Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Monitoring Project

Cooperative Research and Assessment of Nearshore Ecosystems (CRANE)

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Mary Bergen
    California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • David Osorio
    California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Mark Carr
    University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Steve Lonhart
    Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Start Date: April 01, 2002
End Date: June 30, 2006

The Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) stipulates several new fisheries management and conservation objectives for California's marine living resources. Rather than focusing on single fisheries management, the MLMA calls for an ecosystem-wide approach to management. As such, the MLMA applies not only to species taken commercially or recreationally, but to all marine wildlife and their habitats. Concurrently, the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) requires consideration of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as one of several complementary management approaches for conserving nearshore marine ecosystems. Among the many stipulations set forth by the MLMA and MLPA, three have motivated consideration of a state-wide nearshore rocky reef monitoring network: (1) the requirement of Fishery Management Plans, including stock assessment, for many targeted rocky reef-associated species, (2) monitoring and evaluating the condition of coastal ecosystems, including nearshore subtidal reefs within and outside of MPAs, and (3) strengthening collaborative efforts among the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), academic institutions, and other interested parties to fulfill the goals of the MLMA and MLPA.

Over the course of one year, the Department of Fish and Game and the Marine Life Management Reform Project brought Department, academic and other federal and state marine researchers and managers together to discuss nearshore stock assessment and research approaches relevant to the goals and needs of the MLMA. This group and the CDFG’s Nearshore Fishery Management Plan identified several assessment and research options, and recommended establishment of the Cooperative Research and Assessment of Nearshore Ecosystems (CRANE) program in spring 2002. CRANE involves the integration of several study (e.g., habitat mapping, life history research, oceanography) and sampling approaches (e.g., fishery-dependent and independent CPUE estimates, ROV surveys, plankton-larval surveys) in shallow rocky reef ecosystems. Collaborators in the central California region include the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO), University of California at Santa Cruz, CDFG, and Sanctuary staff. Researchers conducted the first diver visual surveys along the Big Sur coast in summer 2003.

Summary to Date

In August and September of 2003, diver surveys were conducted at six sites using PISCO protocols to characterize fish, invertebrate and macroalgal assemblages. Future CRANE surveys will use methods described in the CRANE protocol proposal (see PDF below).

From north to south the six sites are: Wild Cattle Creek, Plaskett Rock, Duck Ponds, La Cruz Rock, San Simeon Point, and Cayucos. Two of these sites are also part of a separate study on the effects of landslides on intertidal and subtidal communities as part of the California Department of Transportation's Coast Highway Management Plan. In addition, PISCO also sampled 19 other sites within the Sanctuary, ranging from Davenport to Cambria.

Within the Sanctuary, CRANE draws upon divers from Department of Fish and Game, PISCO at Santa Cruz, and the Sanctuary staff.

Monitoring Trends

  • Topography and vertical relief varied among the six sites. The outer edges of the kelp forest varied between sand and 40 foot vertical walls.
  • The San Simeon Point site had a rich assemblage of encrusting invertebrates, such as sponges, tunicates, and bryozoans.
  • Wild Cattle Creek had a surprsingly large number sponge rings comprised of Polymastia pacifica (Figure 1 below).
  • Shallow depths (<30 ft) were dominated by stipitate algae, and the habitat often consisted of boulders surrounded by gravel or sand. Burial was commonly observed, and wave action likely moves tremendous amounts of material, regularly burying and exposing boulders.

Study Parameters

  • Range/Biogeography
  • Habitat association
  • Diversity
  • Habitat
  • Abundance
  • Distribution
  • Density
  • Size structure
  • Stock assessment
  • Substrate characterization
  • Non-indigenous species
  • Disturbance
  • Biomass
  • Age structure

Study Methods

Diver visual surveys

Benthic swath transects

Uniform point contacts

Figures and Images

Figure 1. At Wild cattle Creek, the sponge Polymastia pacifica was very common from 20-40 feet deep. These sponges were often 2 m in diameter. Gray sand is covering the flat portions of the spong. Photo: J. Figurski.

Figure 2. View of the CRANE site at Wild Cattle Creek. Photo: Lonhart.

Figure 3. PISCO divers from UC Santa Cruz discuss the identification of a red alga. Photo: Lonhart.

Figure 4. This sponge, possibly a Haliclona, was very common at Wild Cattle Creek. This sponge was almost 2 m in diameter. Photo: J. Figurski.

Figure 5. Common at all of the Big Sur sites surveyed, this didemnid tunicate often overgrew numerous species. On more than one occasion, divers noted slow-moving species, such as limpets, nearly overgrown by the tunicate, suggesting it can grow rapidly and may be more ephemeral than originally thought. Photo: J. Figurski.

Figure 6. Map of CRANE sites sampled in 2003.