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Project: Bight '18 Regional Monitoring

Southern California Bight 2018 Regional Monitoring Program

The Southern California Bight 2018 Regional Monitoring Program (Bight ’18) is the sixth iteration of an ongoing marine monitoring collaboration that examines how human activities have affected the health of 1,539 square miles of Southern California’s coastal waters. Via this partnership that runs in five-year cycles, nearly 100 participating organizations pool their resources and expertise to investigate the condition of marine ecosystems across both time and space. Because participants come together to design studies and interpret data, they reach broad consensus on scientific findings and can speak with a common voice about the ecological health of the Southern California Bight.


The Bight’s rich ecosystem diversity is at risk from human activities

The Southern California Bight, which is a concave bend in the coastline stretching from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to Punta Colonet in Mexico, has long been vulnerable to the impacts of human activities. The Bight coastal zone is home to more than 22 million people engaged in a wide variety of industrial, military and recreational activities along the coastline. Additionally, about 5,600 square miles of watersheds across coastal Southern California drain to the Bight, nearly half of which have been intensively developed. Through the Southern California Bight Regional Monitoring Program, researchers and water-quality managers pool their resources and work together to extend greater protections to the Bight’s diverse habitats and natural resources, including more than 500 species of fish and thousands of invertebrate species, as well as a diverse array of sea birds and mammals. The Bight program has become the region’s premier regional monitoring collaboration, using a stratified, random sampling design to paint a comprehensive picture of regional ecosystem condition.

In the Southern California Bight, cold waters from the north mix with warm waters from the south,
creating conditions that support rich ecosystem diversity.

Bight ’18 involves tremendous collaboration and leveraging of resources

The sixth cycle of the program, Bight ’18, builds on the collaborative spirit and commitment to scientific excellence that have been hallmarks of Bight regional monitoring since the program’s inception in 1994. During each five-year program cycle, participants self-organize into committees that are then responsible for conceptualizing, planning for, implementing, interpreting, and integrating the program’s many study elements. Each participating organization is a part owner of the Bight Program, providing in-kind monitoring resources and sharing in the program’s governance. The highly leveraged program is facilitated by SCCWRP.


Bight ’18 builds off the success of the previous Bight monitoring cycle

Bight ’18 is organized around five main research elements exploring various facets of Bight health. Bight participants generate the study questions for each element, as well as agree upfront on the courses of action they will take depending on the study findings.
  • The Sediment Quality element examines the ecosystem impacts of Bight sediment contamination across time and space. For the first time, multiple types of bioactive contaminants are being monitored via bioanalytical cell screening assays. Contamination levels in seafood also are being documented.
  • The Ocean Acidification element tracks how Bight seawater chemistry is changing as a result of ocean acidification and the related phenomenon of hypoxia. For the first time, the program will document the relationship between these chemical changes and effects on vulnerable, shell-forming organisms.
  • The Harmful Algal Blooms element examines how toxins created by some types of blooms can be transported through waterways and linger in seafloor sediment, where they can potentially impact the health of marine animals for months, including shellfish consumed by humans.
  •  The Trash element tracks the extent to which trash has spread across aquatic environments on land and at sea, and the types and abundance of trash in these settings. Standardized trash-surveying methodologies also are being developed for watersheds via this study.
  • The Microbiology element examines the relevance and reliability of using coliphage viruses to track microbial water quality at Southern California beaches, and how coliphage compares to Enterooccocus as an indicator of microbial contamination.
All Bight ’18 documentation, including planning documents and final assessment reports, are accessible on the Bight ’18 documents page. For more information about Bight ’18, contact Ken Schiff at 714-755-3202 or
For more information on Bight '18 Regional Monitoring, contact Ken Schiff at (714) 755-3202.
This page was last updated on: 7/4/2018