An announcement from NOAA, in 2015, focused on eight endangered marine species and three of these organisms are found directly off the San Diego coast. The animals that NOAA wanted to highlight were specifically chosen to bring attention to the risk of extinction these species face regularly. The eight species were the Gulf of Maine population of Atlantic salmon, Central California Coast coho salmon, Cook Inlet beluga whales, Hawaiian monk seals, Pacific leatherback sea turtles, Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon, Southern Resident killer whales and California Coast white abalone. “Of all the species NOAA protects under the ESA, these eight species are among the most at risk of extinction in the near future, “said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA fisheries. They feel as though there is still an opportunity for these animals to recover in the wild, with great efforts from organizations, like NOAA, and commitment from the public. The idea behind this program is to stir recovery efforts, public awareness, and collaborative action among public and private sectors.
Leatherback sea turtles, Southern resident killer whales, and California coast abalone call San Diego coast home as well.
Leatherback Sea Turtles:
“Most of the current knowledge about leatherback turtles has come from studies on nesting beaches, while very little is known about the turtles in the open ocean. Scientists from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Marine Turtle Research Program use several approaches, including aerial surveys, molecular genetics, and telemetry to identify key foraging areas in the Pacific and to study the movements of leatherbacks at sea. Leatherback turtles usually appear in Monterey Bay and California coastal waters during August and September. Scientists from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Marine Turtle Research Program are using molecular genetics and satellite telemetry as research tools to accompany these cryptic animals on journeys of new discoveries as they migrate around the ocean.
The Recovery Plan for U.S. Pacific Populations of the Leatherback Turtle (NMFS and USFWS 1998) calls for identification of primary foraging areas and monitoring of the status and abundance of foraging populations. Most of the current knowledge about leatherbacks has come from studies on nesting beaches, while very little is known about this species in the marine environment. We have used several approaches, including aerial surveys, molecular genetics, and telemetry to identify key foraging areas in the Pacific. We have determined that waters off central California are a critical foraging area for one of the largest remaining Pacific nesting populations in Papua, Indonesia.” -NOAA
Southern Resident Killer Whales:
“The Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW), or Orcas, are actually a large extended family, or clan, comprised of three pods: J, K, and L pods. Within each pod, families form into sub-pods centered around older females, usually grandmothers or great-grandmothers. Both male and female offspring remain in close association with their mothers for life. Each Southern Resident pod uses a characteristic dialect of calls (sounds) to communicate. Certain calls are common between all three pods. The calls used by the Southern Resident community are unlike the calls used by any other community of killer whales. These calls can travel 10 miles or more under water.
The Southern Resident Killer Whales are frequently seen, from spring through fall, in the protected inshore waters of the Salish Sea. The Salish Sea includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Strait of Georgia, and Puget Sound, and all their connecting channels and adjoining waters, and the waters around and between the San Juan Islands in Washington State and the Gulf Islands in British Columbia.” –Center for Whale Research
California Coast Abalone:
“Overfishing and disease contributed to the decline of all seven abalone species found along the West Coast, with two species endangered with extinction—white and black. White abalone, in particular, is likely extinct throughout much of its range because remaining males and females are not located in close enough proximity to reproduce successfully. As identified in the species' recovery plan, one of the keys to recovery is spawning white abalone in captivity, rearing the young, and "outplanting" the offspring into designated marine habitats.
This is precisely what NOAA Fisheries and partners are building the capacity to do. Spawning and rearing white abalone in a laboratory has been accomplished on a small scale by a partnership of aquaria, universities, and other entities coordinated by NOAA Fisheries and the Bodega Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Davis. These partners are now turning attention to producing sufficient numbers of white abalone to eventually outplant them to suitable rocky reef habitats off the coast of Southern California.” – PHYS.org/ NOAA
For additional information on these local endangered species or other marine organisms, feel free to join us on a tour along the beautiful San Diego coastline.
Written By: Emily Hauck