Long Beach and L.A. Harbors Release Study Showing Growing Number of Species

Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbors released their 2018 harbor-wide biological survey documenting over 150 new species in San Pedro Bay.

LOS ANGELES一 The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach released the results of a 2018 biological joint study that recorded more than 1,000 different species of marine life in San Pedro Bay including 150 species that were not previously recorded.

A surprise discovery in the survey was the recording of three new species of abalone including one endangered abalone that judging by size had been there for 20 years or so, according to Kat Prickett, the marine environmental supervisor of the water group and the environmental management division of the Port of Los Angeles.

The ports contracted out to Wood, an environmental and infrastructure solutions consulting firm, to run the survey. The survey had four key objectives that ranged from surveying biological communities in port complex habitats to documenting non-native species present in the port complex.

“This study, like the previous Biosurveys, has four key objectives,” said the study, which was published in April of this year. “ 1) to describe the biological communities of the various habitats in the Port Complex; 2) to describe how those communities have changed over time; 3) to describe how those communities compare among different habitats and sub-regions within the Port Complex and to the greater Southern California coastal region and; 4) to document the occurrence of non-native species in the Port Complex.”

The survey is the fourth in a series of joint-port comprehensive surveys that are run in the bay every five years starting in the year 2000.

There were previous studies completed over the past 70 years but they were solely focused on one port or the other, earliest studies documented degrading conditions in the harbor that were practically devoid of marine life as a result of unchecked pollution.

Starting in the mid-1970s it was reported that conditions steadily improved after the passing of the 1972 Clean Water Act, which established a basic structure for regulating pollutants in U.S. waters and regulated the quality standards for surface waters.

The string of studies showed the return of marine life to San Pedro Bay and new life that was not previously documented. The ports are taking this as a good sign that things are continuing to improve in the port complex.

“A couple of key takeaways,” said Matt Arms, director of environmental planning at the Port of Long Beach. “I think one of them is that it again showed that…the harbors are continuously improving from survey to survey. The amount of biodiversity we are seeing, and habitat, and marine life we are seeing demonstrates that the harbor and the water quality are improving.”

To collect the samplings, the survey used several stations throughout the Port Complex that concentrated on the habitats available. The survey covered Pelagic habitats, soft-bottom habitats, hard substrates, birds, and mammals.

The survey also used a series of new or altered techniques that Wood felt optimized the results, through adding habitats to the survey or refining their techniques for collecting fish eggs.

“For hard structure we do a lot a dive work… there is one area where we increased the type of surveys we did,” said Prickett. “This time we added our pilings, and extended the way we look at things. We used to do these scrapes, and now we do this regional methodology on a much wider view point.”

The study’s findings are available to the public and the city will be working on outreach to provide more tangible information.

“…This time around the Port of Los Angeles is going to be producing a website for people walking around the ports that they can get on their phone,” said Prickett. “Maybe they are at a sign and they can scan a QR code and see what is really underneath the water. So much of what they can see is at the surface they don’t really get to see what is living and vibrant underneath the water we are hoping to bring that to the public.”

The 318-page study can be found on the Port of Los Angeles website at https://bit.ly/3hzKmef.


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