Research Technical Report
Beach COMBERS: Detecting Oiled Seabirds in the Monterey Bay
Newton, K., S. Benson, H. Nevins, A. DeVogelaere, and J. Harvey (April 2002)
Poster presentation at the 2002 Sanctuary Currents Symposium, Seaside, CA
A beach monitoring study, utilizing volunteers to sample selected sections of beach for dead marine birds and mammals, was established within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in February 1997. Nine beaches within Monterey Bay and one beach in Carmel Bay have been monitored monthly since May 1997. A stretch of sandy beach along the outer coast, north of Santa Cruz, has been monitored since September 1998. In May 2001, six new beach segments at the southern end of the Sanctuary were added. The primary goal of the program, designated Beach COMBERS (Coastal Ocean Mammal / Bird Education and Research Surveys), is to obtain information on rates of stranding for all species of marine birds and mammals in Monterey Bay. The long-term objectives of the program are to provide a baseline of information on the average presence of beachcast marine organisms and to assist the Sanctuary in the early detection of mortality events triggered by natural and anthropogenic environmental perturbations such as red tides and oil spills. Pairs of trained volunteers survey their beach segment during the first week of each month at low tide. Beachcast seabirds are the most abundant organisms encountered during any beach survey. Average seabird deposition is greatest and most variable during the spring and summer months, and least during the winter months. Over the past 4 years there has been very few incidences of oiled birds found on surveyed beaches.