Six CCMS science initiatives together provide the data for improved understanding of the Morro Bay ecosystem.
The economies of Morro Bay and Port San Luis depend on the diverse array of resources provided by the estuary and coastal ecosystems. Activities like tourism, recreational and commercial fishing, growing of oysters and abalone, surfing and wildlife viewing all create jobs and boost the economy of coastal communities.
In recent years, Morro Bay and Port San Luis have experienced growth in tourism and recreation, but they have also steadily lost jobs and businesses on the harbors and in the ports. Limited research is available on the relationship between the changes in the ecosystem and the impact those changes have on the local economy.
Without solid economic data, it is increasingly difficult for policymakers to make informed decisions about the local economy and where to invest more resources to strengthen jobs, tourism and recreation on the Central Coast.
CCMS is working to ensure the waterfront industry remains a vibrant part of the local economy by:
Fishing plays an important cultural and economic role in many coastal communities. The fishing industry is managed by rules that apply to large sections of the coast, with limited consideration of regional differences in the health and number of fish in different areas. This "one size fits all" approach can hurt the viability of the fishing industry in thriving fisheries such as Morro Bay and Port San Luis, but adequate data about past fishing activity and fishing conditions does not exist to shape these decisions at the local level.
Approach: Regional Scope, Collaborative Approach
CCMS, in conjunction with the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory, is working to support fishing communities by:
Better data and more effective policies will create more sustainable opportunities for commercial and recreational fishing and stability for both the fishing and port industries. The lessons learned and tools developed for the Central Coast will aid other coastal communities.
While Morro Bay is considered to be a relatively healthy ecosystem, it is increasingly threatened by pollution that is affecting water quality. Excessive man-made nutrients and other contaminants of emergent concern find their way to the bay from farm and urban runoff as well as wastewater seepage and spills.
CCMS is working with local water quality regulators and resource managers to understand the pollutants in Morro Bay and surrounding areas to help ensure clean water for our coastal ecosystems. CCMS is leading this effort by:
The Morro Bay estuary and coastal communities throughout the world could face many challenges as the result of global climate change in years to come, including the increasing severity of storms, erosion of the coastline, declining wildlife habitats and poor water quality.
Meeting these challenges will require better scientific understanding of climate change and greater collaboration between scientists, residents, resource managers and local governments to shape concrete policies.
California is already a leader in addressing climate change. We now need a more comprehensive understanding of the ripple effects of climate change at a local level.
Because CCMS has detailed data about water quality and the relationship between the land and sea, Morro Bay will be a unique laboratory for looking at the local impacts of climate change for other coastal communities.
With additional resources to apply these data and understand the local effects of climate change, CCMS will conduct the following projects:
Strong local policies and effective plans will enable coastal communities to be proactive in managing the effects of climate change. The lessons learned and tools developed on the Central Coast will be available to other coastal communities in California and elsewhere.
The Central California coastline is one of the most pristine marine areas in California — and also one of the most accessible. During low tide, residents and visitors can visit tidal pools along the shore, which offer a rare glimpse of life under water, including sea stars, octopuses, mussels and fish - a sight not as common in other heavily-populated coastal communities. Intertidal ecosystems also provide critical habitat for plants, birds and marine mammals.
As development and tourism increase in the area, the communities along the Central Coast must achieve a delicate balance between using and protecting this unique and valuable resource. To achieve this balance, scientists and managers in the California State Parks system must collaborate to develop solutions that keep our coastline pristine and accessible at the same time for generations to come.
In addition to the support for this initiative provided by the the California State Parks, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. allowed access to their property at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant for conducting the field experiment component of the study. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. continues to support the monitoring of the recovery of the study plots.
CCMS is working toward the dual objectives of accessibility and sustainability within intertidal environments by:
Morro Bay's coastline is one the most ecologically diverse areas along California's Central Coast. While native wildlife is largely thriving, there is an increasing threat from the influx of harmful non-native species arriving in the bay.
Non-native species travel to Morro Bay on the hulls of ships and thrive in its rich waters. These invasive species can wreak havoc on the ecosystem by disrupting the food supply for native species - and even forcing some species into local extinction. They can also take a toll on the economy by damaging infrastructure like pier pilings and industrial facilities.
The Morro Bay estuary is starting to show effects from a growing population of non-native species that are pushing out important native wildlife. It is critical to assess the current problem and find ways to keep harmful species from invading the Morro Bay ecosystem.
CCMS is working to preserve the native wildlife in Morro Bay and surrounding communities by:
In Morro Bay, better policies will protect the valuable wildlife here and offer model programs for researchers and policymakers in other areas with similar challenges.
Morro Bay's Invasive Species
One of the most prominent invasive species in Morro Bay is Watersipora subtorquata, a type of Red Bryozoan. It is commonly found fouling our piers and taking up residence where other native marine organisms such as oysters once found homes.
For a comprehensive list of other Morro Bay Invaders click here for more information.