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A. Profiles

Major harbors in MBNMS include Santa Cruz, Moss Landing, Monterey, and Pillar Point, also known as Princeton Harbor or Half Moon Bay Harbor (Figure 4). These harbors support commercial and recreational fishing, recreational boating, commercial shipping, scientific research, and marine and coastal tourism such as whalewatching and sightseeing. Central coast harbor recreational boat berths are generally at capacity, in contrast with San Francisco Bay harbors which built up recreational berths in the 80's and now have empty slips (S. Scheiblauer, pers. comm.). Harbor revenues are calculated annually (Figure 10). In 1994 gross income of the major harbors ranged from almost $1,000,000 to over $4,000,000. The Santa Cruz Harbor District estimated that Santa Cruz Harbor generated $41 million dollars and provided 950 jobs to the county including indirect effects (Meyer Resources 1990).

Pillar Point Harbor District has 370 berths and is building 30 more. The harbor is the base for a large seasonal commercial fishing fleet including salmon vessels operating throughout California. The harbor master reports that the number of commercial fishing boats has declined significantly in the past 6 years (R. Johnson pers. comm.). Sport fishing takes place from adjacent piers (NOAA 1992).

Santa Cruz Harbor has 215 commercial and 759 recreational berths. There is no waiting list for commercial vessels; the harbor master reports that the number of commercial fishing boats has decreased from 100 boats 15 years ago to 50 today. There has been a recent increase in the number of whalewatching and sightseeing boats. The waiting list for recreational berths is 15-20 years in the desirable lower harbor, and 1-3 years in the upper harbor, which is less accessible. A change in tax laws has made user fees the sole revenue source (B. Foss pers. comm.).

Monterey Harbor is owned by the city of Monterey and has 425 berths and 150 outer harbor buoys moorings. Planned renovations will reduce the number of slips to 415. There is a recreational waiting list of 180 people; there is no waiting list for commercial users. Berth rental rates have increased over the last 2 years, but are still half the price of the adjacent private harbor. According to Harbor Master Steve Scheiblauer, Monterey Harbor has been "cash positive" for the last 15 years. The harbor master cited chronic minor oil spills, mainly from used crankcase oil and dirty fuels, as the main environmental problem in the harbor (S. Scheiblauer pers. comm.). A lead slag heap in the harbor leaches tributyltin and lead into surrounding water and sediments. This problem is being addressed in local planning efforts (NOAA 1995a).

Moss Landing Harbor District's harbor has almost 600 berths, with nearly two-thirds dedicated to commercial use. Many commercial slips have gone unused as the fishing fleet, mostly salmon boats, has decreased. There is a waiting list for recreational boats. Berth fees have been increased by 25% over last year. The Harbor is presently attempting to diversify its revenue base by enhancing landside income. The Harbor has experienced setbacks in its dredging regimen due to contaminated sediments exceeding dredge permitting levels set by the State and Environmental Protection Agency. Sediments are contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons, probably originating from Elkhorn Slough watershed agricultural runoff. The Harbor is currently in negotiation with the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to move ahead with a dredging plan, scheduled for spring 1996 (L. Steffen pers. comm.).

B. Trends and Potential Impacts

Santa Cruz, Monterey and Moss Landing harbors all report large increases in berth and launch fees in response to reduced revenues and/or a change in California tax laws that impact harbor districts. Harbors report reductions in the number of commercial fishing boats and increases in the number of day-use recreational boats. All harbors are working to enhance landside businesses such as launch ramps and restaurants (S. Scheiblauer, B. Foss, L. Steffen, R. Johnson pers. comm.).

While harbors occupy a relatively small area they are often in close proximity to concentrations of wildlife or sensitive habitats, enhancing their potential impacts. Impacts of harbor operations may include reduced water quality, contamination of the water column and benthos, and disturbance to wildlife. Problems encountered by harbors in California include: fuels spilled by fuel dock operators and boaters; oils and lubricating fluids pumped out in bilge water and dispersed when boats flood; raw sewage released directly into the water; toxic materials such as paints, thinners, and waste fuel disposed of improperly; antifouling paints containing toxic components spilled, leached, or scraped into the water, often settling in the sediments; and trash overboard (NOAA 1995a). Regional agencies have been preparing a project to investigate the scope of these problems in MBNMS harbors (F. Barron pers. comm.).

Oily bilge waste is cited by harbormasters as the main source of oil in the harbors. Control and recovery of these wastes is currently difficult, and regulation against expelling bilge water are rarely enforced (NOAA 1995a).

High levels of sewage may be a problem in southern Monterey Harbor during the summer peak season, when over 400 boats can occupy the bay at a time. Coliform bacteria in nearshore areas causes illness in humans and wildlife and can contaminate mariculture facilities, and sewage raises nutrient levels in water, which can lead to eutrophic conditions. The cumulative discharge from these vessels would be comparable to a small sewage spill, but as a nonpoint source-type input it is difficult to regulate (F. Barron pers. comm.).

Plastic trash has been shown to harm and kill marine wildlife around the world; animals become entangled or mistake trash for prey. For example, sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish (Norse 1993).

High levels of tributlytin (TBT) originating from ship antifouling paints have been found in all California harbors (CA State Lands Commission 1994). TBT has been banned in the U.S. except for application on large Navy vessels. TBT is one of the most toxic substances known to benthic invertebrate life, and has induced major changes in benthic community structure in harbors around the world (CA State Lands Commission 1994, Beaumont 1984). Levels of TBT that could pose a hazard to marine life were found in sediments in Moss Landing Harbor in 1986 (ABA Consultants 1989).

Construction of Moss Landing harbor in 1946-1947 resulted in radical hydrological changes in Elkhorn Slough. Before harbor construction, the Slough was a shallow estuarine to fresh water embayment. Construction of a tidal opening directly into the main axis of the Slough resulted in rapid tidal flushing and scouring, transforming the mouth of the Slough into a deep coastal lagoon (ABA Consultants 1989, Malzone and Kvitek 1994). Despite this rapid change, it is critical habitat for a broad array of organisms and is designated by NOAA as a National Estuarine Research Reserve (ABA Consultants 1989). Contracted hydrologists have recommended reducing the tidal rate and volume into the Slough to slow erosion (Haltiner 1994).

Santa Cruz, Moss Landing, and Monterey harbors are periodically dredged to keep boating lanes open. Monterey and Santa Cruz harbor dredge materials are used for beach maintenance. Moss Landing Harbor is facing difficulty obtaining a dredge permit from EPA, due to high levels of DDT and DDT isomers in harbor sediments. Dredge spoils that do not meet state criteria for beach maintenance have been transported to two marine disposal sites near the head of the Monterey submarine canyon or to a land site. Existing dredge disposal sites within MBNMS will remain active, though no new sites may be added (NOAA 1992).

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Section V. Commercial Shipping
Reviewed: April 11, 2024
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