This blue heron was making its way to a perch as we left Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. Herons and other fishing birds are common at harbors and marinas. Perhaps harbors and marinas are the new estuaries, where fishing birds find breakfast.
Eelgrass is thought to play a crucial role in sheltering young fish and other sea creatures . The eelgrass found around Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa is wide-bladed eelgrass (Zostera pacifica). No eelgrass has been found around San Miguel (to my knowledge) and the eelgrass bed on Anacapa, at Frenchy's Cove, was destroyed by storm and replanted from Santa Cruz.
Coyer and collaborators have published an ambitious study of the genetics of eelgrass in the Channel Islands and along the Pacific Coast. The eelgrass at Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa is genetically fairly diverse, but genetically distinct from eelgrass beds at other islands; it's quite distinct from the eelgrass in beds off Isla Vista and Goleta Beach.
The uniformity is surprising, since these islands (and their eelgrass beds) span such a wide range of underwater climate and inhabitants: famously, the northern islands are more like Oregon than like the southern islands; which in turn are more like Mexico than like the northern ones.
The eelgrass at Isla Vista and Goleta Beach had long been thought to be invasive: perhaps Zostera asiatica from Japan. But, it turns out to be Zostera pacifica, a native; and most closely related to that at the Channel Islands.
The eelgrass around Santa Catalina and San Clemente also tells an
interesting story, with lots of variation and two distinct species that
have apparently hybridized. Human intervention and re-rooting of plantlets dispersed by storm may have played important roles there.
Coyer and collaborators suggest that the eelgrass populations at Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa date back to the last Ice Age, when all the islands were connected into one big one. It's an interesting thought. At the moment, at least, the eelgrass at Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa seems to be a persistent native population.
Mike Chrisman, California's Secretary for Resources, has announced that the process to define Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the Southern California Coast will begin in early 2008. This is a result of the Marine Life Protection Act, which mandated the creation of MPAs to protect the state's ocean life.
The process will apparently take the same form as those in the 2 previous regions: the Central Coast (now finalized) and the North Central Coast. A science panel and a stakeholder panel will come up with maps defining areas with different levels of protection (No-Take, Lobsters Only, Recreational Fishing Only, etc). Those panels will report to a blue-ribbon commission, composed of high-level public figures, who will form a recommendation from the various alternatives they come up with. They'll pass that recommendation on to the Fish & Game Commission, who will ultimately decide on the placement of these areas.
The Fish & Game Commission will try to hear all voices, and consider all the points of view expressed. The Commission gets high marks for organizing the process in a structured way in the 2 previous regions. It'll be interesting to see how things work out in the South!
Giant kelpfish are transparent when young, but gradually become more opaque, and more brightly pigmented, as they grow older. They often have complicated patterns; or can remain completely green, yellow, or red. This one, at Refugio Beach, was young enough to be translucent.
The growing end of a kelp stipe, with new fronds forming along with the pneumatocysts. Famously, kelp can grow longer by 18 inches per day; but a strong storm can tear out a summer's growth. This kelp was at Castle Reef, off the south end of San Clemente Island.