A Fighting Chance for North Coast Bull Kelp

Michael Esgro, OPC Marine Ecosystems Program Manager & Tribal Liaison

As a lifelong Monterey diver, I’ve been devastated to watch California’s once-lush kelp forests turn into “urchin barrens” seemingly overnight. I’ve also been deeply moved by conversations with my north coast diver brethren (both at public meetings in Sacramento and over beers in Noyo Harbor) about the devastating consequences that this ecological collapse has had on the economy, culture, and spirit of California’s north coast, where kelp declines have been the most severe. So when I was offered the chance to observe a new kelp restoration project in Mendocino County – a unique partnership between OPC, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Reef Check California, and local commercial fishermen – I threw a scuba tank in my truck and drove north without hesitation. And that’s how I found myself pulling on a wetsuit on a foggy Sunday morning, excited for an underwater tour of the Noyo Bay restoration site.

Alongside Tristin McHugh, Reef Check’s North Coast Regional Manager and my divemaster for this excursion, I dropped into the uncommonly clear water and soon came upon Pat and Grant Downie, a father-son team of commercial red sea urchin divers. Using only their hands and specially designed rakes, they were quickly clearing the reef of kelp-eating purple urchin, demonstrating a level of skill and efficiency that comes only with a lifetime of urchin diving. For reference, I participated in a recreational urchin removal event at Noyo Bay last summer, and I was proud of the 5 pounds I surfaced with. The Downies’ haul last Sunday? More than half a ton.

Diver

Commercial fisherman Grant Downie removing purple urchin from the reef at Noyo Bay. Photo: Tristin McHugh/Reef Check California

As Tristin and I made our way across the reef, I was impressed to see the progress that has been made since urchin removal operations started only a month ago. When I last saw this site, purple urchins were so dense that the ocean floor looked like a spiky purple carpet. Now, it was bare rock. And about halfway through the dive, I saw something I never thought I’d see at Noyo Bay again – several baby bull kelps growing on the newly cleared reef. I hovered over one for several minutes. This piece of algae was no bigger than my thumb, and it looked like such a fragile thing, especially compared to the towering forests that once stood here. But it also struck me as defiant, evidence of resilience in a changing ocean, new life in an environment that, up until a few weeks ago, seemed beyond redemption.

Kelp

Juvenile bull kelp growing on newly cleared reef. Photo: Tristin McHugh/Reef Check California

Back on the dock, as we watched divers hauling in basket after basket of purple urchin, I talked with colleagues about the sighting, and all of us (ecologists to the core) agreed we can’t yet say that urchin removal is directly responsible for kelp regrowth at Noyo Bay. That requires more data, and replication, and comparison with unmanipulated reference sites. In fact, it’s the central scientific question that we are trying to answer with this project. The image of that baby bull kelp stayed with me, though, as I drove home down Highway 1 and looked out at a coast that was once lined with thick brown tangles. We’re nowhere near the end of the story. But at a couple of spots in Mendocino County, we’re at least giving kelp a fighting chance.

Urchins

Landed purple urchins ready for processing and data collection. Photo: Mike Esgro/Ocean Protection Council

Divers

Dive team enjoying uncommonly clear and blue conditions at Noyo Bay last weekend. Photo: Tristin McHugh/Reef Check California

DCTF Executive Committee Meeting – September 9, 2020

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September 4, 2020: Cancelled due to lack of quorum

DCTF Executive Committee Conference Call

September 9, 2020 at 11:00am
Listen only/call-in: (669) 900 6833 | Meeting ID: 830 2548 4301
Zoom access link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83025484301

Meeting Agenda

Goal of the Executive Committee (EC) Conference Call: To provide updates on topics directly impacting the Dungeness crab fishery, and discuss and consider topics and priorities for the DCTF. Identify DCTF priorities

1. Welcome, introductions, agenda overview.

2. Public comment on matters not on the agenda.

3. Updates on issues involving the Dungeness crab fishery, including, but not limited to, the status of the DCTF recommendations identified during the October 2019 in-person meeting, the Dungeness crab account, DCTF budget, etc.

4. Presentation from CDFW of domoic acid biotoxin management areas including updates on collection and processing capacity/procedures.

5. Update on state discussions and considerations related to Tri-state preseason quality testing protocols and discussion about the availability of processors and observers for the 2020-21 season.

6. Learn about and discuss the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group and broader efforts to reduce marine life entanglement risk including, an update on the Department’s proposed Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP) regulations and anticipated implications for the 2020-21 fishing season, line-marking, the Conservation and Incidental Take Plans, California’s potential listing of leatherback sea turtles, etc.

7. Adjourn

Agenda items may be taken out of order at the discretion of the DCTF Administrative Team (Admin Team).

*Public Participation and Comment: All members of the public, including non-EC DCTF members, will be automatically placed on mute upon entering the call. Phone lines will be opened during public comment periods. When the Admin Team opens the call to public comment, you may press *6 to unmute yourself if you wish to provide comments.

Meeting materials will be posted to the DCTF website as they are available. A meeting summary will be made available via the DCTF website.

Questions about the meeting or agenda can be directed to info@dungenesscrabtaskforce.com or 805-845-9852. Any person who has a disability and requires reasonable accommodation to participate in this DCTF meeting should contact Rachelle Fisher (rachelle@strategicearth.com) or 805-845-9852) no later than five days prior to meeting.

For more information about the DCTF please visit the DCTF website at http://www.opc.ca.gov/2009/04/dungeness-crab-task-force/

Updated Prop 68 Coastal Resilience

August 24, 2020

OPC has released an updated version of the Prop 68 Coastal Resilience Solicitation that removes permitting as a project type eligible for funding, consistent with OPC’s Prop 68 Grant Guidelines.

Project types that may be funded through this solicitation include:

  • Community capacity building, technical assistance, and planning
  • Project site assessment, preliminary design, and final project design
  • Construction, monitoring, and adaptive management

The updated solicitation also clarifies that OPC is not requiring application submittal through the System for Online Application Review (SOAR), in order to increase accessibility and ease of submittal for applicants.

For more details, please see OPC’s Proposition 68 Grant Guidelines and Grant Solicitation & Application Instructions on OPC’s Proposition 68 webpage: http://www.opc.ca.gov/prop-68-funding/

The deadline to submit letters of intent is September 14, 2020.

More Justice, More Resilience: Science Advisory Team statement on COVID Recovery

Today the California Ocean Protection Council Science Advisory Team released a position statement signed by 29 ocean and coastal scientists: “Oceans provide opportunities for equitable, climate-resilient COVID Recovery.” The scientists call for inclusion of climate resilience investments that will stimulate California’s coastal economies and center environmental justice and equity when the Governor and state legislators develop the state’s COVID-19 economic recovery stimulus funding plan. The position statement reflects the Ocean Protection Council’s (OPC) mission to help ensure that California maintains healthy, resilient, and productive ocean and coastal ecosystems, and support marginalized and vulnerable communities.

The scientists’ goal in crafting this statement is to emphasize that 1) climate change remains a significant threat to California’s marine ecosystems; 2) climate change impacts have the potential to exacerbate existing social inequalities, based on race, culture, or economic status; 3) coastal and ocean climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience investments can contribute to overall economic recovery -; and 4) investments that increase the resilience of California’s most vulnerable communities, in addition to being equitable, can improve the entire state’s ability to adapt to climate change. The statement serves to amplify the need that California’s short-term economic rebuilding must work in conjunction with the state’s long-term climate change or environmental justice goals.

The California Ocean Protection Council Science Advisory Team provides scientific analysis and advice to the OPC and works to ensure that OPC policy and funding decisions are informed by the best available science. For more on the OPC SAT, including its full list of scientists, please visit here or contact Liz Whiteman, liz.whiteman@oceansciencetrust.org. California Ocean Science Trust serves as the Secretariat for the OPC SAT.

The full text of the position statement can be found on OPC’s website.

New Prop 68 Coastal Resilience Solicitation Now Open!

OPC’s priority areas for Proposition 68 grant funding are for projects that will address, create, or implement nature-based solutions and other sea-level rise adaptation strategies to build coastal resiliency. For more details on OPC’s priorities, please review our Strategic Plan.

Project types that may be funded through this solicitation include:

  • Community capacity building, technical assistance, and planning
  • Project site assessment and preliminary design
  • Project final design and permitting
  • Construction, monitoring, and adaptive management

For more details, please see OPC’s Proposition 68 Grant Guidelines and Grant Solicitation & Application Instructions on OPC’s Proposition 68 webpage. All details here: https://www.opc.ca.gov/prop-68-funding/

An informational webinar for applicants is scheduled for 12:30pm on Friday, August 14, 2020. Please see the webpage for registration.

The deadline to submit letters of intent is September 14, 2020.

DCTF Executive Committee Conference Call – July 6, 2020

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DCTF Executive Committee Conference Call

July 6, 2020 at 9:00 am

Listen only/call-in: (669) 900 6833 | Meeting ID: 810 701 89386
Zoom access link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81070189386

Meeting Agenda

Goal of the Executive Committee (EC) Conference Call: To provide updates on topics directly impacting the Dungeness crab fishery, and discuss and consider topics that may be forwarded to the DCTF.

1. Welcome, introductions, agenda overview.

2. Public comment on matters not on the agenda.

3. Updates on issues involving the Dungeness crab fishery, including, but not limited to, the status of the DCTF recommendations identified during the October 2019 in-person meeting, Oregon’s potential gear marking requirement, the Dungeness crab account, domoic acid, replacement tags, DCTF commercial fishing elections, marine life entanglements, etc.

4. Discuss and consider priority topics for the DCTF’s future agendas, including, but not limited to:

a. Ability to sell the crab caught when retrieving another persons’ gear with an in-season waiver

b. Updates to the 96-hour rule

c. Updates to the Dungeness crab commercial trap limit program to move from biannual to annual trap tags

d. Management Strategy Evaluation

5. Discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the commercial Dungeness crab fishery, implications for the 2020-21 fishing season and beyond, and potential opportunities to address identified impacts.

6. Adjourn

Agenda items may be taken out of order at the discretion of the DCTF Administrative Team (Admin Team).

*Public Participation and Comment: All members of the public, including non-EC DCTF members, will be automatically placed on mute upon entering the call. Phone lines will be opened during public comment periods. When the Admin Team opens the call to public comment, you may press *6 to unmute yourself if you wish to provide comments.

Meeting materials will be posted to the DCTF website as they are available. A meeting summary will be made available via the DCTF website.

Questions about the meeting or agenda can be directed to info@dungenesscrabtaskforce.com or 805-845-9852. Any person who has a disability and requires reasonable accommodation to participate in this DCTF meeting should contact Rachelle Fisher (rachelle@strategicearth.com or 805-845-9852) no later than five days prior to meeting.

For more information about the DCTF please visit the DCTF website at https://opc.ca.gov/2009/04/dungeness-crab-task-force/

OPC is Hiring Two Environmental Scientists

The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) is hiring two Environmental Scientists to help advance priorities in the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan to Protect California’s Coast and Ocean. One position will help lead efforts related to coastal wetlands, watersheds, coastal and marine water quality, and equity; information on this position and how to apply can be found here. The other position will support California’s MPA management efforts related to outreach and education, research and monitoring, compliance and enforcement, and policy and permitting; information on this position and how to apply can be found here.

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