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NOAA News Releases 2006
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has published a scientific study on the distribution of marine flora, fauna and physical oceanography in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and offshore southern California waters. The report is the result of one of the most comprehensive efforts undertaken to understand large-scale marine biogeography - the biological study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals in a given area.

"A Biogeographic Assessment of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary" is available online to researchers and the public, and is the result of a three-year collaboration to increase scientific knowledge and understanding of marine ecosystems in the Channel Islands region.

“This study represents the continuation of an ongoing partnership between NOAA programs and the research community aimed at providing sanctuary superintendents, regional resource managers, and the general public with critical information about the region’s nationally significant marine resources,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

The study of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and surrounding area was conducted by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal and Ocean Science in collaboration with more than 75 members of the local research community along the west coast and included representatives from state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and academia. The new study builds on previous assessments, conducted by NOAA in 2003, for California's other three national marine sanctuaries: Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank and Monterey Bay. Both efforts were undertaken to support the mandated management plan revision process that is currently underway at all four sanctuaries.

The report includes maps of habitat suitability models for 15 invertebrates such as abalone, sea urchins and spiny lobsters and 12 fish species including sharks, seabass and lingcod; maps indicating distribution and estimated density for 11 bird species include Xantus’s murrelets, Cassins auklet and cormorants; and maps indicating distribution and density for 19 species of marine mammals include seals, sea lions, humpback whales, blue whales, gray whales, orcas, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and Pacific white-sided dolphins.

"The importance of this scientific study is that it provides the quantification in the 'time and space' of the biology of ecosystems necessary for effective management," said Daniel J. Basta, director of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program. "It shows the importance of having ecosystem-based management of the Channel Islands Sanctuary and improves our understanding of species distribution patterns and biologically significant zones within the sanctuary and surrounding study area."

The public, beginning in open scoping hearings in 1999, has repeatedly raised the issue of boundary alterations. NOAA decided in 2002 to separate any possible boundary changes from the current management plan review. The "Draft Management Plan " and "Draft Environmental Impact Statement" under current review does not propose any sanctuary boundary changes at this time, but rather calls for the continuation of a comprehensive, scientifically-based, open public process that will lead to a sound decision in the future.

The new biogeographic study provides some of that scientific information about how potential changes could impact resource protection and will be used in conjunction with a suite of other analysis criteria in future management consideration by NOAA including the possibility of changes to the sanctuary boundaries. Its spatial considerations of ecosystems will be utilized to support ongoing science, education activities and to inform other spatially explicit management decisions.

In addition to the hard copy report, a digital version along with much of the GIS data utilized is available both via a DVD and the project website:

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary encompasses a 1,658-square-mile portion of the Santa Barbara Channel surrounding the five northern Channel Islands off the southern California coast. Twenty-seven dolphins and whale species, including the world’s largest aggregation of blue whales, are found within the sanctuary. Six species of seals and sea lions including the California sea lion, Guadalupe fur seal, and northern elephant seal also call the Channel Islands home. Additionally, dozens of breeding and migrating sea birds, and a multitude of fish and invertebrate species are found within the sanctuary. CINMS is also ranked as one of the top ten dive locations in the world, and includes prime fishing grounds.

The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the NMSP manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one coral reef ecosystem reserve that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources

NOAA's National Ocean Service manages the NMSP and is an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems, NOAA is working with its federal partners and 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

On the Web:


NOAA National Ocean Service:

NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program:

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary: