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Beach COMBERS Celebrates 20 Years of Monitoring

May 2017 marks 20 years of beachcast surveys by volunteers of the Coastal Ocean Mammal and Bird Education and Research Surveys (Beach COMBERS). The original goal of the program was to determine human and natural impacts to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary ecosystem. This long-term monitoring of beached marine birds and mammals has enabled resource managers to determine trends in deposition to better identify significant events affecting wildlife including oil spills, fishery interactions, harmful algal blooms, and natural starvation events.

Several documented events were of regional significance occurring along the west coast of North America, including the 1997-98 El Niño, and 2003 Fulmar die-off. The documentation of other events made important contributions to science, including 1998 domoic acid bloom, 2007 mystery foam, S/S Luckenbach oil spill, and gill-net bycatch.

During the last 20 years, approximately 185 volunteers have participated in the program; contributing more than 31,000 hours. Today, there are more than 90 volunteers; many of them long-term participants.

An average of 2.5 mortality events are detected each year by Beach COMBERS.

During a beach survey, Scott Benson (co-creator of Beach COMBERS program, 20-year vounteer, and former lifeguard) saved a person that was washed out to sea.

In 2013, the program expanded to include beach surveys between Morro Bay and Los Angeles.

Beach COMBERS accomplishments and information can be found on the web site (

This program is a collaboration among Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and Save The Earth.


volunteers examining a dead harbor seal during a survey
Volunteers (Barbara Schwefel and Andrew DeVogelaere) examining a dead harbor seal during
a Beach COMBERS survey
(Credit: DeVogelaere/NOAA MBNMS).


volunteer examining a dead Brown Pelican during a survey
Volunteer (Alison Goss) examining a dead Brown Pelican during a Beach COMBERS survey
(Credit: Tierny Thys/Beach COMBERS).

URL:    Reviewed: November 20, 2017
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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