June 24, 2009

Cordell marine sanctuary threats are ID’d

A report concerning California's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary indicates its health is fair to good, but there are several emerging threats.

Global issues of concern such as marine debris, ocean acidification and invasive species have the potential to degrade fragile sanctuary resources and habitats, said Dan Howard, sanctuary superintendent. This report provides a baseline for monitoring changes to sanctuary resources and will help us to better understand and respond to these emerging threats.

Prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the report indicates the sanctuary's water quality is generally good due to the sanctuary's offshore location and distance from major urban population centers. Seafloor habitat quality was rated lower, primarily due to prior impacts from fishing gear that came into contact with the sanctuary's rocky reef and soft sediment habitats.

The report notes populations of rockfish, salmon, some seabird species, and leatherback sea turtles that use the sanctuary are depleted, but that fishery closures are helping to rebuild depleted fish stocks.

NOAA scientists said additional research is needed about contaminants and invasive species. While no maritime archaeological resources have been identified in the sanctuary, only 18 percent of the sanctuary seafloor has been mapped.

The Cordell Marine Sanctuary, located 42 miles north of San Francisco, is one of 14 protected marine areas managed by NOAA.

The report is available at http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/science/condition/cbnms/welcome.html