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

Marine | Technology | Science

Closing the Abalone Data Gap

Can putting technology in the hands of citizen scientists transform how abalone are managed?

Marine | Planning | Science

Saving Tomorrow’s Coast

Can California protect its iconic coastline as sea levels rise?

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 | 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…


2019 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Collaborative research reveals cryptic declines within the multispecies California rock crab fishery

Sean P. Fitzgerald , Hunter S. Lenihan, Jono R. Wilson, Carolynn S. Culver, Matthew Potoski

This paper highlights the benefits of collaborative fisheries research in the management of wild capture fisheries. The authors teamed up with commercial fishermen in the southern California rock crab fishery and sampled over 45,000 crabs over a two-year period. Using statistical techniques, they compared these data to a study…


2019 | Freshwater | Marine | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Insights into estuary habitat loss in the western United States using a new method for mapping maximum extent of tidal wetlands

Laura S. Brophy, Correigh M. Greene, Van C. Hare, Brett Holycross, Andy Lanier, Walter N. Heady, Kevin O’Connor, Hiroo Imaki, Tanya Haddad, Randy Dana

The authors of this study generated new maps of current and historical tidal wetlands in 450 estuaries throughout Washington, Oregon, and California. Using laser-mapping technology known as LIDAR combined with water elevation models, the team estimated that West Coast estuaries historically covered nearly 2 million acres.…


2019 | Marine | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

eCatch: Enabling collaborative fisheries management with technology

Matt Merrifield, Mary Gleason, Lyall Bellquist, Kate Kauer, Dwayne Oberhoff, Chad Burt, Steve Reinecke, Michael Bella

In 2006, The Nature Conservancy of California purchased 13 federal groundfish permits in California with the objective of managing the fishing and reporting activities in a manner that protected sensitive habitats and species. At that time, collecting data for this fishery was done with paper…


2019 | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Globally important islands where eradicating invasive mammals will benefit highly threatened vertebrates

Holmes ND, Spatz DR, Oppel S, Tershy B, Croll DA, et al.

Restoring islands by eradicating damaging, non-native invasive mammals such as rats, cats, goats, and pigs has repeatedly proven to be a high impact conservation action. New research published in PLOS ONE shows this conservation action can have a major contribution towards stemming the global extinction…


2019 | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Future Directions in Conservation Research on Petrels and Shearwaters

Rodríguez A, Arcos JM, Bretagnolle V, Dias MP, Holmes ND, Louzao M, Provencher J, Raine AF, Ramírez F, Rodríguez B, Ronconi RA, Taylor RS, Bonnaud E, Borrelle SB, Cortés V, Descamps S, Friesen VL, Genovart M, Hedd A, Hodum P, Humphries G, Le Corre M, Lebarbenchon C, Martin R, Melvin EF, Montevecchi WA, Pinet P, Pollet IL, Ramos R, Russell JC, Ryan PG, Sanz-Aguilar A, Spatz DR, Travers M, Votier SC, Wanless RM, Woehler E, Chiaradia A

Seabirds are amongst the most engaged species on our planet. Among these are petrels and shearwaters: species characterized by long ocean journeys for migration and feeding, and a dependence on islands to safely breed and raise young. This dual lifestyle places them at risk from…


2019 | Marine | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Opportunities to improve fisheries management through innovative technology and advanced data systems

Darcy Bradley, Matt Merrifield, Karly M. Miller, Serena Lomonico, Jono R. Wilson, Mary G. Gleason

A lack of fishery data leads to uncertainty about stock status, which may compromise and threaten the economic and food security of the users dependent upon that stock and increase the chances of overfishing. Recent developments in the technology available to collect, manage and analyze fishery-relevant data provide…


2019 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

An indicator‐based decision framework for the northern California red abalone fishery

William J. Harford, Natalie A. Dowling, Jeremy D. Prince, Frank Hurd, Lyall Bellquist, Jack Likins, Jono R. Wilson

Among abalone species that were once harvested along the California coastline, red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) supports the remaining recreational fishery. To support development of a red abalone fishery management plan, non‐governmental organizations have initiated expanded data collection and developed fishery management strategies. In this paper,…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Conservation Science Catalyst Fund - 2018 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…


2018 | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Islands

Nicholas D. Holmes, Olivier Langrand, Russell A. Mittermeier, Anthony B. Rylands, Thomas Brooks, Dena R. Spatz, James C. Russell, Wes Sechrest, Federico Méndez Sánchez, Cristina Mittermeier (Editor)

Covering only five percent of the land on our planet, islands are home to an estimated 20 percent of the world’s bird, reptile, and plant species, as well as the most astonishing examples of species’ evolution. "Islands" is the 26th volume in the CEMEX Nature Series…


2018 | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Reducing bycatch through a risk pool: A case study of the U.S. West Coast groundfish fishery

Kate Kauer, Lyall Bellquist, Mary Gleason, Aliya Rubinstein, Joe Sullivan, Dwayne Oberhoff, Lisa Damrosch, Michelle Norvell, Michael Bell

This paper presents how voluntary collective agreements amongst fishermen can be used to reduce risk of bycatch of sensitive species and improve fishery performance in the West Coast groundfish fishery. We describe the challenges and results of designing and implementing an “insurance risk pool” to…


2018 | Marine | Planning | Technology | Science | Blogs

Managing Fisheries in the Face of Climate Change

Jono Wilson

The author discusses a need for a new paradigm in fisheries management to address the challenges of a changing climate.  See related publication by the author and colleagues in Conservation Letters.