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MBNMS Ecosystem Observations 2001

whale fluke
photo Kip Evens for MBNMS

Ten years can be a very long time, or it can pass quite quickly. How long ten years feels is relative. To Euphausid shrimp, krill, living above Monterey Canyon, ten years is a length of time they will never know. At most, they might live a year and a half. For a blue whale or rockfish seeking a krill swarm for a meal, ten years is a small fraction of their normal life span. Both species' longevity matches that of humans.

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary reaches ten years of age in 2002. We are releasing this edition of Ecosystem Observations, which covers new discoveries and observations for 2001, in the Spring 2002. Therefore, we've tried to reflect back on how our knowledge of the Sanctuary and its resources has changed over a longer time period than just the past year.

We've learned a lot since 1992, as have our research and agency partners. Our techniques for uncovering answers and solving mysteries within our local marine ecosystem have grown as well. We've also learned how important it is to shift one's temporal horizon beyond the past year, and further than the next fiscal year.

Because Ecosystem Observations reports on science and natural history events, it is worth providing a biological example of why long time horizons can be important. Before three hundred years ago, intertidal and nearshore populations of black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) were heavily preyed upon by sea otters and indigenous human populations. When sea otters were aggressively hunted for pelts and Native Americans forced off the coast, these abalone populations soared—large enough to support a wildly lucrative fishery for several hundred years. Then the otters came back, and drove abalone abundance back down to "natural" levels. While pockets of reasonably dense populations of black abalone can still be found, for the past fifteen years, a "withering foot" disease has slowly marched north, now threatening black abalone populations in the Sanctuary (see story on page 9). A single snapshot in any one year would have, perhaps, mis-described the health of abalone populations. A longer term horizon, even longer than ten years, is the only way to properly tell the story about black abalone.

It is also the best way to tell the story of the ecosystems and resources protected by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

William J. Douros, Superintendent
NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

report cover  

A PDF Version of this report is available here:

ecoobs2001.pdf (3MB)

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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