The California Current is one of only four temperate upwelling systems in the world. Seasonal upwelling of nutrient-rich waters fuels a highly productive ecosystem, supporting biodiversity and fisheries that, along with coastal tourism, are a foundation of California’s economy.  

Yet California’s coasts and oceans are also under increasing threat. Relatively few fisheries are managed based on robust scientific assessments, and more needs to be done to avoid overfishing and reduce bycatch. Plastics and other pollutants are pervasive. Climate change compounds these challenges. Ocean chemistry is changing. Sea levels and temperatures are rising – threatening important resources, biodiversity, and human populations.

Fortunately, the coastal and ocean ecosystems of California are bolstered by a network of marine protected areas and some of the most science-based marine policies in the world. Conservancy scientists look to build on those foundations by applying science and technology to enhance resilience of marine resources in the face of emerging threats.

Fisheries

Wild capture fisheries supply food and jobs for hundreds of millions of people across the globe. Yet an… >>

Coastal Conservation

Almost half of the world’s human population lives in coastal areas, and associated coastal development has significantly degraded… >>

Science in Action

Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science

Research for Impact

How do we design scientific research to have impact in the world?

Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Economics

MarketLab

How do we put economics and finance to work for conservation?

2021 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

A Structured Approach for Kelp Restoration and Management Decisions

Mary G. Gleason, Jennifer E. Caselle, Walter N. Heady, Vienna R. Saccomanno, Julie Zimmerman, Tristin Anoush McHugh, Norah Eddy

Global kelp forests are biodiverse and productive nearshore ecosystems that provide a wide range of ecosystem services, but they are at risk from both local stressors and global drivers of kelp loss. A structured decision making (SDM) framework can help guide kelp management and restoration…


2021 | Marine | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

The rise in climate change-induced federal fishery disasters in the United States

Lyall Bellquist, Vienna Saccomanno, Brice X. Semmens, Mary Gleason, Jono Wilson

The health of ocean ecosystems is critical to maintaining natural biodiversity and sustainable fisheries, but federally-declared fishery disasters are reflecting devastating impacts to ecosystems, economies, and communities. This study represents the first nationwide synthesis of fishery disasters during the 30-year history of the federal assistance…


2021 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Beyond Protection: Fisheries Co-Benefits of No-Take Marine Reserves

Jono R Wilson, Darcy Bradley, Kristina Phipps, Mary G Gleason

Overfishing threatens the health and resilience of the ocean. In response, the global conservation community has set ambitious targets for protecting biodiversity inside no-take marine reserves. Yet fully protected marine reserves currently comprise only a small fraction of the ocean. In this review, the authors…


2021 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Opportunities for Fishery Partnerships to Advance Climate-Ready Fisheries Science and Management

Serena Lomonico, Mary G Gleason, Jono R Wilson, Darcy Bradley, Kate Kauer, Richard J Bell, Thomas Dempsey

Climate change poses unprecedented challenges to the sustainable management of wild capture fisheries. Management systems that improve the flow of information so that actionable steps can be taken are critical to ensuring our ocean is resilient and healthy. In this body of work, the authors…


2021 | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Ecological Impact of Abandoned, Lost, and Discarded Fishing Gear

Eric Gilman, Michael Musyl, Petri Suuronen, Milani Chaloupka, Saeid Gorgin, Jono Wilson, Brandon Kuczenski

More than 4.5 million fishing vessels deploy fishing gear in the ocean every year. A significant amount of these nets, traps, lines, and floats are abandoned, lost, or discarded, threatening the health of ocean ecosystems through ghost fishing, transfer of microplastics, toxins and  invasive species,…


2021 | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Triennial migration and philopatry in the critically endangered soupfin shark, Galeorhinus galeus

Andrew P. Nosal, Daniel P. Cartamil, Arnold J. Ammann, Lyall F. Bellquist, Noah J. Ben‐Aderet, Kayla M. Blincow, Echelle S. Burns, Eric D. Chapman, Ryan M. Freedman, A. Peter Klimley, Ryan K. Logan, Christopher G. Lowe, Brice X. Semmens, Connor F. White, Philip A. Hastings

Due to decades of heavy fishing pressure and steep population declines worldwide, the conservation status of the soupfin shark was elevated to Critically Endangered globally in 2020 by the IUCN. This species is commercially fished in the United States, but the fishery has not undergone a…


2021 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Beyond the boundaries: How regulation-centered marine protected area information improves ocean protection assessments

Jennifer Sletten, Mimi D’Iorio, Mary G. Gleason, Alex Driedger, Timoth´e Vincent, Claire Colegrove, Dawn Wright, Virgil Zetterlind

Understanding the complex seascape of regulations that apply across U.S. ocean waters is critical for effective marine resource management. This study found that cumulative restrictions from overlapping fisheries regulations often provide stronger levels of protection than traditional marine protected areas (MPAs). About 85% of U.S. waters are…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Nature-Based Climate Solutions: A Roadmap to Accelerate Action in California

Sydney J. Chamberlin, Michelle Passero, Ashley Conrad-Saydah, Tanushree Biswas, Charlotte K. Stanley

California’s natural and working lands – its forests, grasslands, wetlands, farmlands, rangeland, and urban green spaces – provide Californians with numerous environmental, social, and economic benefits, including greenhouse gas reductions (e.g., carbon sequestration). However, extreme heat events, droughts, floods, wildfires, development, and other anthropogenic impacts…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Bridging the knowledge‐implementation gap between agency and academia: A case study of a graduate research experience

Aviv Karasov‐Olson, Alicia K. Bird, Amy C. Collins, Emily E. Graves, Julea A. Shaw, Eric F. Tymstra, T. Rodd Kelsey, Mark W. Schwartz

Conservation biology is particularly susceptible to the knowledge‐implementation gap where academic pursuits do not always meet the needs of practitioners. Providing future practitioners with relevant training and experiences as graduate students can help narrow this gap. An example of one such experience was a partnership…


2020 | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Effective fisheries management instrumental in improving fish stock status

Ray Hilborn, Ricardo Oscar Amoroso, Christopher M. Anderson, Julia K. Baum, Trevor A. Branch, Christopher Costello, Carryn L. de Moor, Abdelmalek Faraj, Daniel Hively, Olaf P. Jensen, Hiroyuki Kurota, L. Richard Little, Pamela Mace, Tim McClanahan, Michael C. Melnychuk, Cóilín Minto, Giacomo Chato Osio, Ana M. Parma, Maite Pons, Susana Segurado, Cody S. Szuwalski, Jono Wilson, Yimin Ye

Does fisheries management work at improving the status of fish stocks? The answer is a resounding, yes. This article compiles estimates of the status of global fish stocks, comprising roughly half of the world’s fish catch. Findings suggest that on average, fish stocks are increasing…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve Integrated Resources Management Plan

Butterfield, H.S., M. Reynolds , M.G. Gleason, M. Merrifield, B.S. Cohen, W.N. Heady, D. Cameron, T. Rick, E. Inlander, M. Katkowski, L. Riege, J. Knapp, S. Gennet, G. Gorga, K. Lin, K. Easterday, B. Leahy, M. Bell

This Plan frames the biological and cultural significance and provides the short- and long-term goals, objectives, and priority actions for the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve.


2020 | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Unusual occurrences of fishes in the Southern California Current System during the warm water period of 2014–2018

H.J. Walker Jr., Philip A. Hastings, John R. Hyde, Robert N. Lea, Owyn E. Snodgrass, Lyall F. Bellquist

In response to anomalously warm sea-surface temperatures, poleward shifts in the geographic range of hundreds of marine organisms worldwide have been documented. This paper reports on the unusual occurrences of 36 fish species recorded from the Southern California Current System (SCCS) during the period of…


2020 | Freshwater | Marine | Science | Microsite

State of Salmon in California

Sally Liu, Megan Webb, Jeanette Howard, Jennifer Carah

Chinook, coho and steelhead were once tremendously abundant in most of California’s major rivers and streams. As recently as the 1960s, salmon and steelhead were so plentiful in streams that horses would get spooked trying to cross. Due to water damming and diversions, habitat degradation and…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Technology | Publications & Reports

Technology Catalyst Fund - 2019 Annual Report

Matt Merrifield, Sue Pollock

Conservation needs to harness technology to meet the complex challenges of today’s world. The Technology Catalyst Fund provides early stage resources to investigate and prototype technologies that have high potential for impact and have effectively disrupted the status quo in other sectors. The Fund empowers…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Conservation Science Catalyst Fund - 2019 Annual Report

Brynn Pewtherer

The Nature Conservancy deploys science to help overcome major challenges facing people and nature. In today’s fast-paced world, turning threats to nature into opportunities for conservation requires agility. The Conservation Science Catalyst Fund enables our science team to mobilize quickly — and produce the information…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Aligning evidence generation and use across health, development, and environment

Heather Tallis, Katharine Kreis, Lydia Olander, Claudia Ringler, David Ameyaw, Mark E Borsuk, Diana Fletschner, Edward Game,, Daniel O Gilligan, Marc Jeuland, Gina Kennedy, Yuta J Masuda, Sumi Mehta, Nicholas Miller, Megan Parker, Carmel Pollino, Julie Rajaratnam, David Wilkie, Wei Zhang, Selena Ahmed, Oluyede C Ajayi, Harold Alderman, George Arhonditsis, Ines Azevedo, Ruchi Badola, Rob Bailis, Patricia Balvanera, Emily Barbour, Mark Bardini, David N Barton, Jill Baumgartner, Tim G Benton, Emily Bobrow, Deborah Bossio, Ann Bostrom, Ademola Braimoh, Eduardo Brondizio, Joe Brown, Benjamin P Bryant, Ryan SD Calder, Becky Chaplin-Kramer, Alison Cullen, Nicole DeMello, Katherine L Dickinson, Kristie L Ebi, Heather E Eves, Jessica Fanzo, Paul J Ferraro, Brendan Fisher, Edward A Frongillo, Gillian Galford, Dennis Garrity, Lydiah Gatere, Andrew P Grieshop, Nicola J Grigg, Craig Groves, Mary Kay Gugerty, Michael Hamm, Xiaoyue Hou, Cindy Huang, Marc Imhoff, Darby Jack, Andrew D Jones, Rodd Kelsey, Monica Kothari, Ritesh Kumar, Carl Lachat, Ashley Larsen, Mark Lawrence, Fabrice DeClerck, Phillip S Levin, Edward Mabaya, Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, Robert I McDonald, Georgina Mace, Ricardo Maertens, Dorothy I Mangale, Robin Martino, Sara Mason, Lyla Mehta, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Barbara Merz, Siwa Msangi, Grant Murray, Kris A Murray, Celeste E Naude, Nathaniel K Newlands, Ephraim Nkonya, Amber Peterman, Tricia Petruney, Hugh Possingham, Jyotsna Puri, Roseline Remans, Lisa Remlinger, Taylor H Ricketts, Bedilu Reta, Brian E Robinson, Dilys Roe, Joshua Rosenthal, Guofeng Shen, Drew Shindell, Ben Stewart-Koster, Terry Sunderland, William J Sutherland, Josh Tewksbury, Heather Wasser, Stephanie Wear, Chris Webb, Dale Whittington, Marit Wilkerson, Heidi Wittmer, Benjamin DK Wood, Stephen Wood,, Joyce Wu, Gautam Yadama and Stephanie Zobrist

Although environmental conservation, human health, and sustainable development challenges are interconnected, approaches to these challenges and the evidence used remain disconnected. Creating integrated solutions across these sectors will require better alignment of the methods used to assess the problems and quantifying success. In this review,…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Economics | Publications & Reports

MarketLab: Where Economics and Finance Meet Conservation

Sarah Heard

We have an opportunity to apply the principles of economics and finance to demonstrate the value of conservation and create systems that incentivize the protection of nature at scale. In a changing climate, natural landscapes are extremely valuable for the benefits they provide to both…