CalOceans News

Showing all articles published in November 2011.


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Winter tidepooling in California's underwater parks

November 29th, 2011

Seasonal low tides make winter a great time to visit the tidepools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Point Lobos, Salt Point and Point Dume.

These coastal hotspots provide a window into the underwater world. From sea stars to anemones and fish to colorful nudibranchs, sharp-eyed visitors can see myriad plants and animals, often guided by volunteer docents.

Many of California's best tidepooling sites are marine protected areas, or underwater parks, which have been set aside to allow wildlife to thrive and people to enjoy nature. These marine protected areas are often located alongside state and county beaches, connecting land and sea, and offering great opportunities for bird and mammal watching, hiking, kayaking, and other activities.

To make sure the tidepools remain healthy and vibrant for future visitors, its important to practice good etiquette. This guide from Orange County Marine Protected Area Council has rules for being a good tidepooler, and this page from the California Department of Fish and Game includes great resources for teachers planning school field trips.

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Ocean acidification arrives in the Pacific NW

November 21st, 2011

According to a recent article by Yale 360, the acidification of our oceans from an excess of carbon dioxide emissions has already begun. A recent die-off of oysters in the Pacific Northwest is a reminder that these changes to ocean conditions will have widespread impacts throughout the ocean food chain and coastal economies.  

Scientists in the article called oysters a bellweather, and say this is just a harbinger of things to come if greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar.  The fate of today's shellfish is actually dependent on the carbon release from tailpipes and smokestacks in the 1960's and '70s.

Because of the way seawater circulates around the world, the deep water now washing ashore in Oregon and Washington is actually 30 to 50 years old. This time lag is important because oceans absorb about 50 percent of the carbon released by burning fossil fuels, emissions that have been rising dramatically in recent decades.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ocean acidity has increased approximately 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution, and if we continue our current rate of carbon emissions, global oceans could be 150 percent more acidic by the end of the century than they have been for 20 million years.

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The great migration along California's coast

November 17th, 2011

As Ocean Conservancy's Kaitilin Gaffney notes, the parade of sea life that swims and flies along our coast each fall has just begun. November brings thousands of gray whales headed south on their more than 6,000 mile migration from summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas to calving grounds in the warm-water lagoons of Mexico's Baja peninsula.

You can watch them from Point Reyes, Big Sur, or Davenport, north of Santa Cruz, where you can often see whales cruise by from the bluffs overlooking the sea.

Winter is also a great time to see elephant seals.  From December to March they can be seen hauled out on California beaches at Point Reyes, Año Nuevo and Piedras Blancas where they mate, fight and give birth.

In addition to mammal sightings, this time of year brings great opportunities for birdwatching. Many seabirds spend their winters enjoying the relatively mild climate and reliable food supply of Monterey Bay. January brings murres, auklets, and other open-ocean birds in from their normal offshore habitat to calmer coastal waters.

Areas like Monterey Bay, Point Reyes, and the Farallon Islands have been set aside as marine protected areas or sanctuaries to help protect the wildlife that delights visitors.

Right now, California is working to expand its marine protected area system through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). This landmark effort brings fishermen, scientists, conservationists, business leaders and recreational ocean users together to map out a statewide network of ocean refuges that will keep special places from Del Norte County to San Diego full of ocean life.