All along the coastline of Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, community volunteers are playing a crucial role in stewarding this special stretch of the Pacific Ocean. They are walking their local beaches – often through dense fog or howling winds – to keep a finger on the pulse of the sanctuary by asking important questions: Have tarballs washed up with the tide? Are brown pelicans more abundant this year than last? How many surfers are using each beach?
Over long periods of time, the answers to questions like these begin to paint a detailed picture of life within and adjacent to sanctuary waters. And this picture, in turn, serves as an invaluable baseline to help sanctuary managers quickly identify when something has changed. It also serves a crucial aid in responding to emergency events like oil spills or ships that have come ashore.
These dedicated community members volunteer with Beach Watch, a program of Greater Farallones Association in partnership with Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Established in 1993, Beach Watch recruits and trains community volunteers to regularly monitor sanctuary beaches and record their observations.
Volunteers undergo extensive training from local experts on how to identify and document sanctuary wildlife, oil and marine debris, sediment erosion and deposition processes, and human activities. Once trained, volunteers are assigned a beach to which they will return each month to monitor. They take note of which species they come across (alive or dead), what the beach wrack consists of, oil pollution, and how humans are interacting with the beach. In short, they are the eyes and ears of the sanctuary.
Renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle once proclaimed, “These volunteers are forces for change and models of ocean stewardship, they’re extraordinary people, doing extraordinary things.”
Beach Watch is celebrating its 30th year of coastal monitoring this autumn. To demonstrate the great impact of the program and its committed volunteers, we have tallied up 30 years worth of observations and accomplishments.
In honor of 30 years of Beach Watch, we are looking for 30 donations of $30 or more to help support this important work! Donate here.
Are you inspired to become a Beach Watch volunteer? Find out how here.