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Pacific Continental Shelf Environmental Assessment (PacSEA): Seabird and Marine Mammal Surveys off the northern California, Oregon, and Washington Coasts.

Released: 2012
Citation:
J. Adams, J. Felis, J. W. Mason, J. N. Davis, K. Ben Gustafson, D. M. Pereksta and J. Y. Takekawa. Pacific Continental Shelf Environmental Assessment (PacSEA): Seabird and Marine Mammal Surveys off the northern California, Oregon, and Washington Coasts. Special Session: Seabirds, Marine Spatial Planning, and Impacts of Renewable Energy Development in the California Current Ecosystem. Pacific Seabird Group 39th Annual Meeting 7-10 February, 2012, Turtle Bay, HI.

Interest has increased for developing renewable energy sources to reduce U. S. dependence on oil. Some policy makers include power generation along the continental shelf of the U. S. Pacific coast, beyond state waters. This region supports abundant populations of seabirds and marine mammals, but comprehensive, multi-seasonal aerial surveys were conducted two decades ago. Marine spatial planning, including potential site selection for offshore energy development, requires the description and quantification of recent species-specific and community patterns in distribution. To relate patterns of seabird abundance to physical and biological characteristics of ocean habitats, we conducted low-elevation aerial seabird surveys during January, June, and October 2011 (and continuing in 2012) along parallel strip-transects spanning continental shelf and slope waters from Fort Bragg, CA to Grays Harbor WA. Although effort focuses on Federal Waters outside of the 3-nautical mile state boundary, surveys include inshore waters to allow comparisons both within and adjacent to potential renewable energy developments. In the past, environmental analyses of aerial seabird surveys have relied on satellite-derived products of ocean optical properties that are coarse in scale or temporally-averaged to produce better spatial coverage. Therefore, in addition to aerial pyrometry to measure sea-surface temperature, we installed an on-board hyperspectral radiometer to collect remotely-sensed reflectance simultaneously with species observations. Herein, we discuss survey methods and describe inter-seasonal trends in abundance and distribution for marine birds and variability in the ocean environment, and introduce aerial hyperspectral radiometry as a potential tool for delineating fine-scale ocean habitat features (fronts and watermasses) based on ocean color.
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