Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Discovery Lecture Series
presented by AltaSea and Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Friday, December 2, 2016
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Beyond Big Fish, Restoring the Southern California Rocky Reef Ecosystem

By Dr. Dan Pondella, Occidental College and Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI)

Southern California has one of the most dynamic and productive marine rocky-reef ecosystems in the world. Its characteristic giant kelp beds are a visual reminder from the surface of the majestic expanse found below. Unfortunately, despite its potential we have observed decades of chronic decline in ecosystem health and services.

This decline in health for rocky reefs and kelp beds is a result of pollution, habitat loss and overfishing and is particularly problematic for coastal communities where the loss of commercial and recreational fishing opportunities has negatively affected the economy of the region. Traditional management actions can have positive changes, are generally passive (like changing a fishery regulation) but usually work on multi-year to multi-decadal time scales.

While my research has highlighted these positive long-term impacts including the return of ‘big fish’ (giant seabass, white seabass, leopard shark, soupfins etc.), my current research is focused on creating solutions that work in short time scales, what I refer to as active management. We’re currently developing and implementing a variety of restoration and enhancement techniques to restore the Southern California rocky reef ecosystem using the Palos Verdes Peninsula as the starting point for the region. Considering the challenges our coastline continues to face, immediately improving the health of our rocky-reef ecosystem and associated fisheries is paramount.

Dan Pondella, a Los Angeles native, received his Masters and Bachelors degrees from Occidental College and his doctorate from UCLA. He is currently the chair of Biology at Occidental College, Director of the Vantuna Research Group and Director the Southern California Marine Institute. Trained as an ichthyologist, his major research focus is the rocky reefs and kelp beds in the Southern California Bight where he works on a number of programs including marine protected areas, fisheries and subtidal restoration.

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