State of Sanctuary Resources
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

photo of birds on the beach

This section provides summaries of the condition and trends within four resource areas: (1.) water, (2.) habitat, (3.) living resources and (4.) maritime archaeological resources. Sanctuary staff, together with local subject experts, considered a series of questions about each resource area. The set of questions derive from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ mission, and a system-wide monitoring framework (NMSP 2004) developed to ensure the timely flow of data and information to those responsible for managing and protecting resources in the ocean and coastal zone, and to those that use, depend on and study the ecosystems encompassed by the sanctuaries. Appendix A (Rating Scheme for System-Wide Monitoring Questions) clarifies the set of questions and presents statements that were used to judge the status and assign a corresponding color code on a scale from good to poor; these statements are customized for each question. In addition, the following options are available for all questions: "N/A" — the question does not apply; and "Undetermined" — resource status is undetermined. In addition, symbols are used to indicate trends: "▲" — conditions appear to be improving; "▬" — conditions do not appear to be changing; "▼" — conditions appear to be declining; and "?" — trend is undetermined.


Status:   Good     Good/Fair      Fair      Fair/Poor      Poor       Undet.  


Conditions appear to be improving.
- Conditions do not appear to be changing.
Conditions appear to be declining.
? Undeterminted trend.
N/A Question not applicable.

The purpose of this section of the report is to provide updated answers to 16 standardized questions.3 For many questions, new data, published literature and expert opinions have become available since the 2009 report’s publication (ONMS 2009). This new information is summarized and evaluated relative to the 2009 ratings. Moreover, it resulted in a change in status or trends for some of the questions (Estuarine Questions: 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12 and 13; Nearshore Questions: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 16; Offshore Questions: 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 14). Answers are supported by specific examples of data, investigations, monitoring and observations, and the basis for judgment is provided in the text and summarized in the table for each resource area. Where published or additional information exists, the reader is provided with appropriate references and web links. For the 16 questions, the temporal reference frame is 2009 through the end of 2014. For example, when addressing question 1, "Are specific or multiple stressors, including changing oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, affecting water quality?," the 2015 MBNMS Condition Report Update examines potential stressors affecting water quality since 2009. Specifically, are there new stressors or have existing stressors changed (disappeared, diminished or increased) and have these differences since 2009 altered either the rating status or trend? If there is no change in the rating status, then the color will remain the same. If new information suggests the status has changed, then the color will change to reflect the new status. Similarly, if the trend remains the same (i.e. still improving, stable, declining or unknown), the symbol will not change. If new information suggests the trend has changed, then the trend symbol will be changed to reflect the new trend.
Some of the questions refer to the term "ecosystem integrity." When responding to these questions, subject experts and sanctuary staff judged an ecosystem's integrity by the relative wholeness of ecosystem structure, function and associated complexity, and the spatial and temporal variability inherent in these characteristics, as determined by its natural evolutionary history. Ecosystem integrity is reflected in a system’s "ability to generate and maintain adaptive biotic elements through natural evolutionary processes" (Angermeier and Karr 1994). It also implies the natural fluctuations of a system’s native characteristics, including abiotic drivers, biotic composition, symbiotic relationships and functional processes are not substantively altered and are either likely to persist or be regained following natural disturbance.
Questions 4, 8, 14 and 17 examine the levels of human activities that may influence the sanctuary’s resources. While each question received a status and trend rating and an associated basis for judgment explanation, it should be noted that trend data are lacking for many of the human activities considered. In addition, it was difficult to assess the relationship between the impacts of an increasing human population and the effectiveness of management efforts designed to mitigate these anthropogenic pressures.
Because of the considerable differences within the sanctuary between seamount, offshore, nearshore and estuarine environments, each question was answered separately for each of these environments (see Figure 1). Though many estuaries occur along the central California coastline, Elkhorn Slough is the only estuary located inside the boundaries of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The nearshore environment is defined as extending from the shoreline boundary of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (the mean high water line) to the 30 meter isobath and includes the seafloor and water column. The offshore environment is defined as extending from the 30 meter isobath out to the offshore boundary of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and includes the seafloor and water column. The seamount environment includes Davidson Seamount Management Zone.

The following sections update the 2009 State of Sanctuary Resources for estuarine, nearshore and offshore environments, as well as expands on the 2009 report by including the seamount environment for the first time. The goal of this update is to use the best available science and most recent data to re-evaluate the status and trends of the various components of the sanctuary’s ecosystem. These ratings are relative to the highest standard of resource condition and ecosystem health possible in an area with multiple, sustainable uses. It is important to note that overall, MBNMS is doing quite well in comparison to other parts of the world’s ocean. The sanctuary’s abundance and diversity of wildlife is remarkable compared to much of the world. However, the purpose of this report is to characterize sanctuary health, so sanctuary managers can focus on finding solutions that continue to improve the health and resilience of the sanctuary ecosystem.

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3 In 2012, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries led an effort to review and revise the set of questions and their possible responses posed in the condition reports. As part of this effort, some questions were combined, new questions were added and other questions were removed. Question 10, "What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?" was removed from the set of questions. This decision was made because of all the questions, it was the only one that focused on a single human activity. The issue of fishing is sufficiently addressed in other questions found in the report, including those related to biodiversity, the status and health of key species, and the status of human activities. For a complete list of the new, revised set of questions, see ONMS 2015. Note that the revised questions are not reflected in the 2015 Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report Update; however, because of the aforementioned reasons, question 10 was not answered. The new set of questions will be addressed when the condition report is revised in its entirety in the future.