BONUS! One more special in our four-part (now five-part) “I Love My ASBS” blog series highlighting why we love San Diego’s Areas of Biological Significance.
A long time ago I went snorkeling for the first time, it was in the Caribbean’s clean tropical water, where without effort, I saw so many soft and hard colorful corals like coral fans and other beautiful species that provide a home for hundreds of fishes and invertebrates.
Let’s say that the first time I was invited to snorkel in La Jolla my expectations were really high. But then they mentioned the magic word SHARKS next to snorkel … and I was sold.
Finally the day arrived, the sun shined brightly, which helped since my tropical bones were still adapting to the cold waters, and I was impressed to see the beach so clean and neat. Did I mention that La Jolla Shores is part of the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park, establish in 1970 to protect 6,000 acres of shore to underwater habitats. The park is divided into two marine protected areas: the San Diego-Scripps State Marine Conservation Area, which runs from Scripps Pier north to Black’s Beach, and the Matlahuayl (mot-LA-who-ALL) State Marine Reserve, which runs from Scripps Pier south to La Jolla Cove. A state marine reserve is a type of marine protected area where the removal of all living marine resources is prohibited and activities like tidepooling, kayaking, snorkeling and diving are promoted. The day was perfect for some snorkel fun, I got suited up with mask on. They said no flippers needed, so I guessed we didn’t have to go so far to see these “sharks,” but to my surprise, you didn’t need a wetsuit or a mask–just luck to be in the right place at the right time in this Area of Special Biological Significance, located in the southern portion of La Jolla shores (I don’t want to tell the secret…okay, it is in front of the Marine Room). The right time is the summer time and voilà sharks start showing up with their beautiful spots. Yes, these were the leopard sharks (not the tiger sharks in case you got worried like one of my friends).
The amazing experience of meeting the locals
It was almost surreal, the sharks were four to five feet long (they can grow up to six feet) and even their cousins, the shovelnose guitarfish, came to say hello. Even when I was seeing it with my own eyes, I wanted to know why they were here, since it seems like they are hanging out in the same spot around the same time every year. A few months later I got the most recent scientific explanation from a scientist from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Dr. Andy Nosal. He is also a postdoctoral researcher at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. He explained that the leopard sharks that congregate in La Jolla shores are mostly pregnant females, which take advantage of the warmer waters during the day (from spring, summer, and fall months) and the local food source (fish and invertebrates in the sandy shores and the California Market squid that they hunt during the nights in La Jolla Submarine Canyon). Again, Mother Nature does it better–I guess if you are pregnant, warm water and yummy food is a good reason to be here, beside no predators so triple score!
What you can do
The only possible inconvenient to these sharks’ pregnancy retreat could be us, so if you want to snorkel with the leopard sharks remember not too close is the best policy. Be respectful, they are not going to hurt you. Really, their teeth are really small and are adapted to crushing their food, which doesn’t include you. If you get too close, it is possible that they just swim away. I guess like any pregnant living organism they just want to have their bellies full and relax! Come visit your Areas of Special Biological Significance like these Underwater Parks in La Jolla Shores, embrace nature with a morning snorkel with the sharks and be part of the solution if you see any illegal discharge of sewage and/or waste, inform the authorities. Obviously remember that this is your place to have fun and enjoy nature so please keep it clean!
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Snorkel with the sharks tours:
Part one of four in our “I Love My ASBS” blog series highlighting why we love San Diego’s Areas of Biological Significance.
I recently took up scuba diving. The classes were held at La Jolla Shores and this weekend, I went exploring at La Jolla Cove. So far, I’ve scuba dived a total of 3 days: all in the La Jolla ASBS.
Mostly, I was concerned with completing all of the tests according to my instructor’s directions, and trying to prevent any of my organs from exploding. But I was able to look around a little bit while I was underwater and discover what an amazing place the Cove and the Shores are. One may even call it an area that had special biological signifigance.
California has 34 Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS). You can view a statewide map here. San Diego’s La Jolla Cove and Shores are home to one of them. The San Diego Basin Plan (our region’s Water Quality Control Plan) describes the process as:
The Regional Boards were required to select areas in coastal waters which contain “biological communities of such extraordinary, even though unquantifiable, value that no acceptable risk of change in their environments as a result of man’s activities can be entertained.”
These areas are now known as “Areas of Special Biological Significance” and La Jolla is home to my favorite ASBS. This area is so rich in biodiversity that more stringent protections need to be in place to safeguard this special place: safeguards that prevent urban runoff from polluting this area.
Back to the underwater world- I had a very short time to look around. Again, I was trying to keep my organs from exploding (granted, a mostly irrational fear). But, in that short time I was able to see:
- Sheep Crab – This thing was huge- even bigger than my head!
- Grunion – I admittedly stopped paying attention to the instructor and stared at them, while a whole school swam overhead of us.
- Kelp Bass
- Sheephead – One of these chased me around.
- Blacksmith – A large school passed right over me and it was spectacular.
While snorkeling afterwards, I saw a bunch of Shovelnose Guitarfish and a ton of Leopard Sharks. The two things I still want to see are Octopus (the best sea creature, hands down) and Mantis Shrimp (click this link to see how awesome these little guys are).
I got to see all of this marine life in a very short time out there and I’m already looking forward to doing even more explorations in our ASBS. After all, it is right here, no need to travel far.
I love my ASBS.
San Diego Coastkeeper offers a number of ways for the community to get involved in keeping our waters clean. Our beach cleanup program gives groups and individuals a way to actively participate in the solution through our monthly cleanups and Beach Cleanup in a Box.
A few times a year, we get the chance to work with a group through a Sponsored Cleanup, and they’re often some of the most memorable experiences in this program. This past week, we were lucky enough to host such a cleanup with the support of LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. In town for a meeting, 30 LUSH employees from across North America came together at La Jolla Shores for an incredible day of giving back and learning.
This wasn’t just another beach cleanup. There was something unique about the work done by this group. While talking with them about the the sources of marine debris, they shared with me ways they work to fight the problem in their own lives and through their work with LUSH. As a company that uses 100 percent post-consumer recycled bottles, biodegradable packing peanuts (instead of Styrofoam!), and uses fresh ingredients in their products, they were all personally connected to the marine debris problem and saw how their responsible choices made huge impacts on our waters.
Meticulously filling out their data cards, the LUSH team collected over 4,835 items from La Jolla Shores, sitting along an Area of Special Biological Significance. In two hours, they removed 26.85 pounds, including 2,542 plactic items, 809 cigarette butts and 636 Styrofoam pieces.
For a cold February afternoon, their enthusiam and excitement to make a difference that day was infectious. Surfers and joggers stopped to thank them for their work, giving our visitors a chance to connect with the people directly impacted by their efforts that day. It was also a reminder that those responsible choices they make in their own lives and through LUSH have a greater influence than they sometimes see.
Before leaving the beach that day, all 30 LUSH team members, hailing from across the US and Canada, became San Diego Coastkeeper members . While those of us who work and play in San Diego’s water know the challenge we have in protecting it, it’s a wonderful reminder that we have members 1,000s of miles away supporting our work and have actively contributed to solving those problems.
All of us at San Diego Coastkeeper would like to send a huge Thank You to the LUSH team for their efforts at La Jolla Shores and back home!
If you are interested in arranging a Sponsored Cleanup with San Diego Coastkeeper, please contact us at 619-758-7743 x131 or at email@example.com
Beach cleanups are one of our volunteers’ favorite programs. Who doesn’t love a morning on the beach with friends and family while helping to solve our global marine debris issue? So far this year, more than 1,000 Coastkeeper volunteers have removed over 2,736 pounds of trash from our coastline.
Impressive work, but still troubling.
Even with many responsible and concerned individuals keeping our beaches free of trash, there’s always more to remove. So where is it coming from? Were all 2,615 plastic bags collected this year intentionally or accidentally left at the beach? Most likely, no.
San Diego is home to 11 watersheds, areas in which all water from rain, creeks, rivers and streams drains into the same location. For San Diegans, that common location is the Pacific Ocean. Water moving through our watershed transports trash left on the ground and moved out of trash bins by wind or animals to the ocean.
To address some of our inland pollution sources, San Diego Coastkeeper and UCSD Environment, Health & Safety teamed for a cleanup of the UCSD campus. Opting for a morning in a parking lot and inland canyons over a Southern California beach may not seem a fair trade, but what we found might convince you otherwise.
Twenty-one volunteers removed 31 pounds of trash. This included 4,201 cigarette butts. Just as a reference, our 150 volunteers at our Coastal Cleanup Day site at Tourmaline Beach found 130 pounds of trash. They collected 672 cigarette butts. Inland pollution needs a little more credit than we’ve been giving it.
Trash left behind at UCSD can travel all the way to La Jolla Shores. Here, trash entering the ocean is unsightly and directly impacts an Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) where pollutants are banned. This area is considered so ecologically important that the state gave this designation to 88 acres at Scripps and 450 acres at La Jolla.
Maintaining the health of our ASBS regions in San Diego is critical but difficult to manage. Impacted by actions not only along the coast, but throughout the watershed, each individual living here has a role in protecting them.
Given the success of our event with UCSD Environment, Health & Safety, Coastkeeper is looking forward to more programs focused on our inland areas to protect our water and coastline. In the meantime, do your part. Help protect the unique and fragile ecosystems we have in our backyard by remembering your actions have an impact, even far from the coast.
This is the ninth of a 10-part blog series examining the nature of ASBS, the threats they face and the actions we can take to protect these biological hotspots for future San Diegans.
The vibe was great. Almost everyone was a beginner since all the hardcore folks went to Scripps Pier, Blacks or WindanSea. It was just me and my fellow kooks. Except for all the wildlife, that is. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was surfing in my own Area of Special Biological Significance with all kinds of birds, fish, bat rays, sea lions, leopard sharks, seals and more. Who could ask for a better spot to learn? If I ate it over and over again, no worries, I just paddled out and hung out with the dolphins.It seems like the first thing that everyone wants to do when they get to San Diego is learn to surf, and I was one of them. I talked to a few friends about where I should go surfing for the first time, and the most common advice I got was to stay away from “local spots”-places where a group of people consider themselves to have some sort of ownership of a particular break. Despite my objections to that limiting access to our shared resources, I wasn’t looking to make enemies right off the bat in San Diego. I headed the advice and ultimately came to find my own beginner spot at La Jolla Shores, and it was perfect.
Now that I live in the same watershed, and having fallen in love with La Jolla Shores back in those days, I feel a true responsibility to protect that part of the ocean and the watershed around it. And to start, I’m building a native plant garden (or a “locals only garden” as I like to call it). Native plants are truly rad. Not only do they provide habitat for wildlife locally, in some cases, they actually reduce urban runoff pollution before it makes its way to our ocean.
If it wasn’t for my small condo holding me back, I’d be all about building a garden that included bioswales and retention basins. The potential for these features to reduce urban runoff is huge. Imagine if everyone in our watersheds built a home that replicated what San Dieguito River Park Foundation has done.
If you still think a native plant garden has to be ugly, I merely refer you the extensive list my friends at Las Piliatas Nursery keep. Tons of beautiful plants to choose from and they almost all use low amounts or water. How green and beautiful would our be if everyone had my all-time favorite plant, the California Sycamore, growing in their front yard?
For now, I’m starting small, but that’s how big changes start. And hey, if you’re not ready to tear out your entire yard just yet, find an empty space and give this a try.
This is the tenth of a 10-part blog series examining the nature of ASBS, the threats they face and the actions we can take to protect these biological hotspots for future San Diegans.
Like most of those who reside in San Diego, I love it here and I am proud to be a San Diegan. After a recent 2 year stint in Boston, MA (Yikes! It was freezing), this native Californian could not be happier to be back. So what does it mean to be from San Diego? What is so great about it? Why would you ever leave such a glorious region of an even more glorious state? These are all questions I faced when I left 2 years ago, and not just questions I asked myself, but questions I was faced with upon arriving in Bean Town.
First of all, there are no waves in Boston. Yes, Boston is a port city, the largest city in Massachusetts and surrounded by water; however, there is very little beach action in the immediate area (with the exception of Revere ‘beach’ which is actually just a waveless inlet). The water quality around the port (as it is near almost any port) is poor and downright gross. It led me to inquire how I could become involved in improving water quality in my new surroundings of New England. It did not take long for me to realize that the number of networks and organizations working toward improved water quality as well as environmental advocacy were limited (but still existed), unlike those I had become accustomed to being around in California. Bummer.
Whenever I was asked what there is to do in San Diego, my eyes always lit up and I rambled a millions miles a second – snorkeling around the cove in La Jolla, kayaking around Mission Bay, surfing Windansea, scuba diving around Scripps Institution of Oceanography, hiking the Torrey Pines State Reserve, stand up paddle boarding in Encinitas, sailing around San Diego Bay, The Del Mar Fair, I could go on forever. But it occurred to me I had lived in San Diego for 5 years prior to my move and hadn’t done more than three of those things. I was horrified. Needless to say, I was desperate to get back into the water and ready to dedicate myself to improving what I consider to be San Diego’s most valuable asset – its water.
San Diego Coastkeeper gives people the resources and opportunity to get involved with protecting our oceans, beaches and waterways in a way that is pretty unique. Opportunities to volunteer come in so many shapes and sizes and the best part is the flexible schedules and option to choose the events that are right for you.Wastewater discharge, marine debris and stormwater runoff are major threats to San Diego’s marine environment. I am stoked that I get to work with a network of dedicated and intelligent individuals, who work day in and day out to preserve our underwater playgrounds offshore by spreading the word on low impact development, organizing and supplying the tools for beach cleanups and conducting water quality monitoring.
The successes of San Diego Coastkeeper’s campaigns are incredible, like San Diego’s underwater state parks or marine protected areas (MPA’s) in south La Jolla and in North County at Swamis. I don’t know what to say other than these places are epic. The protected ecosystems are allowing biodiversity to flourish and creating healthy fishstocks to improve productivity. Stand up paddle boarding above Swami’s reef might be one of the most spectacular ways to see it all from above. San Diego’s Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) along the La Jolla Shores and Scripps Institution of Oceanography are two of the coolest places to snorkel and see giant sea bass, leopard sharks and abalone.
It’s up to us as residents of San Diego to take pride in our environment and take ownership in maintaining, preserving and improving our surroundings. Giving my time to a cause that protects coastal and inland waters where I live, work and play is something that I believe in whole-heartedly.
What inspires you?
This is the eighth of a 10-part blog series examining the nature of ASBS, the threats they face and the actions we can take to protect these biological hotspots for future San Diegans.
Over the past several weeks, our ASBS blog series discussed projects put into the ground by the University of California, San Diego at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to help improve and protect water quality in the two ASBS near La Jolla. The UCSD/SIO projects are large low impact development projects engineered by professionals to clean urban runoff before it enters the ocean. In looking at them, I have been awed by their size, complexity and their reliance on ecology to do the dirty work. But at the end of the day, I can’t put one in my backyard. Or can I?
If you are at the SIO ecology embankments and you amble north of Scripps pier, you will see something that is seemingly mundane but is secretly quite remarkable – a rain barrel attached to a small garden box, not much bigger than five feet by three. The rain barrel/garden is part of a wider pilot project of the City of San Diego studying how this design can capture, slow down and disperse cleaner runoff than when it entered. The rain barrel captures water that runs off the roof and then discharges excess water into the attached garden box. Like the ecology embankments, this garden holds special soil that grabs on to pollutants and releases cleaner water. It takes time for the water from the rain barrel to pass through the complex soil matrix, which means that excess water leaves the garden after the storm has passed. By slowing down how much runoff enters the urban environment, this garden box reduces another problem caused by storm water – erosion. Rain barrels and rain gardens are simple and growing in popularity. Rain barrels and gardens come in all shapes and sizes, with many resources available online to help you put them in the ground in your yard. So it turns out those even small spaces like your yard, sidewalks, or medians in your local business district can also host a mini version of what UCSD/SIO installed at La Jolla Shores. That means we don’t have to rely only on big projects like what UCSD/SIO did; everyone in La Jolla can play a part in keeping the coast off La Jolla clean and healthy.
This is the seventh of a 10-part blog series examining the nature of our local water supply and how to increase the reliability of our supplies now and into the future.
The watershed that drains to the La Jolla ASBS includes beautiful stately homes, dramatic gardens and the quaint streets of the Village. It seems hard to imagine that such an attractive area can be a source of pollution.
And yet it is.
The watershed of the La Jolla ASBS, like any urban watershed, suffers from an abundance of hard surfaces (streets, roof tops, parking lots), aerial deposition of pollutants, over-irrigation of lawns and uncollected pet waste. This means that beneath all the beauty of La Jolla, the same basic water quality problems occur: urban runoff pollution. And it showed in water quality data in runoff from the area and at the coast – monitoring found that concentrations of pollutants like copper, fecal indicator bacteria, dioxins/furans, total PAHs, and turbidity were high enough to be of concern.
To meet the challenge of eliminating discharges to the ASBS, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, the City of San Diego Storm Water and San Diego Coastkeeper came up with a plan to protect the ocean and its special treasures. Recently, Coastkeeper and UCSD staff had the pleasure of introducing the jewel in the crown of that plan – four ‘ecology embankments.’ If you are wandering near the Shores, you will notice that there are two large, newly installed landscaped areas.
But don’t be deceived, these are no ordinary gardens.
Beneath the dirt and plants lie a special mixture of soil, plants and beneficial micro-organisms. Urban runoff drains from the surrounding residential and university properties into these areas and gets treated by this special garden. As runoff flows towards the ocean, it will first get filtered and then pass through the special soil mixture that contains important minerals (dolomite, gypsum and perlite) that remove pollutants. Dolomite and gypsum absorb pollutants like metals and phosphorus. Perlite, a volcanic mineral, keeps air and moisture in the soil. This in turn helps beneficial micro-organisms thrive and be ready to filter phosphorus, metals and petroleum pollutants flowing through the soil mixture. The complex soil mixture slows down the runoff, reduces slope erosion and allows for the soil matrix to do its job – absorbing and transforming pollution that may harm organisms dependent on the ASBS.
Water comes out on the beach side cleaner. But wait there is more – the ecology embankment cleverly relies on native and climate-appropriate plants to help do its work. The plants help keep the soil alive and healthy below ground and above ground they provide habitat for other local creatures. The perfect combination of form and function.
Like planets that orbit around a sun, the ecology embankments are surrounded by other smaller but still innovative projects that also help to protect water quality in the ASBS. There are bioswales that collect runoff from parking lots; permeable pavement areas that infiltrate runoff from residential areas near Scripps, and a rain barrel connected to a rain garden that collects and filters runoff from Scripps’ buildings. These rely on the same principles: slowing the flow, letting it soak in and be treated, relying on plants and soils to do the work. All with the same goal – of keeping a special place beautiful.
This is the fifth of a 10-part blog series examining the nature of ASBS, the threats they face and the actions we can take to protect these biological hotspots for future San Diegans.
June 8 was a good day for our ocean –people around the globe observed World Oceans Day, and we here in San Diego honored our coastline with celebrations of pollution prevention and marine conservation. What better way to pay tribute to our ocean than by keeping it clean?
UCSD, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and San Diego Coastkeeper dedicated years of hard work to make changes and spread the word about ocean pollution, particularly in our Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) off of La Jolla. On Wednesday, we celebrated the installation of pollution prevention systems at Scripps, which are designed to filter, treat and prevent polluted stormwater runoff that flows into our ASBS. Speakers talked about the great benefits these installations will have, our very own staff scientist, Jen Kovecses, helped lead tours through the installation sites, and guests got the chance to gleefully toss seed balls (filled with seeds of native plants) into the new planters, which will help filter runoff and keep the ocean clean. (Check out some of the event photos below.)
After the celebration at Scripps, Coastkeeper partied on down at Hennessey’s in La Jolla with members, friends, Barefoot Wine and Bubbly, Kona Brewing Company and The Barnwell Shift. We played games, listened to great music and won some excellent prizes, all in honor of our ASBS. When we take steps to prevent ocean pollution, we participate in a movement that supports wildlife, coastal communities and the beauty that attracts people from around the world to our shores.
While June 8 is a day dedicated to our ocean, we can speak up for clean water every day through the decisions we make and the actions we take. Keep an eye out for more opportunities to get involved with Coastkeeper and keep our water clean and vibrant, and mark your calendar for June 8, 2012 for next year’s World Oceans Day celebration – I’m sure it will be just as awesome!
This is the third of a 10-part blog series examining the nature of ASBS, the threats they face and the actions we can take to protect these biological hotspots for future San Diegans.
We know from our previous posts that once a coastal area is designated as an ASBS, discharges of any waste into that area are not allowed. That was part of the initial intent of the original 1972 ASBS policy – to protect ‘natural water quality.’ At the time, no areas had been designated. By 1974, key areas of California’s coast were recognized as ‘special’ including the two areas off of La Jolla’s shoreline officially ASBS #29 and ASBS #31.
This no-discharge prohibition was codified in 1983 when the State Water Board amended the Ocean Plan to officially prohibit all waste discharges, both point and nonpoint, into ASBS. This was a forward looking and protective decision for marine conservation. Unfortunately, at the time, little was known about the number and types of waste discharges in any ASBS. It was not until 2001 that the State Water Board discovered that indeed, waste discharges into ASBS were common.
A 2003 statewide survey found 1,654 potential violations along the coast of California, and identified 391 municipal or industrial storm drains that emptied directly into ASBS statewide. This survey found that both of our local ASBS areas were receiving discharges from several sources including the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s (SIO) waste seawater (from research facilities and the Birch Aquarium) and storm water runoff, and the City of San Diego’s discharges from pipes, drainage weeps and storm drains.
To remain in compliance with the Ocean Plan, discharges must be eliminated or specifically granted an exception. The State Board determined that it was in the best public interest to allow UCSD/SIO to continue to discharge but with 19 specific ‘limiting conditions’ to protect the ASBS. This 2004 ‘model exception’ required eliminating copper and formaldehyde from seawater discharges, removing exotic species in discharges, eliminating dry weather discharges from storm drains and extensive monitoring.
In 2005 the La Jolla Shores Watershed Management Group (WMG) was formed to address the ASBS issues raised in the exception process. The WMG is a collaboration among UCSD/SIO, the City of San Diego, and San Diego Coastkeeper. Together, the WMG crafted an ambitious science-based management plan that spells out actions to protect and enhance water quality in our local ASBS. In 2008, we finalized the La Jolla Shores Coastal Watershed Management Plan.
Thankfully, this plan is not sitting on a shelf just gathering dust. Already, many of the actions identified in that report have been implemented. For example, UCSD/SIO has finished installing an ‘ecology embankment’ at La Jolla Shores just north of Scripps Pier. This project has transformed the beach embankment into a stormwater workhorse – by implementing media filters, special ‘amended’ soils and native plants, the area will infiltrate and remove pollutants from dry weather flows and some of the first winter rains, all the while providing habitat for wildlife and adding even more beauty to our coastline. The actions laid out in the Management Plan have increased our understanding of our marine environment around La Jolla and have pushed us towards achieving improved water quality for the coast off La Jolla Shores. In upcoming blogs, we will talk in more detail about many of these actions, what we know so far about their impacts, and spell out how local residents can implement some of these actions at home. Stay tuned!