I will remember 2015 as a year characterized by unusual ocean conditions, uncommon events and some very rare circumstances. What started off as a relatively “normal” year quickly changed in mid-April with the closing of the West Coast sardine fishery. Just over a month later the Refugio oil spill occurred, resulting in widespread ecological damage and a six week fishing closure along the Gaviota coast in the Santa Barbara Channel.
Northern California kelp forests have been reduced to an all-time low due to a “perfect storm” of large-scale ecological impacts. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) marine invertebrate management team has conducted annual ecosystem surveys of kelp forests in Sonoma and Mendocino counties since the late 1990s, and recent observations have caused concern about the state of the kelp forests. The severe reduction in kelp has already impacted the recreational red abalone fishery and commercial red urchin fishery, two economically important fisheries in northern California.