The Explorer is a past Newsletter of Cabrillo National Monument and the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation. An article in its December 1996 issue includes a letter from former Superintendent Terry DiMattio on why TPERP was created and its primary purpose.
Superintendent’s Report by Terry DiMattio
I usually do not write about a single topic, but in this issue I want to focus on the Tidepool Protection, Education, and Restoration Program that we implemented on November 9, 1996. This program is one of the most important things we have done since I have been superintendent. Its purpose is to restore the health of the intertidal area, while allowing visitors to continue to explore this fascinating yet fragile part of the park. This comprehensive program is based on the findings of the six-year study that marine biologists Gary Davis and John Engle have been conducting since the fall of 1990. We are troubled by these findings, but believe that if we act now, we may be able to restore the tidepools so our children and our children’s children will be able to enjoy them.
According to the Davis-Engle study, the health of the tidepools at Cabrillo NM has deteriorated dramatically over the past 20 years. Seven of the 23 key indicator species have declined or have virtually disappeared from the tidepools. California mussels have declined by 87%, feather boa kelp 84% and thatched barnacles 75%. While other species such as owl limpets and gooseneck barnacles have not declined as significantly – 23% and 29% respectively – abalone and ochre sea stars have all but disappeared from the tidepools. We strongly suspect that human factors, such as trampling, collecting, and rock turning by the 70,000 to 90,000 people who visit the tidepools each year, have contributed to the loss of species.
In addition to being a popular recreational and educational resource enjoyed by tens of thousands of people each year, the tidepools are a nursery for many deeper ocean species. Healthy tidepools are essential to the survival of many animals, such as lobster, wooly sculpin and opaleye. Many animals, such as abalone, sea stars, barnacles, mussels, and limpets, make the tidepools their home, while some wading birds like great blue herons, snowy egrets, willets and turnstones, rely on visits to the tidepools for food.
If we are to preserve and maintain a healthy intertidal ecosystem, we believe we must implement a prudent, scientifically based program that will enable the tidepools to recover while allowing visitors to enjoy them. I believe the Tidepool Protection, Education and Restoration Program is just such a program. It consists of three parts, each critical to its success: the first part focuses on educating our visitors and enforcing park regulations. We now are assigning more park rangers and Volunteers-in-Parks (VIPs) to the tidepools during low tides than we have in the past. We recently recruited and trained over 20 new VIPs, along with some VIPs from our current ranks, to form a cadre of people in uniform to help us protect the tidepools and educate those who visit this fragile ecosystem. These concerned and dedicated staff members will help our visitors find often hard-to-spot tidepool plants and animals, show them how to observe these curious creatures in the least harmful way, and answer their questions about our tidepool program. The increased number of rangers and VIPs will also deter such things as rock-turning and collecting.
The second part of the program is to continue the monitoring program that Gary and John established in 1990. Twice each tidepool season, in the spring and fall, park rangers, VIPs and scientists, will collect data from 99 separate plots in the three tidepool zones. These data will be analyzed and compared against earlier data to determine whether the number of key indicator species has increased, decreased or stayed the same, and if other actions to restore the tidepools may be necessary.
In the third part of the program, we have designated Zone 3, the southern-most and least-visited part of the tidepools, as critical habitat and have closed it to the public to allow it to recover. Zone 3 is approximately 300 meters long, beginning just south of the Navy Marine Sciences Center. Zones 1 and 2, each also about 300 meters in length, host 90% of the people who visit the tidepools, and will remain open to the public during regular visiting hours, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Zone 1 is located at the access point for the tidepools and is the most heavily used. Closing zone 3 will also allow us to use it as a control and to compare the data from it against the data from Zones 1 and 2. It will also help us determine if regional environmental factors, such as pollution and rising ocean temperatures, are affecting the tidepools.
As stewards of the cultural and natural resources at Cabrillo NM, it is our responsibility to protect, preserve, and restore the tidepools as part of the heritage each of us enjoys as Americans. The Tidepool Protection, Education, and Restoration Program is at the heart of the mission of the National Park Service: to conserve the resources and values within our care unimpaired for the enjoyment of this and future generations. It is also the right thing to do. We cannot do anything less.
Last revised 15-Sep-15