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Wildlife Habitat

Biological Baseline Surveys

Habitat conditions and marine biological communities in the harbor complex have been documented since the early 1950s. The first comprehensive surveys of biological and physical/chemical conditions in the harbors were conducted by the Harbors Environmental Project of the University of Southern California between 1971 and 1978 to document existing conditions and evaluate impacts associated with dredging and planned expansion of the Ports. Several studies were conducted during the 1980s and 1990s, however these focused on one port or the other.

In 2000, the Port of Los Angeles teamed together with the Port of Long Beach to once again undertake comprehensive biological surveys of the Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor – our “Biological Baseline Surveys.” Another survey was performed in 2008, and most recently surveys were completed in 2013-2014 and the final report is expected by spring of 2016.

Surveys evaluate the area’s physical and ecological characteristics, including surveys of kelp, eelgrass, plankton, fish, benthic animals, and marine birds and mammals. These studies also address seasonal variations and the presence of invasive species, if any, and compare the ecological characteristics of various types of habitats found in different areas of the Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor. The information from these studies has been used in numerous environmental documents and for biological mitigation planning related to port development projects.

To inform the public about the results of these surveys, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach have created Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbor Habitat: Our Biological Treasures. This publication presents the marine environment of the Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor as it existed in 2008 and describes how that environment and its natural resources have improved over the decades as a result of the successes of environmental protection efforts. You can enjoy the brochure online, below, or request hard copies of the brochure by contacting the Environmental Management Division at (310) 732-3675.

Saltwater Marsh

The Port constructed the Cabrillo Saltwater Marsh near the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in the harbor. The Aquarium maintains this thriving 3.25-acre wetland for its marine education programs. The restoration and operation of the Cabrillo Salt Marsh have provided valuable educational experience for both children and adults.

California Least Tern Site ManagementCalifornia Least Tern Site Management

The endangered California least tern (bird species) shares a home with the Port of Los Angeles’ largest container terminal on Pier 400. The Port maintains, monitors and protects 15 acres on Pier 400 for the nesting of these indigenous birds. Reproductive success is evident with the number of nesting pairs and fledglings increasing yearly. For the last few years, the Port has had the second largest colony in the state, with more than 1,000 nests.

Cabrillo Shallow Water Habitat

This 190-acre shallow water habitat located in the Outer Los Angeles Harbor provides a replacement habitat and feeding area for fish and marine birds. Despite its industrial nature, the Outer Los Angeles Harbor area is a valuable marine resource, particularly for juvenile fish. Many of the 75 fish species found in the harbor are common along the West Coast, but they are more abundant within the harbor, which is an important nursery for several fish species.

Giant Kelp Transplant

A testament to the clean water at the Port, a bed of giant kelp transplanted into the harbor can grow up to the rate of three feet per day. The Port of Los Angeles is the only port ever to transplant kelp into their waters.

Artificial Reef

In an effort to enhance marine resources, the Port of Los Angeles hopes to build a new artificial reef outside its breakwater, using clean concrete construction and demolition materials. The reef was designed in collaboration with the California Department of Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Port of Long Beach, the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, and local commercial sport fishing interests. The proposed reef would create new bottom topography to provide habitat for a multitude of reef-dwelling kelp, reef fish and other inhabitants. The reef is also designed to complement existing marine habitat and other artificial reefs previously established in Los Angeles Harbor.

Batiquitos LagoonBatiquitos Lagoon

In one of the nation’s largest habitat restoration projects, the Port restored Batiquitos Lagoon in North San Diego County from a choked and dying habitat to a thriving habitat with ocean access. This project, completed in 1996 at a cost of $57 million, increased the state’s wetland inventory by at least one hundred acres and returned a natural treasure back to the people of California. Through the Port's mitigation efforts at the lagoon, marine fish — from California halibut to white sea bass — have returned in great numbers. Several threatened and endangered bird species are nesting in record numbers and shorebirds are feeding on the newly created mud flats.

For more information on the Batiquitos Lagoon Enhancement Project, click here.

Bolsa Chica Wetlands

In 1995, the Board of Harbor Commissioners approved an interagency agreement to provide funding for the restoration of Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Orange County in exchange for Port mitigation credits. The Port’s $40 million in funding allowed for the purchase and restoration of the Bolsa Chica lowlands to prevent development and restore tidal flushing to a wetland degraded by past human activities.

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