Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Monitoring Project

Southern California Bight Regional Marine Monitoring Program (Bight Program)

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Ken Schiff
    Applied Marine Sciences
Start Date: July 01, 1994

The Southern California Bight (SCB) is a unique ecological and economic resource, home to some of the most productive coastal ecosystems, but also some of largest pollutant inputs in the United States. Historically, environmental monitoring of the coastal environment has been temporally intensive, but spatially focused on narrow areas closest to regulated discharges, providing a potentially biased perspective of overall coastal sediment quality. Beginning in 1994 and conducted approximately every five years thereafter, nearly 100 regulated, regulatory, non-governmental or academic organizations join forces to implement the SCB Regional Marine Monitoring Program (the Bight Program). The most recent Bight program sampled nearly 400 locations, from the head of tide in coastal estuaries to offshore basins 1000m in depth, using a probabilistic survey design and measuring multiple indicators of sediment quality including chemistry, toxicity, and infauna. The three indicators were scored using regionally-developed assessment tools, and then combined for an integrated assessment of sediment quality. Results showed that the vast majority of SCB sediments do not have impacted sediment quality, but that not all habitats are in equally good condition. The Channel Islands are in very good condition. Most of the mainland continental shelf is not impacted, despite the discharge of very large amounts (10^9 L/day) of treated wastewater. In contrast, up to 50% of the area in mainland estuaries and 45% of the area in marinas have impacted by sediment quality. These generally quiescent waterbodies receive pollutant inputs from the regionís extensively urbanized watersheds and high density of boating activities. Despite the relatively large extent of impacted sediment quality in embayments, sediment quality has been steadily improving in this habitat over the last decade based on surveys dating back to the 1998. The Bight Program has affected management actions in the region by focusing current effort in habitats most impacted by poor sediment quality, and highlighting the improvements from previous management actions.

Summary to Date

Project Findings, including raw data, can be found at

Study Parameters

  • Habitat association
  • Mortality
  • Morphology
  • Habitat
  • Diversity
  • Non-indigenous species
  • Disturbance
  • Biomass
  • Parasitism
  • Abundance
  • Distribution
  • Density
  • Age structure
  • Size structure
  • Metals
  • Organics
  • DDT
  • Other pollutants
  • Macro-invertebrates
  • Substrate characterization
  • Chemicals of Emerging Concern

Study Methods

Workplan, Field Methods, Laboratory Methods, and Quality Assurance Manuals can all be found at