Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
2016 Condition Report

Executive Summary

diver photographing a kelp forest

In 1980, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) located off the coast of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties in California. The sanctuary encompasses 1,470 square miles surrounding five of the Channel Islands: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara. The sanctuary's remote, isolated position at the confluence of two major ocean currents supports remarkable biodiversity and productivity. The mingling of cool, nutrient-rich waters from life from microscopic plankton to blue whales. Many valuable commercial and recreational activities, such as fishing, shipping, and tourism, occur in the sanctuary. The sanctuary is a special place for sensitive habitats and living resources, shipwrecks, other maritime heritage artifacts, and living Chumash culture.

The purpose of a condition report is to use the best available science and most recent data to assess the status and trends of various parts of the sanctuary's ecosystem. The first condition report for Channel Islands was released in 2009 (ONMS 2009a); this report (PDF) marks a second comprehensive update to describe the status and trends of sanctuary resources. In addition, the new condition report includes the status and trends of ecosystem services or how humans either derive benefit from or accrue costs from different ecosystem attributes that people care about for their lives and livelihoods. Ecosystem services evaluated in this report include: food supply-commercial fishing; consumptive recreation-recreational fishing; non-consumptive recreation-wildlife viewing, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, and boating; sense of place-passive economic use value; maritime heritage; education; and science. The Ecosystem Services section of this report also includes a detailed explanation of Chumash history connected to the northern Channel Islands and surrounding sanctuary waters, as well as an introduction to ongoing Chumash community values, traditional knowledge and practices, and historical trauma.

The findings in this condition report document (PDF) status and trends in water quality, habitat, living resources, and maritime archaeological resources, and ecosystem services from 2009–2016, unless otherwise noted. The report helps identify gaps in current monitoring efforts, as well as causal factors that may require monitoring and potential remediation through future management actions. The data discussed will not only enable ONMS and stakeholders to acknowledge and have a shared perspective on prior changes in resource status, but will also inform management efforts to address challenges stemming from pressures, such as increasing coastal populations and climate change.

The findings in this condition report also provide critical support for identifying high priority sanctuary management actions, specifically helping to inform updates to the CINMS Management Plan. The helps guide future work and resource allocation decisions at CINMS by describing strategies and activities designed to address priority issues and advance core sanctuary programs. The next update to the sanctuary management plan will build on the 2009 management plan, which contains a number of actions to address sanctuary issues and concerns (NMSP 2009). The 2009 plan stresses an ecosystem-based approach to management, which requires consideration of ecological interrelationships not only within the sanctuary, but also within the larger context of the California Current ecosystem. The next management plan review process is projected to begin in 2019. The process will involve significant opportunities for public input and consultations with federal, state, and local agencies, and compliance with environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Depending on the complexity of actions proposed to be included in the management plan, the entire process may take one to three years to complete.

The below provides summaries of the findings of this condition report. In summary, much of the sanctuary appears healthy and stable, including eutrophic conditions, water quality that is safe for swimming and recreation, the general condition of shoreline and seafloor habitat, many fish species, overall native sanctuary biodiversity, and the condition of maritime archaeological resources.

Report Content Summaries