Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.

Morro Bay National Estuary


Too much sediment harms the bay The Estuary Program protects and enhances Morro Bay and its watershed through projects that support important natural areas and restore degraded habitats. One of the ways we do this is by reducing the amount of sediment that flows into the creeks that feed the bay. This helps to keep the bay from filling in at an unnatural rate and protects steelhead spawning habitat. Over the years, an excess of sediment has flowed into Chorro Creek, making it harder for it to support wildlife. Along with many partners, the Estuary Program set out to improve …

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Field Updates December 2021: Water Quality Monitoring and Local Steelhead Populations

A steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) was captured from the Chorro Creek sub-watershed and measured before safely being released back into the water.

Steelhead in the Morro Bay Watershed  One of the fascinating creatures living in our local creeks is the South Central California Coast Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss). This genetically-distinct population of steelhead is found exclusively from the Pajaro River to the Santa Maria River, and while historically abundant, they were listed as “Threatened” by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 1997 due to rapidly declining numbers. This species continues to struggle due to habitat loss, lack of water, and competition with invasive species.   Steelhead belong to the Salmonidae family, along with other species of trout and salmon. Steelhead are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater streams, migrate out to sea for several years, and …

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Happy New Year: Your Top Blog Posts of 2021

Nick, our new Monitoring Coordinator, carefully sifts through eelgrass wrack and green algae to count eelgrass shoots at State Park Marina.

  Happy new year, blog readers! We hope that 2022 is off to a wonderful start for you. Today, we’re sharing some of our most popular posts from 2021. If you haven’t read them yet, now’s a great time to catch up! Top Field Work Post Field Updates September 2021: Eelgrass Wrack For more recent eelgrass information, visit our eelgrass archives. Top Wildlife Posts New Undescribed Nudibranchs! Two New-to-Science Sea Slugs Recently Spotted on the California Coast. Top Naturalist Knowledge Posts Morro Bay Native Plant Series, posts 1 through 6 This series of posts covers six habitats that you can …

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California King Tides Project: Photograph the Future January 1–3, 2022

King Tides are the highest tides of the year King Tides are the highest tides of the year. These tides may surprise casual beach-goers (especially when the tides rise high enough to submerge the whole beach), but they occur each winter at predictable points in the earth’s journey around the sun. King Tides occur under the following conditions Earth is at its closest to the sun (i.e. at perihelion), the moon is at its closest to the earth (i.e. at perigee), and all three bodies are aligned, producing either a full or new moon. Because these tides occur when the …

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From the Director’s Desk: Stepping Down and Gratitude for Our Community

    Written by Lexie Bell, Executive Director of the Morro Bay National Estuary Program. On December 28, I will step down as Executive Director of the Morro Bay National Estuary Program after twelve years at the organization and six years in this role. I will be taking an administrative position at Cuesta College and look forward to continuing to engage in the stewardship of our watershed as a supporting community member.   Over the past decade, the Estuary Program has worked together as a community to achieve lasting conservation results. We have protected 2,300 acres and restored more than …

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2021 Morro Bay National Estuary Program Volunteer Recognition

Volunteer appreciation hike 2021

Thank you volunteers! As the end of the calendar year sneaks up on us, our staff here at the Estuary Program want to take a moment to reflect on those who make an impact on our work and within our local community. While the past year has been a tumultuous one, our volunteers have been able to continue their monthly monitoring, amidst changes to local COVID-19 guidelines, our policies and our protocols. During 2021, our volunteer monitoring program contributed over 230 hours to water quality monitoring and bacteria sampling in the estuary and in our local creeks. We are incredibly …

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Eelgrass monitoring_landscape_with person_Morro Bay National Estuary Program

    146 acres of eelgrass and growing! We are excited to announce that eelgrass habitat in Morro Bay has expanded dramatically. In 2017, there were only thirteen acres of eelgrass left in the bay. However, our most-recent map, created with aerial images taken in 2020, shows 146 acres of eelgrass habitat. If you have been out on the water lately or taken a bayside walk, you’ve likely seen the increased amount of eelgrass wrack along the shoreline of the estuary. This is because many areas where eelgrass had died off previously now support healthy eelgrass meadows. Eelgrass habitat recovery …

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Field Updates November 2021: Eelgrass Monitoring Behind the Scenes

Morro Rock and a dense eelgrass bed at sunset

    Eelgrass Monitoring Season  Our annual fall eelgrass monitoring process is underway, contributing new data to our efforts to track the health of this valuable natural resource. During the low tide window in early November, the Estuary Program teamed up with several members of the Watershed Stewards Program to visit specific sites in eelgrass beds across the bay and measure the density of eelgrass shoots. By visiting the same sites each year, we can see how the eelgrass beds change over time. Data collected by the Estuary Program in previous years documented a steady decline in eelgrass from 2007 to 2017 as well as a small resurgence that began in 2019. Based on our observations so far, it appears that eelgrass continues to reclaim lost acreage, …

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Great Hiking and Walking Trails Around the Morro Bay Estuary

    Open spaces and hiking trails to explore rank high on our list of things we’re grateful for at the Morro Bay National Estuary Program. The land that surrounds the estuary is contoured by hills and valleys, studded with trees, and etched by creeks that take their time winding down to the salt marsh and entering bay. In short, it is a beautiful place that offers many opportunities for casual strolls and more strenuous treks. Whether you’re planning a much-needed walk after a festive family dinner, or looking for something fun to do on your day off, we have …

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Morro Baycam: Live Video of Morro Bay Estuary

The Baycam watched on as rain moved over the Morro Bay estuary.

    Have you ever wondered what it’s like in Morro Bay while you’re at work or home? Are the pelicans diving? Are there whitecaps on the waves? Is it a good day for a walk out to Morro Rock? Or is that thick, wet fog rolling in? Whenever curiosity strikes, you can now visit to get a live video-stream view of the wind, waves, birds, boats, those beautiful fall sunsets, and even the annual Lighted Boat Parade on that first Saturday in December! Live Video of Morro Bay Check out the live video below, bookmark the Morro Baycam …

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