Research in the California Current

Ocean waters are constantly on the move. The California Current moves south along the western coast of North America, beginning off southern British Columbia, flowing southward past Washington, Oregon and California, and ending off southern Baja California.  The California Current is part of the North Pacific Gyre and brings cool waters southward.  Additionally, extensive upwelling of colder sub-surface waters occurs, supporting large populations of whales, seabirds and important fisheries.  Scientists in most of all of the divisions at the SWFSC work on species in the California Current.  For studies on the status of fishes, fish habitat, socio-economics and fishery-oceanography, visit the Fisheries Ecology Division, Environmental Research Division, and Fisheries Resources Division.  For studies on marine mammals, seabirds and marine turtles, visit the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division.

The California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI)

The California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimerare a unique partnership of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries Service and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The organization was formed in 1949 to study the ecological aspects of the sardine population collapse off California. Today, the focus has shifted to the study of the marine environment off the coast of California, the management of its living resources, and monitoring the indicators of El Nino and climate change. In 2004, the CalCOFI surveys became one of the sites in the Long Term Ecological Research Network (CCE-LTER) The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer which seeks to understand the pelagic ecosystem of the California Current.  Read more about SWFSC’s CalCOFI research program.  Visit the CalCOFI The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimerand ERDDAP The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimerwebsites for access to data. Visit the CalCOFI The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimerwebsite for more information about field work, annual reports, conferences, publications and books.  

Marine Mammals in the California Current


A major mission of the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division (MMTD) is to monitor the status of protected species in U.S. waters or waters where the U.S. has a vested interest. Research surveys are conducted from various platforms, including ships, aircraft, and shore-based stations. MMTD has conducted cetacean assessment cruises in the California Current using NOAA survey vessels since 1979. The primary objective of the surveys is to estimate the abundance, and understand the distribution, of whales, dolphins and porpoises which are commonly found off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington, out to a distance of 300 nm.  Since 1991, these cruises have taken a multidisciplinary approach with a goal of characterizing the ecosystem of which these cetaceans are a part to allow us to better understand changes in abundance and distribution. Research also focuses on stock structure, morphology, life history parameters, acoustics, and behavior of all cetaceans in the ecosystem.  MMTD also monitors the distribution and abundance of pinnipeds (aerial and land-based surveys), gray whales (land-based surveys) and marine turtles (multiple platforms) of the California Current. Read more …

California Current Marine Mammal Stock Assessments (SARS)
California Current Marine Mammal and Ecosystem Surveys
Pinniped Aerial Surveys in the California Current
Gray whale research in the California Current
Marine turtle research in the California Current

California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessments

The California Current Large Marine Ecosystem is a dynamic, diverse environment spanning nearly 3000 km from southern British Columbia to Baja California, including the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, the coastal land-sea interface, and adjacent watersheds. The California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (CC-IEA), conducted by the NOAA CC-IEA team including SWFSC scientists and their partners at NMFS and other agencies, aims to understand the web of interactions in the California Current ecosystem and to forecast how changing conditions and management actions affect this web. Read more about the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment program and the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Annual Reports.

Green Seas / Blue Seas: The California Current, Climate Change and Sustainable Fisheries

The Green Seas / Blue Seas project is a full colorful, interactive art and science project which depicts changing oceanographic regimes in the California Current using different shades of color: green for high ocean productivity and blue for low ocean productivity.  The images illustrate the different species that flourish as ocean conditions change and the heritage of fishing and fisheries research in the region.  The project encompasses a 400’ mural on our Pacific Grove building, posters and an interactive website.  The original art was created by Ray Troll.  The mural was painted by public artist Roberto Salas and his team and the poster was designed by Karen Lybrand.  Visit the Green Seas / Blue Seas website.   

NOAA Art Poster
Last modified: 12/24/2014