Baseline characterization of California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus) in South Coast marine protected areas
In 1999, the California Legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which directed the state to establish a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) along California’s coastline. As part of this legislation, monitoring of MPAs is required to evaluate whether they are achieving the goals set out by the MLPA and to support adaptive management in the future. The South Coast Lobster Research Group (SCLRG) was formed in 2011 in response to interest in how MPAs may affect the abundance, size, and behavior of the California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus). The California spiny lobster is one of the State’s most economically important organisms that supports large commercial and recreational fisheries, has non- consumptive value for recreational divers, and plays an important role in the ecology and stability of coastal ecosystems. The SCLRG is a partnership between scientists, managers, stakeholders, and volunteers, and encompasses personnel from a diverse set of institutions: the San Diego Oceans Foundation (SDOF), San Diego State University (SDSU), Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the California Lobster Trap Fishermen’s Association (CLTFA). Our team initiated lobster monitoring in five South Coast MPAs and addressed the following goals:
Form a collegial group of researchers and volunteers representing different perspectives and walks-of-life to successfully evaluate the status of lobsters in and around South Coast MPAs;
Estimate spiny lobster abundance, size-frequency distribution, growth, spillover, and mortality through the implementation of a tag-recapture program;
Establish baseline estimates of lobster density and behavior through SCUBA-based surveys;
Map benthic substrata to link lobster abundance to benthic habitat composition and distribution across a range of spatial scales; and,
Determine whether MPAs cause short-term changes in lobster CPUE, and the amount and distribution of lobster fishing effort.
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