Site Fidelity and Depth Preferences of Nearshore Reef Fishes on San Pedro Shelf
Offshore Petroleum Platforms
Christopher Lowe, California State University, Long Beach
The study targets commercially and recreationally valuable
reef fish species and will assist with understanding the
artificial ecosystems created if rigs are allowed to remain in
place; and the alterations to surrounding ecosystems and
fish assemblages encouraged by these permanent
structures. This project addresses a salient policy issue
dubbed the rigs-to-reefs debate. Information relevant at the
ecosystem level is crucial to making effective and
appropriate decisions about the future of these structures
with regard to marine species and habitat interactions.
Policymakers deciding the fate of offshore oil rigs will be 1: Carlos Mireles (Sea Grant Trainee on
aided by the timely information provided by the the project) capturing a grass rockfish
investigation. Depth and site fidelity results will be vital to
underwater for surgical implantation of
the platform decommissioning process by providing insight
into how these species make use of the habitat and how an acoustic transmitter.
various proposed decommissioning processes can affect them. Similarly, if a rigs to reef program is
adopted, than this data will be extremely valuable in designing a plan that will be most beneficial to fishery
Dr. Lowe presented his findings at the April 2009 Ocean Protection Council meeting in Sacramento.
To date, researchers have acoustically monitored 63 individuals representing four species
(Scorpaenichthys marmoratus, Semicossyphus pulcher, Sebastes atrovirens, Sebastes rastrelliger) for 18
months. Preliminary findings suggest that cabezon (S. marmoratus) utilize the deeper portions of the
platforms (35-55 m) during warm water periods (June to November), while relocating to shallower portions
(30-35 m) during cold periods (December-May). California sheephead (S. pulcher) display an opposite
trend where they utilize the shallow portions (15-20 m) during warm water periods and move to deeper
depths during cold water periods (30-35 m). Kelp and grass rockfish are mainly associated with shallow
habitat (15-20 m) and do not appear to be influenced by seasonal changes in temperature like cabezon
and sheephead. All species have displayed strong site fidelity to these platforms over the duration of the
study. Only one individual has displayed inter-platform movement: a cabezon that moved from platform
Eureka to platform Elly (~2.5 km) in October 2007 and has remained there ever since. Future analyses
will further investigate site fidelity and depth distribution over finer time scales to assess behaviors such
as spawning and feeding.
2: Platforms Elly-Ellen with Edith in the background; all located off Huntington Beach.
Inset: Acoustic receiver attached to a platform below the surface.
Effects of Urban Stormwater Runoff on Phytoplankton Dynamics in Santa Monica Bay
Principal Investigator: Rebecca Shipe, UCLA Associate-Investigator: Alina Corcoran, UCLA
This project is a focused field effort that characterizes the
physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of
stormwater plumes over time through adaptive ship-based
sampling. The goal of the research project is to assess the
effects of urban stormwater runoff on phytoplankton dynamics
in the Southern California Bight and to identify the
physiochemical origins of ecological alterations. Researchers
have delimited the spatial and temporal scales of stormwater
plumes in Santa Monica Bay and have shown that nutrient
inputs in stormwater runoff stimulate the productivity and
growth of phytoplankton, including that of potentially harmful
Results offer predictive relationships between nutrient 3: Tracking and sampling plumes after rain events
inputs, environmental conditions and phytoplankton
responses, so that managers will be better able to regulate regional stormwater runoff. Alina Corcoran
attended the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Committee (SMBRC) meeting at Loyola Marymount
University on October 4, 2007 to determine how data might be used by local managers. Results from this
project were presented at the international Estuarine Research Federation Conference in November 2007
and will be presented at the Ecological Society of America 2009 summer meeting. They have plans to
contact the SMBRC following the completion of phytoplankton data analysis this spring.
The research team conducted cruises after 4 discrete rain events. They
followed plumes during January 2008 after storms of 3 and 9 cm
precipitation each, and during April and September 2007 after storms
of <1.5 cm precipitation each. They mapped surface stormwater
plumes from Ballona Creek in real time, measured vertical profiles of
physical parameters, and conducted discrete water sampling inside
and outside of plume waters.
After discharge from Ballona Creek, low salinity surface plumes
characterized by increased dissolved nitrogen, organic matter, and light
attenuation persisted in Santa Monica Bay for 2-5 days over spatial
scales of 15 km. Nitrogen inputs associated with stormwater runoff
from major rain events led to significant increases in primary
productivity, phytoplankton biomass and biogenic silica, an indicator of
diatom biomass. Preliminary community composition data show a
strong response of harmful dinoflagellate taxa to nutrient inputs
associated with stormwater runoff, yet there was little change in
phytoplankton community structure with plume development through
time. Because diatoms were initially numerically dominant in coastal
waters prior to all rain events, they outcompeted dinoflagellates for new
nutrients associated with runoff, maintaining densities that accounted 4: Plankton samples.
for over 80% of the phytoplankton community, by cell number. Photos courtesy of A. Corcoran.
Because stormwater runoff consistently stimulated phytoplankton production and biomass after major rain
events, researchers suggest that stormwater runoff regulations incorporate dissolved nutrients, namely
total nitrogen, in addition to conventional parameters such as toxins and metals. Regulation of such
nutrients will reduce the potential for major blooms after large precipitation events.
Proteomics to Develop Phenotypic Biomarkers of Environmental Impacts in Wild
Marine Fishes of Southern California
Kevin Kelley, California State University, Long Beach
Previous research has shown that endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the marine environment have
caused physiological disruption, such as changes to reproduction and growth, that may threaten survival
in a variety of different fish species within the Southern California Bight. However, most studies to date
that have monitored these types of impacts to fish have used a single or limited set of biomarkers. The
researchers will develop more powerful diagnostic tools using a protein expression profile, or “fingerprint,”
that will enhance assessment and understanding of environmental effects in marine organisms.
This project brings together academic research
laboratories offering expertise in fish endocrine
physiology and toxicology, proteomics, and trace
chemical analysis, with an important regional WWTP
(Orange County Sanitation District) with expertise in
the environmental and ecological aspects of the study
sites. OCSD contributes a significant environmental
data set taken at the same time the animals are
sampled (in addition to providing substantial historical
data) and they are providing more than half of the cost
match to support a successful outcome in this work.
The research programs of the P.I.s maintain ongoing,
important collaborations with key regional agencies
(e.g., OCSD, CLAEMD, LACSD, SCCWRP, SWQCB),
and the outcome of this work (development of
effective diagnostic and screening tools) will be
disseminated to them and hopefully incorporated into 5: Field collection of fish onboard M/V Nerissa with
ongoing environmental monitoring efforts. staff from the Orange County Sanitation District Ocean
Updates: Monitoring Division.
In collaboration with the OCSD, 20-25 wild English sole were collected per
study site: the OCSD outfall off Newport Beach, the OCSD reference (“far-
field”) location off Bolsa Chica, and an EPA reference location off Dana
Point. Fish from each site exhibit distinct patterns of tissue-accumulated
contaminants, with Dana Point exhibiting the lowest overall contaminant
levels. Results to date indicate substantial and consistent differences in a
large number of hepatic proteins across the different field sites.
This work as been presented at: International Congress on the Biology of
Fish; Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC);
Southern California SETAC Annual Meeting; 20 and 21 Annual CSU
Biotechnology Symposium; CALFED Science Conference; and
California Water Environment Association Annual Meeting. 6: Sea Grant Trainee, Ms. Claire
They have reached out to the public at the University by the Sea Waggoner, next to the MALDI TOF/TOF
celebration in Long Beach (“Pollution in Our Seas – What Happens to instrument used in proteome analysis.
the Fish?”), in the Beach Review (“New Views of Water Quality”), and in
the State of the Estuary 2008 (“Environmental Endocrine Disruption”). Additional outreach activities have
included discussing the use of these technologies at the Annual Meeting of the Regional Monitoring
Program (2007), and meetings at SFEI (2008). A new website is under construction to enhance outreach
to both professional and lay audiences (www.isc-bio.org).
Distributions, Abundances, and Feeding Interactions with Native Consumers of
Nonindigenous Seaweeds on Urban Southern California Shores
Dr. Steven N. Murray & Dr. Jayson R. Smith, California State University, Fullerton
In urban southern California, coastal ecosystems are subjected to numerous anthropogenic disturbances
including human visitation, climate change, and the introduction of non-indigenous species (NIS). In
recent years, increases in the abundances of NIS of seaweeds have been recorded, but the ecological
roles of these seaweeds in coastal food webs are poorly known. The research will improve our
understanding of the interactions between NIS seaweeds and native consumers in southern California
ecosystems through both single food feeding rate studies and food choice experiments.
Studies on the role of NIS of seaweeds in coastal food webs may enable coastal managers to make
scientifically sound decisions about preventing, controlling, or eradicating NIS of seaweeds and managing
southern California shore resources.
Moreover, information on the roles being
played by introduced seaweeds in coastal
ecosystems is needed for on-going efforts to
restructure California’s MPA system by the
California Department of Fish and Game and
efforts by the State Water Quality Control
Board to develop guidelines for assessing
compliance with water quality standards at
Results of the research will be
communicated through publications in
scholarly journals, invited seminars, and
presentations at local, national, and
international meetings and directly to coastal
managers and policy-makers as appropriate.
Support letters expressing an interest in the
results of this project were submitted by
Ocean Laguna, SWRCB, USDA, California
Coastal Commission, Minerals Management
Service, California State Parks, SCCWRP,
and the City of Newport Beach.
A series of consumption rate experiments in
which one seaweed species food item was
7: A native grazer, the sea hare, Aplysia californica,
given to native macroalgal consumers were
conducted to test the hypothesis that about to eat an invasive seaweed, Sargassum
consumers eat native seaweeds at faster muticum, at Corona del Mar in Orange County.
rates than non-native seaweeds. No clear
pattern of consumption rates between the native and non-native seaweeds within a group were observed;
in three trials, herbivores consumed the native at higher rates, while non-native seaweeds were
consumed at higher rates in five trials, and similar rates between native and non-native foods were found
in the remaining four trials.
A series of two-choice feeding experiments are currently being conducted to estimate consumer
preference for native versus NIS of seaweeds. To date, native consumers exhibited patterns of
preference for the native over non-native seaweeds when they are offered palatable species. Consumers
made a significant choice in 10 of 14 trails conducted with 9 of the 10 trials resulting in a significant
preference for native seaweeds over exotic seaweeds.