanctuary designation (e.g., submarine operations, helicopter tactical training) are exempt from most sanctuary regulations. For new activities, the sanctuary may request modifications to minimize impacts to sanctuary resources. The sanctuary may also prohibit some activities. Concerns have also arisen regarding military proposals to use underwater acoustic devices that could potentially interfere with marine mammal communications. Goals of the Marine Mammals, Seabird, and Turtle Disturbance Action Plan include addressing wildlife disturbance from marine vessels, such as military vessels, expanding research and monitoring of acoustic disturbances, and evaluating activities that have potential for causing acoustic disturbance.
Commercial and Recreational Fishing
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary does not directly manage any aspect of commercial or recreational fisheries. Fishing in state waters (see green zone in Figure 35 in Offshore/Habitat Section, Question 5) is generally managed by the California Department of Fish and Game. The responsibility for managing fishing in federal waters (offshore of state waters) rests with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. In addition, NOAA has issued a report that provides an overview of NOAA’s process for regulating fisheries in sanctuary waters as mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NOAA 2008b). Current involvement of the Monterey Bay sanctuary in issues related directly or indirectly to fishing includes conducting fisheries-related research, sponsoring educational events, commenting to other agencies on fishery and ecosystem management issues, and the development of ecosystem protection plans related to fishing such as Marine Protected Areas Action Plan and The Effects of Trawling on Benthic Habitats Action Plan.
There is a need to increase the public’s understanding of fishes, their role in the ecosystem, the various fishing activities that occur in the sanctuary and how they are managed. The Fishing-Related Education and Research Action Plan provides strategies to expand the knowledge base of the public about fishery management in the sanctuary and increase public education about sustainable fisheries. There has traditionally been a lack of fishermen involvement in research activities related to fish populations in the sanctuary. The action plan addresses that issue by providing a mechanism to bring their knowledge and data into the pool of information used in resource management and decision-making.
The Monterey Bay sanctuary has also continued its active role in the protection of the salmon and steelhead populations of the region through preservation of the watershed habitat and water quality that sustain these species during their migration and spawning activities. This includes watershed management and outreach activities with the agricultural community, cities and counties, education of the public about salmonid life cycles and habitat threats, and citizen monitoring of water quality in streams and rivers.
Bottom TrawlingBased on numerous scientific studies, the fishing technique of bottom trawling is widely believed to adversely impact benthic, or seafloor, habitats. The goal of theBottom Trawling Effects on Benthic Habitats Action Plan is to protect the integrity of biological seafloor communities within the sanctuary by evaluating and minimizing the adverse effects of bottom trawling, while facilitating the long-term continuation of environmentally sustainable fisheries. By identifying the scope and impact of bottom trawling on different habitats within the sanctuary, management will be able to determine the need for protective actions and identify solutions to potential problems.
As part of this action plan, the sanctuary has been working with fisheries management agencies to compile information on the history of trawling activity in the sanctuary (for example see Figure 35 in Offshore/Habitat Section, Question 5) and the state and federal regulations that apply to this activity in sanctuary waters (for example see Figure 35 in Offshore/Habitat Section, Question 5). In addition, sanctuary staff has partnered with researchers to study the impact of benthic trawling on seafloor habitats and associated benthic fauna in central California (de Marignac et al. 2009). The Monterey Bay sanctuary is also partnering with The Nature Conservancy, NOAA Fisheries, California State University Monterey Bay, and Morro Bay fishermen to study the impacts of modified groundfish trawling practices on soft sea-floor habitats and the time it takes for seafloor habitats to recover from trawling.
Marine Protected AreasThe goal of the Marine Protected Areas action plan was developed in 2004 and 2005 and states the following “To determine the role, if any, of additional marine protected areas (MPAs) in maintaining the integrity of biological communities in the sanctuary, and to protect, and where appropriate, restore and enhance natural habitats, populations and ecological processes. If additional MPAs are to be created, design, and ensure implementation of MPAs that meet the sanctuary’s goals and are compatible with the continuation of long-term sustainable fishing in the region” (NOAA 2008a). According to the MPA Action Plan, consideration of MPAs will be a joint effort with the participation of many diverse stakeholders, and as fishing is a key cultural and economic component of the region, this will include strong participation of the fishing community. Extensive interagency collaboration with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, and the California Department of Fish and Game will be an essential component of this process (NOAA 2008a).
Regarding additional marine protected areas in state waters, in early 2005 the California Resource Agency reinitiated a process pursuant to the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act to develop an improved network of MPAs. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was an active participant in this process as one of many stakeholders in the central coast region, which extends from Pigeon Point (San Mateo County) south to Point Conception (Santa Barbara County). In September 2007, a network of 29 marine protected areas was implemented, of which 22 are located in the sanctuary (see Figure 35 in Offshore/Habitat Section, Question 5). The nine state marine reserves encompass approximately 44 square miles and the 13 state marine conservation areas encompass approximately 102 square miles.
Since implementation of the new state MPAs, the sanctuary has been an active partner in research, enforcement, and education activities. Prior to 2007, only three no-take marine reserves existed in the sanctuary: Hopkins Marine Life Refuge, Point Lobos Ecological Reserve, and Big Creek Ecological Reserve. In 2007, all 3 reserves were expanded and renamed; and six additional no-take reserves were established. Understanding the role the new MPAs will play in protecting the ecosystem is a high priority for the sanctuary. Several collaborative research projects are collecting baseline information for the purpose of evaluating the efficacy of the state MPAs in the central coast region. The sanctuary is providing support, including vessel time and research divers, for some of these efforts.
Superintendent Paul Michel announced in February 2008 his decision to move forward with a MPA planning process that will consider the role of any additional MPAs in addressing three unmet needs related to ecosystem protection and management of marine resources in federal waters of the sanctuary. Those unmet needs are to: 1) preserve unique and rare places in their natural state for the benefit of future generations; 2) preserve areas where natural ecosystem components are maintained and/or restored; and 3) designate research areas to differentiate between natural variation versus human impacts to ecological processes and components. The sanctuary is working with the sanctuary advisory council and other agency partners to design an MPA planning process that has a strong scientific focus on ecosystem-based approaches to management involving a range of natural and social science disciplines, provides formal and informal opportunities for interagency collaboration (especially with NOAA Fisheries, the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the California Department of Fish and Game) incorporates advice from the sanctuary advisory council, and ensures robust and multiple opportunities for public participation.
Current spatial closures in federal waters were implemented by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC www.pcouncil.org) to address fishery management objectives, such as rebuilding of overfished populations (e.g., Rockfish Closed Areas, RCA) and protecting essential fish habitat (EFH) from bottom trawing or bottom contact gear within the sanctuary (Figure 35 in Offshore/Habitat Section, Question 5).
RunoffPollutants running off the land often lower the quality of the water as both a habitat and resource for recreational and commercial use. The sanctuary’s Water Quality Protection Program has developed seven multi-stakeholder action plans to prevent pollution and facilitate water quality improvements. Areas to be addressed include urban runoff, regional monitoring, marinas and boating, agriculture and rural lands, beach closures, cruise ships, and wetlands. Implementation of all of these plans has begun with a variety of partners (NOAA 2008a).
Two recent efforts by sanctuary staff to present and integrate the data from the diverse water quality monitoring efforts in the Monterey Bay sanctuary are the Water Quality Interactive Map Service and the Central Coast Water Quality Data Synthesis, Assessment, and Management Project. The interactive map service delivers information on water quality monitoring sites near or within watersheds that empty into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. All water quality monitoring spatial data and relevant information were supplied by various agencies and institutions that monitor water resources on the Central California coast. Many of the data layers provide a link to the responsible organization or agency's website, as well as links to data, if available.The Water Quality Data Synthesis, Assessment, and Management (SAM) Project involves water quality monitoring coordination, data management, and data analysis to address fundamental issues surrounding the sources, status, and trends of non-point source pollution in coastal watersheds and nearshore marine systems. Water quality and other spatial data sets have been collated into a database/GIS system that serves as a model for ongoing data integration and access in the region and is used as a tool for addressing research questions to improve our knowledge of pollution problems and pollution mitigation effectiveness. SAM is a partnership between the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the California Coastal Commission with primary funding provided by the California Non-point Source Pollution Control Program (U.S. EPA/SWRCB) and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation.
Sanctuary staff is also carrying out a variety of initiatives to decrease the impacts of urban runoff. Highlights include:
- Collaboration, participation and evaluation of the Phase I and Phase II NPDES stormwater programs for local jurisdictions on the Central Coast to better manage and minimize urban runoff flowing to the sanctuary.
- Support of ongoing monitoring by citizen's groups in watersheds that drain to the sanctuary.
- Development of a California Environmental Quality Act checklist to make planning efforts more uniform among cities.
- Development and distribution of educational materials for regional use.
- Technical training workshops for municipal staff.
- Agricultural Water Quality Alliance (AWQA) Partnership
The fundamental approach required to reduce inputs of pollutants to estuarine habitats is to reduce the amount of runoff from urban and agricultural lands that enters the watershed and/or decrease the concentration of contaminants in the runoff. As a result, management agencies have worked with local stakeholders to create regulatory, monitoring, education, and training programs and to implement better agricultural and urban management practices aimed at reducing or eliminating pollution sources and improving land-use practices in the Elkhorn Watershed. A watershed conservation plan has been developed by the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve that serves as a guide for future conservation activities by both public and private organizations to implement strategies to protect the slough’s resources over time (Scharffenberger 1999).
Finally, in 1999 the Agriculture and Rural Lands Action Plan was developed to address agricultural water quality issues related to the sanctuary, such as erosion control, nutrient runoff, and persistent pesticides. The plan includes 24 strategies intended to protect and enhance the quality of water that drains into the sanctuary while sustaining the economic viability of agriculture. This collaboration between environmental organization, agencies, and the agricultural industry is unique, as is the leadership role that the Coalition of Central Coast County Farm Bureaus is taking in establishing networks of landowners and operators to address water quality issues.
Beach ClosuresIn the last 10 years, beach closures and warnings due to microbial contamination have become more common. This issue is the focus of the Beach Closures and Microbial Contamination Action Plan (NOAA 2008a). The goal of this action plan is to eliminate beach closures by reducing microbial contamination in sanctuary waters. Additionally, the sanctuary seeks a significant decreasing trend in beach water quality warnings. This action plan identifies the following needs:
- enhanced use of geographic information systems to produce a beach sampling database and map infrastructure;
- expanded pathogen and contamination research;
- increased monitoring, education and enforcement programs;
- enhanced notification and emergency response programs;
- develop a source control program to reduce beach closures and postings due to microbial contamination;
- increased technical training for industry professionals.
The sanctuary’s involvement in this issue has included working with the cities on addressing urban runoff, including coliform contamination, and investigating and jointly pursuing potential funding opportunities for local communities to better identify sources of coliform contamination and improve infrastructure systems. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Citizen Watershed Monitoring Network is involved in monitoring coliform contamination in the watersheds and storm drain systems at various times of year to help identify sources. The Network coordinates two annual regional monitoring events, First Flush in the fall and Snapshot Day in the spring (Figure 76), and a summer-long water quality monitoring program called Urban Watch.
Harmful Algal BloomsThe Monterey Bay sanctuary has helped support research to better understand harmful algal blooms. Research by the Center for Integrated Marine Technology tracked the seasonal abundance and distribution of harmful algal species and identified the conditions under which blooms occurred in the Monterey Bay. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz have been investigating critical aspects of harmful algal species. Data collected by the Beach COMBERS monitoring program, a collaborative effort between the Monterey Bay sanctuary and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, have been used to detect impacts of harmful algal blooms to marine birds and mammals.
Actions of the sanctuary's water quality protection program may help to reduce the frequency or magnitude of harmful algal blooms, especially if there is a link between the input of terrigenous nutrients and subsequent use by phytoplankton species. The Agriculture Water Quality Alliance program is working to reduce inputs of nutrients in the Bay by working with local growers to implement best management practices for nutrient, sediment and irrigation management. TheMonterey Bay Sanctuary Citizen Watershed Monitoring Network began collecting samples for urea in the First Flush program and is providing those data to local researchers.
Marinas and BoatsThe Marinas and Boating section of the Water Quality Action Plan outlined in the Management Plan describes strategies designed to reduce water pollution from certain activities associated with marinas and boating within the sanctuary. This plan takes the approach that much of this pollution can be reduced through education and training programs, application of new technologies, and on-site facilities. The specific strategies in the plan are (NOAA 2008a):
- Increase public education, outreach, and enforcement;
- Develop and implement technical training program;
- Promote bilge waste disposal and waste oil recovery;
- Reduce harmful discharges into the sanctuary from topside and haul-out vessel maintenance;
- Reduce harmful discharges into the sanctuary due to underwater hull maintenance.
Cruise ShipsA wide array of pollutants may be discharged in large volumes from cruise ships. Although there are a number of existing federal laws and regulations, such as the Clean Water Act, that partly address this issue, there is a need for more comprehensive protection against cruise ship discharges within the sanctuary. The California Clean Coast Act, which became effective on Jan. 1, 2006, prohibits the release from large passenger vessels (cruise ships) and other oceangoing ships (300 gross tons or more) of hazardous waste, oily bilgewater, other waste, and sewage sludge into the marine waters of the state and marine sanctuaries. The Clean Coast Act also prohibits the release of graywater from cruise ships and oceangoing ships with sufficient holding capacity into the marine waters of the state. Furthermore, the Clean Coast Act requires the State Water Resources Control Board to request the appropriate federal agencies to prohibit the release of wastes from cruise ships and oceangoing ships into state marine waters and the four national marine sanctuaries in California. As outlined in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Management Plan, sanctuary regulations now prohibit discharging or depositing from within or into the sanctuary any material or other matter from a cruise ship except clean vessel engine cooling water, clean vessel generator cooling water, clean bilge water, or anchor wash (NOAA 2008a). The management plan also outlines strategies to conduct outreach and coordination with the cruise ship industry (providing it with information about the sanctuary) and to monitor and enforce potential cruise ship discharges (Figure 77).
Oil or Chemical SpillEmergency response within the sanctuary ranges from small events associated with fuel and oil discharges, debris and habitat damage from vessel groundings, sinkings and plane crashes, to larger oil spills from offshore shipping traffic, sunken vessels or natural seeps where damages can span hundreds of kilometers of coastline. In the three-year period from 2003 to 2005, 57 vessel groundings or sinkings were reported in the sanctuary. The majority of these incidents, which often involve spills of debris and fuel, involve pleasure craft, though some incidents involve commercial vessels.
Response to larger spills is led by the U.S. Coast Guard and California Department of Fish and Game's Office of Spill Prevention and Response, with the sanctuary participating to provide information and assess damage to resources. Staff members also participate on U.S. Coast Guard's contingency planning committee to coordinate response to large spills via advance planning. Interagency response coverage remains inadequate for some portions of sanctuary coastline, such as the Big Sur and Cambria areas, where rescue vessels and crews must travel long distances. In addition, sanctuary staff has been involved in an oil spill drill at Elkhorn Slough to prepare for spills from trains running through the slough on the main rail line between northern and southern California.
Sanctuary staff gained experience in responding to catastrophic oil spills by participating in "Safe Seas 2006", a major interagency oil-spill drill led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard and the State of California. A series of trainings offered instruction on evaluation of habitat and species impacts, oil-spill response protocols, communications, and field and command center operations (MBNMS 2006).
On November 7, 2007, the M/V Cosco Busan hit the base tower of the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge's western span in San Francisco Bay spilling 58,000 gallons of fuel oil. The spill escaped the Bay and oil sheens could be seen as far north as Point Reyes and south to Pacifica just north of San Pedro Point. The most affected beaches were in the Point Bonita area outside of the Bay area. This was the biggest spill since 1996 when 40,000 gallons of oil was spilled at the San Francisco Dry-dock, Inc. Monterey Bay sanctuary staff participated in both the oil spill response and natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) following the M/V Cosco Busan oil spill. Staff responders served in the unified command established for direction of spill response efforts. Sanctuary damage assessment personnel worked with a team of natural resource trustees from various federal and state agencies to assess environmental damage from the spill and response activities. It should be noted that the impacts from the M/VCosco Busan oil spill are in process of being evaluated and therefore, are not part of this assessment.
For smaller events and vessels (Figure 78), the sanctuary has often assumed a lead role in ensuring that fuel and oil, debris and where necessary, the vessel itself, is adequately removed to minimize damage. In addition, staff may conduct damage and recovery assessments, as well as, restoration effort if needed. In 2006 sanctuary resource protection personnel worked with the California Office of Spill Prevention and Response to ensure clean up of fuel oil in the sunken ship Palo Alto (Figure 79). This oil had been linked to the death of more than 50 oiled seabirds since 2004. In addition, 173 seabird and two harbor seal carcasses were recovered from the bunker tank that contained all the fuel (Michaels 2006).
DesalinationThree desalination facilities currently operate within the boundaries of the sanctuary and approximately 10 facilities have recently been proposed (Figure 80). Due to population growth in the area, continuing shortages and degradation of conventional water supplies, and advances in desalination technology, the trend will likely continue. The goal of the sanctuary's Desalination Action Plan is to minimize the impacts to marine resources from desalination activities through the development and implementation of a regional planning program and approach to desalination (NOAA 2008a). The action plan also includes development of facility siting guidelines, identification of environmental standards for desalination facilities, development of a modeling and monitoring program for desalination discharges, and the enhancement of outreach programs and the exchange of information.
Dredging and Dredge DisposalSanctuary staff will continue to review the disposal of dredge material in approved locations at sea or along the shoreline. The sanctuary's Harbors and Dredge Disposal Action Plan was developed jointly with a variety of stakeholders and partners and includes the following components (NOAA 2008a):
- Continuing to participate in and improve coordinated permit review with the California Coastal Commission, US Army Corps, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
- Reviewing dredge disposal activities in offshore sites with potential modifications to existing disposal sites;
- Tracking and evaluating increased sediment volumes disposed, as well as coordinating with appropriate agencies on reduction programs for upstream sources of sediment;
- Continuing to coordinate with the Army Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency on sediment size and suitability for offshore disposal;
- Evaluating future beneficial uses for dredge materials such as beach replenishment activities.
Erosion and Coastal ArmoringSanctuary regulations prohibit alteration of the seabed, and all armoring structures placed below the mean high tide line require approval from the sanctuary (NOAA 2008a). The sanctuary regulates coastal armoring by authorizing California Coastal Commission permits, and placing specific conditions on those permits. Many seawalls have been constructed with no notification to or authorization from the sanctuary. Since 1992, the sanctuary review of seawalls primarily focused on minimizing impacts from the construction process rather than long-term impacts from the armoring itself. Since its designation, the sanctuary has reviewed and authorized California Coastal Commission permits for seawalls, riprap or other coastal armoring projects at 15 sites. Only a portion of the total coastal armoring projects underway in the region came to the sanctuary for review, clearly indicating a need for improved inter-agency coordination.
Because the armoring of the coastline for protection of private and public structures continues to expand throughout the sanctuary (Figure 81), the sanctuary has recently begun to take a more active role in addressing this practice, and has developed a Coastal Armoring Action Plan with the goal of developing and implementing a proactive regional approach to address coastal erosion that minimizes the negative impacts of coastal armoring on a sanctuary-wide basis. This action plan was developed jointly with a variety of stakeholders and partners and includes components such as:
- Compiling and analyzing existing information on coastal erosion and armoring and how it may impact sanctuary resources;
- Producing a comprehensive database and GIS maps for use as planning and permit review tools;
- Identifying specific planning sub-regions within the sanctuary, based on biological sensitivity, levels of development, and physical considerations, and developing specific planning guidelines for each sub-region;
- Improving coordination among agencies and jurisdictions involved in the permitting of coastal protection structures;
- Developing a long-term monitoring program that compares the ecological impacts of different types of coastal armoring structures to various habitats;
- Providing targeted education and outreach to decision makers and the general public about the issues of coastal erosion and armoring and the sanctuary's regional guidelines and policies;
- Improving the maintenance and restoration of existing coastal armoring sites to minimize environmental damage;
- Predicting erosion and initiating work before sites become emergencies.
The staff of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is leading a large, collaborative effort ' the Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Project ' to develop and implement specific recommendations to conserve and restore estuarine habitat lost due to due tidal erosion. This collaboration, initiated in 2004, involves over 100 coastal resource managers, scientific experts, representatives from key regulatory and jurisdictional entities, leaders of conservation organizations, and community members. Members of the Monterey Bay sanctuary research team are involved with the project on both the Strategic Planning Team and the Science Panel.
Landslide DisposalThe need to proactively assess the sensitivity of intertidal and subtidal habitats in the Big Sur region to potential disposal of landslide debris was identified following severe winter storms and subsequent landslides in 1998, which closed the coastal highway and cut off local residents for several months. Because landslide debris disposal areas are very limited along the Big Sur coast due to the steep topography and because of the high cost and time of hauling debris to distant landfills, there was a strong interest by the public and elected officials to consider the possibility of disposing landslide debris on the seaward side of the highway, without harming sanctuary resources. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is working with the California Department of Transportation and others to address landslide disposal, including development of a regional plan to improve highway practices to reduce the need for disposal, and assessments of the relative contribution of natural versus anthropogenic material. These actions are part of the sanctaury's Big Sur Coastal Ecosystem Action Plan.
In preparation for the 2008-2009 winter rainy season, the sanctuary began using a GIS-based decision support tool to identify landslide debris disposal options along the Big Sur coast. In addition, working closely with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the California Coastal Commission, and Monterey County, response protocols were established for emergency notification, landslide debris data collection and analysis, and agreed upon procedures for coordinated and expedited permitting procedures. Concern for having these protocols in place was significantly heightened because of the possibility of severe debris flows during winter rain events following the Basin Complex and Chalk fires, which burned approximately 180,000 acres in the summer of 2008.
The GIS-based decision support tool incorporates data from a shoreline sensitivity assessment conducted by PISCO along with over 100 other natural resource and geologic spatial data sets that together allow the sanctuary to quickly identify sensitive areas along the shoreline that would be particularly vulnerable to scouring or smothering damage from potential landslide debris disposal, as well as less sensitive shoreline habitats that might be suitable to receive additional rock and soil inputs. The sanctuary used the GIS tool to help Caltrans plan its strategies to keep critical culverts from becoming clogged with landslide debris, which could cause a washout of the highway.
The installation, operation, and removal of submerged cables may disturb benthic habitats and may negatively impact areas of the seafloor. Sanctuary regulations prohibit the installation of submerged cables. Such regulatory prohibitions include those against: drilling into, dredging or otherwise altering the seabed of the sanctuary; constructing, placing or abandoning any structure, material or other matter on the seabed of the sanctuary; moving or injuring historical resources; and discharging or depositing any material or other matter in the sanctuary. However, sanctuary regulations allow, via permit or authorization, for some otherwise prohibited activities (Figure 82) (NOAA 2008a).
Currently submerged cable applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis (NOAA 2008a). Policy guidance for future applicants would provide for a more efficient permitting process and inform future applicants as to preferred alternatives prior to submitting an application. In 1999, due to expanding interest in constructing submerged telecommunications cables in national marine sanctuaries, including the Monterey Bay sanctuary, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries initiated a process to consider guidance for cable projects proposed for national marine sanctuaries. Also, there has been a recent increase in interest to develop cabled observatories nationwide for research and monitoring purposes, including in the sanctuary. In implementation of this Submerged Cables Action Plan, the sanctuary will develop a framework to identify sensitive areas of the seafloor within the sanctuary and provide clear structure with which to review future submerged cable development applications. The plan includes a program to provide siting guidelines in a Geographical Information System to identify environmental constraints. The sanctuary is also working with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to develop nationwide guidelines on appropriate locations and restrictions for underwater fiber optic cables based on habitat sensitivity and other criteria.
The Pioneer Seamount cable was originally installed in 1995 as part of an experiment to detect changes in ocean temperature by monitoring the speed of sound waves in the deep sea. The coaxial Type SD cable runs 95 kilometers between Pillar Point Air Force Station in Half Moon Bay and the Pioneer Seamount (Figure 82). To fulfill sanctuary permitting requirements to continue using the cable, NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, in collaboration with researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the sanctuary, performed an underwater survey of the status of the cable (Kogan et al. 2006). Few impacts to the physical habitat and surrounding fauna were detected.
Eradication of non-indigenous species is difficult and often impossible, and management practices should focus largely on prevention of introductions. The goal of the Introduced Species Action Plan is to maintain the natural biological communities and ecological processes in the sanctuary and protect them from the potentially adverse impacts of introduced species by preventing new introduced species from establishing in the sanctuary and by detecting, controlling (limiting the spread), and where feasible, eradicating environmentally harmful species that are introduced to the sanctuary waters (NOAA 2008a). This action plan, developed jointly with a multi-stakeholder working group, calls for the following actions:
- Address known pathways of introduction
- Develop prevention and response programs for introduced species
- Develop a baseline information, research and monitoring programs
Sanctuary staff has conducted some research and education on this issue and occasionally has reviewed and provided comments to other agencies on ways to prevent introductions. In August 2001, the invasive alga Undaria pinnatifida was first noted in Monterey Harbor. In September 2002, sanctuary staff and the Harbor Master's office coordinated with the city of Monterey's Volunteer Program to begin a monitoring program to survey and remove Undaria by hand from the floating docks. The Undaria Management Program, funded by the NOAA Restoration Center from 2006 to September 2008, used staff and volunteers to monitor and manage the spread of this invader.
The Monterey Bay sanctuary addresses wildlife disturbance through a mix of education, outreach, partnerships with docent programs, regulations and enforcement (NOAA 2008a). Sanctuary regulations explicitly prohibit take and harassment of wildlife protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Previously, ecotourism operations within the sanctuary included white shark viewing with the aid of chumming or other attraction methods. Sanctuary adopted prohibitions for attraction of white sharks, due to the potential for alteration of the sharks' general behavior patterns and user conflicts with recreational activities such as surfing. Minimizing disturbance to wildlife is the goal of the Marine Mammal, Seabird, and Turtle Disturbance Action Plan.
One effort to reduce wildlife disturbance in the sanctuary is an education/outreach program called TeamOCEAN (Ocean Conservation Education Action Network). Started in 2000, the TeamOCEAN Kayaker Outreach Program is a seasonal field program that provides face-to-face interpretation of sanctuary natural history and programs, as well as guidelines on how to enjoy marine wildlife without disturbing it (Figure 83). The target audience is primarily ocean kayakers, but includes other sanctuary resource users who may be encountered on the water, such as boaters and divers. A large percentage of ocean kayakers are visitors to the area and are either unaware of or undereducated about the sanctuary's existence and sensitive wildlife. The naturalists serve as docents for the marine sanctuary, promote respectful wildlife viewing, and protect marine mammals from disturbance.
Similarly, the sanctuary has assisted in reducing harassment of the northern elephant seal population at Piedras Blancas, a location very near a highway where tourists were closely approaching the animals. These efforts have included assisting local nonprofit organizations in establishing an observer and docent network for the northern elephant seal haul-out sites to facilitate observation opportunities at safe distances and locations, and improving interagency enforcement for cases where an educational approach has not sufficed. Sanctuary staff has also developed educational signage for several highly visited shoreline locations to reduce impacts of trampling and collecting of intertidal species.
Motorized and Non-motorized VesselsMotorized personal watercraft activities have increased in the sanctuary with the development of larger and more powerful vehicles for use in the marine environment. The goal of the Motorized Personal Watercraft Action Plan is to minimize disturbance of marine wildlife by motorized personal watercraft, minimize user conflicts between motorized personal watercraft operators and other recreationalists, and provide appropriate opportunities for motorized personal watercraft use within the sanctuary (NOAA 2008a). In this action plan, the sanctuary provides an updated definition of personal watercraft in order to address the original intent of the existing sanctuary regulation, which was to restrict them to four zones (Figure 84). The action plan includes education and enforcement procedures and exploration of the need for certain exceptions.
Overflight ImpactsPotential impacts from low-flying aircraft are addressed by a specific prohibition on flying under 1,000 feet (300 meters) in designated overflight zones with sensitive wildlife (Figure 85).
Implementation of this sanctuary regulation has encountered some problems due to a lack of understanding and acknowledgement of the zones by pilots since they are not noted on aeronautical charts. The sanctuary has begun anoutreach campaign to pilot associations on the zones and the impacts of low flights, and is working to include notations on the Federal Aviation Administration's aeronautical charts. Additional outreach may be required to reach aviation companies that conduct whale watching trips within the sanctuary overflight restriction zones.
Aquaculture ActivitiesKelp is harvested in the sanctuary at a variety of locations, to sustain aquaculture operations and for use in a variety of products. The Monterey Bay sanctuary conducted a thorough evaluation of the kelp harvesting issue in 2000 and provided eleven recommendations to the California Department of Fish and Game for themanagement of kelp in the sanctuary. Recommendations included areas where kelp harvesting should be limited or excluded, and implementation of more rigorous methods for collection, analysis, and dissemination of data on kelp harvesting. In 2001, the Department adopted many of these recommendations.
Acoustic ImpactsThe sanctuary has been involved in evaluating and requesting limits or alterations of specific proposals to use acoustic devices in the region, such as the Navy's Low-Frequency Array proposal, but has not addressed the overall issue of cumulative noise impacts. An assessment of the distribution of deep-diving whales in the sanctuary has been compiled to assist in evaluating potential impacts from acoustic disturbances. Proposed future actions include encouraging passive acoustic monitoring to identify and quantify sources of anthropogenic noise in air and underwater and continuing to be apprised of survey and monitoring activities that are evaluating the effects of sound. In addition, the sanctuary will continue evaluating individual proposals on a case-by-case basis to determine impacts of proposed projects, and make management recommendations. The sanctuary will work with NOAA Fisheries and other partners to determine acceptable sound levels in the different frequency ranges affecting wildlife.
Marine DebrisIn the Marine Mammals, Seabirds, and Turtle Disturbance Action Plan, the sanctuary outlines a plan to address the threat of marine debris to wildlife by developing a marine debris database, conducting education and outreach programs to illustrate the impacts of marine debris on wildlife, and working in cooperation with other agencies and municipalities to develop a notification and recovery program for lost fishing gear (NOAA 2008a).
The Monterey Bay sanctuary is supporting efforts by cities and the state to ban use of some non-recyclable plastic consumer products (e.g., polystyrene) and encourage incentives for the use of compostable materials. Recently, a number of cities adjacent to the sanctuary have implemented such bans, including the cities of Capitola, Santa Cruz, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Monterey, Oakland, and San Francisco, which may reduce the amount of debris entering sanctuary waters.
The sanctuary is working with partners to design and implement a multi-year project to remove lost fishing gear from the sanctuary. The dual purpose of the project is to help eliminate benthic and pelagic hazards to marine organisms posed by fishing debris lost on the bottom, and to provide outreach tools that will assist in the location of lost gear via reports from divers, researchers, fishermen and other parties.
Tidepool ProtectionMost tidepool areas of the sanctuary do not have significant monitoring and enforcement, signage or educational outreach strategies to minimize human impacts. In addition, there has not been a regional effort to assess usage and potential impacts and to prioritize sites that need additional attention. The Tidepool Protection Action Plan was developed to provide 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 (NOAA 2008a). The goal of the Tidepool Protection Action Plan is to protect tidepool habitat and resources from impacts associated with visitation and harvest. Under this action plan, the sanctuary will evaluate and prioritize high-visitation tidepool areas and address possible impacts associated with potentially excessive use. The action plan includes education and enforcement programs, and implementation would include the development of guidelines for tidepool access and enjoyment.
The sanctuary has compiled a detailed survey of the research and monitoring programs focused on rocky intertidal habitat in central California (DeVogelaere et al. 1999). 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. This inventory of ongoing research at rocky intertidal sites is updated periodically in the Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network (SIMoN) inventory of research projects. Staff also collaborates with the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO), a consortium of academic scientists conducting extensive monitoring of rocky intertidal habitats. In 2000, the Monterey Bay sanctuary partnered with the City of Pacific Grove and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to fund a study of the impacts of human activities on the rocky intertidal shore and tidepools at Point Pinos (on the Monterey Peninsula). This study found that aside from apparent trampling effects, disturbances that have likely occurred at some level from visitor use did not appear to exceed the range of disturbances that may occur naturally (Tenera Environmental 2003). The authors recommended that planning for additional resource conservation measures and monitoring programs at Point Pinos may be warranted because visitor use will likely increase in the future.
Ecosystem Conservation & Biodiversity ProtectionThe sanctuary is mandated to approach resource protection from a broad, ecosystem-based perspective. To effectively protect an ecosystem, it is necessary to know the ecosystem components and to understand how these components interact and change through time. Monitoring is a tool for documenting change for the purpose of understanding why such a change has occurred and determine whether or not the change is attributable to human or natural causes. Monitoring is critical to resource managers who need to make informed decisions regarding ecosystem protection and to inform the public about their impacts on the environment.
SIMoN - the Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
SIMoN utilizes existing data sets, supports and augments current research and monitoring efforts, and initiates new efforts to address important gaps in our knowledge of the sanctuary. The strength of this program is that SIMoN serves as the hub for regional ecosystem monitoring. Regional scientists continue to collect the large majority of monitoring data, but the sanctuary helps generate funds and other support required to maintain or expand some existing efforts and to initiate new studies.
Through SIMoN, the sanctuary also integrates and interprets results of individual efforts in a large ecosystem-wide context, and continuously updates and disseminates data summaries to facilitate communication among researchers, managers, educators, and the public. Timely and pertinent information is provided to all parties through tools such as the SIMoN web site, an annual symposium, and a series of technical and general reports.
Because the Monterey Bay, Gulf of the Farallones, and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries sit adjacent to one another, they share some of the same habitats, organisms, and management concerns. The Ecosystem Monitoring Action Plan provides a framework for close coordination in ecosystem monitoring amongst the three sanctuaries, enabling the sanctuaries to more effectively address ecosystem monitoring issues (NOAA 2008a). One of the goals of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is to provide an ecosystem monitoring program within the sanctuary to determine human-induced and natural changes to natural resources, and to disseminate this information to the public and agency decision makers. Moreover, this effort is to be integrated with monitoring projects in the other two sanctuaries to efficiently address similar problems and to effectively study regional-scale, cross-sanctuary phenomena.
On August 12, 2009 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prohibited krill harvesting off the U.S. West Coast. Krill are a small shrimp-like crustacean and a key source of nutrition in the marine food web. While the States of California, Oregon and Washington had regulations prohibiting the harvesting of krill within three miles of their coastlines, there was no similar federal restriction within the three to 200-mile confines of the Exclusive Economic Zone. The krill harvest prohibition in federal waters was proposed by NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. The final rule implementsAmendment 12 to the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan, which was developed by the PFMC under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The prohibition is intended to preserve key nutritional relationships in the California Current ecosystem, which includes five National Marine Sanctuaries.
During the scoping period of the Joint Management Plan Review, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries received approximately 7,000 public comments requesting greater ecosystem protection for Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary through the establishment of a network of marine protected areas. The sanctuary advisory council also identified the consideration of new marine protected areas as a priority issue to be addressed in the new management plan. Similar to the Marine Life Protection Act efforts in state waters (generally within three nautical miles of shore), the sanctuary is now considering using marine protected areas as a management tool in federal waters (beyond three nautical miles). The Marine Protected Areas Action Plan outlines a program for identifying various types of ocean uses, integrated management, marine protected area design criteria, socioeconomic impact analysis, marine protected area enforcement, outreach, and monitoring (NOAA 2008a).
Maritime Archaeological Resources
The Maritime Heritage Action Plan, developed by working group members and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries staff provides a framework for a Maritime Heritage Resources Program. The sanctuary is working with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, West Coast sanctuaries and local agencies to more fully develop a Maritime Heritage program.
The sanctuary began a project to characterize shipwrecks within the sanctuary, including a summary of the shipping routes and types of coastal settings that were conducive to maritime activities and trade and an assessment of known ship losses. Supporting research for this project comes from archival materials, existing databases, and an oral survey with the support of the diving community. This information has been included in the site characterization of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and incorporated into NOAA's Archeological Site Database ("NOAA's ARCH"). Several projects have been developed to characterize maritime heritage and submerged archaeological resources in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary:
- Two contributions to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Site Characterization: "A Recent History of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Region" and "Early Uses of the Resources"
- Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Shipwreck Database: The Web site and database provide teachers and students with an online educational activity to learn more about important shipwrecks found within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
- Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Submerged Cultural Resources Study 2001: Smith and Hunter (2003) indicate 445 reported losses (vessels, aircraft) are located in Pacific waters directly within, or near the border of, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
In 2003, sanctuary staff and local agencies visited the oil tanker Montebello to conduct reconnaissance dives to monitor and characterize the condition of the vessel, and characterize the fish and invertebrate assemblages (Figure 86). Over the course of two days, eight successful ROV dives revealed greater details of the tanker, with no observations of oil discharging into the water column or Beggiatoa bacteria, which feeds on hydrocarbons. Observations made in the region of the starboard stern quarter suggest that steel corrosion may have advanced since the 1996 expedition. Sixteen fish species and 29 invertebrate species were recorded during two one-hour submersible dives. The sanctuary plans to continue monitoring the site of theMontebello in the future for signs of oil discharge or hull degradation (Schwemmer 2005).
In 2005, a team of scientists onboard the NOAA research vessel McArthur IIconducted a side scan sonar survey in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary at the wreck site of USS Macon. In September 2006, researchers from Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, sanctuary west coast regional office, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Stanford University, and the University of New Hampshire revisited the wreck site. The primary goal of the mission was to conduct comprehensive documentation of the site of the USS Macon's loss that can be used to evaluate the archaeological context of the craft. This will allow the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the U.S. Navy Historical Center to determine the condition of the site, the level of preservation of the archaeological remains and the potential for research at the site. Another goal of the expedition is to conduct a biological survey to characterize the habitat and species composition associated with the wreck and surrounding area. The expedition will aid in the assessment of the USS Macon for eligibility in the national register of historic places.