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Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Condition Summary Table

Offshore Environment | Nearshore Environment | Estuarine Environment

Offshore Environment

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 and are consistent across all sanctuary condition reports. Please see Appendix A for further clarification of the questions and the Description of Findings statements. The "State of Sanctuary Resources" section of the report provides a more thorough and detailed summary of the ratings and judgments described in this table.

Because of the considerable differences within the sanctuary between the offshore, nearshore, and estuarine environments, each question found in the State of the Sanctuary Resources section of this report was answered separately for each of these environments. The offshore environment is defined as extending from the 30-meter isobath out to the offshore boundary of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and includes the seafloor and water column.

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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?
Elevated levels of contaminants (e.g., persistent organic pollutants), and ocean temperature and chemistry changes, some of which have been linked to changes in the offshore ecosystem. Selected conditions may inhibit the development of assemblages and may cause measurable but not severe declines in living resources and habitats.

Improved vessel routing strategies reduce the risk of collisions and spills. Active water quality protection program is in place and involves planning, research, monitoring, education, and outreach. Recent addition of regulations limiting discharges from cruise ships.

2. What is the eutrophic condition of sanctuary waters and how is it changing?
Nutrient enrichment in selected areas, increased nutrient loading, and increased frequency and intensity of harmful algal blooms. 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?
?
Measurable levels of biotoxins and contaminants in some locations that have the potential to affect human health; no reports of human impacts. 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?
Inputs of pollutants from agriculture and urban development; reduced risk of impacts from vessels due to regulation of traffic patterns and discharges, removal of oil from sunken ships. Selected activities have resulted in measurable resource impacts, but evidence suggests effects are localized, not widespread.
HABITAT
5. What is the abundance and distribution of major habitat types and how is it changing?
?
Benthic habitat loss and modification due to fishing with bottom-contact gear; recovery of seafloor habitats resulting from management measures is unknown. 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. Trawl fishing closures in some areas are expected to reduce damage to bottom habitats. Installation of submerged cables is regulated and monitored. The recent incorporation of the Davidson Seamount into the sanctuary will increase protection of fragile structure-forming organisms. Multi-year, collaborative project to identify and remove lost fishing gear from the sanctuary.
6. What is the condition of biologically structured habitats and how is it changing?
?
Damage to and loss of structure-forming and structure-building taxa due to trawl fishing; recovery of biogenic habitat resulting from management measures is unknown. Selected habitat loss or alteration has caused or is likely to cause severe declines in some but not all living resources or water quality.
7. What are the contaminant concentrations in monument habitats and how are they changing?
No evidence of strong ecosystem level effects; no attenuation of persistent contaminants in sediments; continued input and delivery of some contaminants to deep-sea habitats. 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?
up arrow
High levels of previous trawl fishing, but recent reductions in trawling activity. Accumulations of marine debris from land and ocean-based human activities. Selected activities have caused or are likely to cause severe impacts, and cases to date suggest a pervasive problem.
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. Selected biodiversity loss may inhibit full community development and function and may cause measurable but not severe degradation of ecosystem integrity. Research and monitoring programs supported by SIMoN focus heavily on addressing causes of impacts to living resources and evaluating the effectiveness of management actions. The sanctuary is developing ecosystem models and interagency collaborations to increase understanding of offshore resources. Sanctuary regulations and permits have minimizerd damage from submerged cables and human generated acoustics. The sanctuary is participating in a multi-year, collaborative project to identify and remove lost fishing gear from the sanctuary. Numerous areas are closed to trawl fishing. The recent incorporation of the Davidson Seamount into the sanctuary will increase protection of fragile structure-forming organisms.
10. What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?
Abundance of many harvested species reduced below unfished levels, some targeted and non-targeted species have been drastically reduced by past fishing activity. Fishery management measures have assisted the initial recovery of some overfished groundfish. 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?
Very few non-indigenous species identified in offshore waters. 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?
up arrow
Reduced abundance of a number of key pelagic species; some reductions caused by activities outside the sanctuary. Selected key or keystone species are at reduced levels, perhaps precluding full community development and function, but substantial or persistent declines are not expected.
13. What is the condition or health of key species and how is it changing?
down arrow
Compromised health due to exposure to neurotoxins produced by HABs, entanglement in active and lost fishing gear, ingestion of marine debris, and accumulation of persistent contaminants. 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?
up arrow
Fishing and inputs of marine debris have resulted in measurable impacts; recent management actions to reduce marine debris and to recover overfished stocks and impacted habitats. 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?
?
To date, only one of potentially hundreds of archaeological site inventories has been conducted. Not enough information to make a determination. Shipwreck characterization efforts are underway to locate, document, and assess submerged resources. Conducted surveys of the oil tanker Montibello in 2003, and the USS Macon in 2005 and 2006.
16. Do known maritime archaeological resources pose an environmental hazard and is this threat changing?
Known resources containing hazardous material continue to deteriorate. 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?
?
Archaeological resources, particularly those that are undocumented, are vulnerable to degradation from trawling. 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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