Your Peek Into The Mind of Susan Cobb, Volunteer Water Quality Monitor

Written by Meredith Meyers

Susan Cobb, one of San Diego Coastkeeper’s most dedicated Water Quality Monitors, spends her weekends collecting water samples from across San Diego for scientific analysis. Passionate volunteers like Susan are the reason we can catch sewage spills early and find and fix the sources of pollution making San Diego less fishable and swimmable. We sat down with Susan to find out why she loves water and what drives her to protect it. 

Why do you volunteer as a Coastkeeper Water Quality Monitor?

I began volunteering when I was a teenager. My mom recycled everything (newspapers, cans, glass) and I spent a few hours every weekend at the local recycling center. When I moved to San Diego County many years later, I started volunteering everywhere I could. Finally, after helping with a few beach cleanups in North County I heard about San Diego Coastkeeper. When I read about their Water Quality Monitoring program and commitment to the waterways in San Diego, I knew I wanted to be involved. That was May of 2015 and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Besides the obvious fact that our environment is worth saving, when I joined San Diego Coastkeeper I met a room full of people that felt the same as I did. My first day as a Water Quality Monitor, I was paired up with Adrian and Steve Kwik. As we drove up the coast to the Los Penasquitos sites, I knew that I wanted to make a commitment to the Water Quality Monitoring program. Those two had been doing it for 8-9 years and I was so impressed with their attitude and longevity.

I love the outdoors. My family and I hike and camp as often as possible. We enjoy the beach and my husband’s hobby is ocean fishing. So, I consider this a perfect fit. I can spend about 5 hours once a month and know that I’m having a positive impact on this big beautiful rock we live on.    

Why is it important to return every month?

I see quite a few others that make this a regular part of their schedules each month so I know that I’m not alone. For me, it’s important to come every month because I can. I put it on my calendar, and when other things come up, I work around the water quality monitoring schedule. I am proud to say that I’ve only missed a few since starting in May of 2015.

One thing I love about coming every month is the friendships I’m forming. All of the volunteers care about the environment, but also many are in education (teachers and students) or their jobs are directly related to the environment. Also, it’s not surprising that since I am here on a regular basis, I feel confident in my knowledge of the proper procedures; which I know is important. It’s important for team members to participate each month so we can help train those who are either new or only help occasionally. A strong base of volunteers is essential to the success of the water quality monitoring process to ensure consistency in the data collection itself; whether it be location or the procedure of collecting the data.      

What should everyone in San Diego know about this program?

People in San Diego should know that local and state agencies don’t have the funding and/or man-power to monitor our water ways as they should. The data we collect and analyze is used to keep our local industries in check.  Since we collect in compliance with scientific procedures (clean gloves, dirty gloves, double bagging, keeping samples on ice, etc) and the lab follows set procedures to ensure accuracy, the data can then be used to support environmental laws if and when the need arises. 

Our waterways are the foundation of our life in Southern California. The diversity of our plants and animals cannot survive without a healthy foundation and they deserve protection. Human activity in the outdoors must also be protected. We all should have fishable, swimmable, and drinkable waters. We should be able to enjoy seeing clean water and the wildlife it supports. Our environment is worth saving for ourselves and for our future.

How do you feel about the health of San Diego’s inland waters?

The health of San Diego’s inland waters fluctuates based on numerous factors. Water quality is not solely based on how industries treat our water, it also depends on how the general public, regular people like us, act in our daily life. Runoff from homes and roads, lawn fertilizers, oil from driveways, miscellaneous trash, and more can all have a negative impact on our watersheds. We all can make a difference. What we do matters when it comes to the health of our precious watersheds.    

What do you do outside of Coastkeeper?

I’m a middle school science teacher. I encourage my students to participate in beach clean ups and any other causes they find worthy. I volunteer with Coastkeeper because I want them to know the importance of our waterways, and the environment in general. Leading by example is important.

What we all do can, and does, make a difference to others. We impact the world around us whether we realize it or not. I’ve shared with them some of the news that I learn from reading San Diego Coastkeeper’s newsletter. When the new law regarding microbeads passed, we did a mini-unit on plastics and their negative impact on the environment. One of the students this year mentioned how she thought that microbeads were part of the problem and that they should not be allowed. I let her know that the law had been passed and they were being phased out; which made her happy to say the least.

Outside of work, I love to be outdoors. My husband, daughter and I take a yearly camping trip, most often to Sequoia National Park. We have also been to Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and others. Locally, we enjoy our local coastline, Anza Borrego and Palomar Mountain. I’ve also done summer traveling with some work friends to Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.

And perhaps — your favorite San Diego beer and why?

My favorite beer is called Headbasher IPA. It’s made by a Carlsbad Brewery by the name of Arcana. We belong to Arcana’s ‘Mug-Club’ and I can’t say enough positive things about it. The owner and staff are amazing people and the two dart boards, along with the variety of food trucks, just can’t be beat. They have a nice selection of brews and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. If you’re in North County and are thirsty for a great brew, stop into Arcana and tell them I sent you.




Who Do You Want Planning Your Coastline?

Written by Matt O'Malley

A new plan is in the works that will decide the future of San Diego’s coastline. Recently, the State Lands Commission and the Port of San Diego decided to pursue a marine spatial planning pilot project off the San Diego coast. The two agencies created a Memorandum of Agreement aimed to engage community members along the way.

Marine spatial planning is a process that aimed at helping a community make informed decisions about how to use a marine area in an ecological sound and sustainable way. If done well, the process can create a framework built around achieving true sustainability and conservation in our offshore areas while integrating the successes we’ve achieved with our Marine Protected Areas. In the past, however, traditional land-use has largely been conducted for the benefit of development and industry and has often times excluded or marginalized the involvement of the environmental community. We are hopeful that this planning agreement will live up to its commitment to “transparent, robust public engagement during all phases of framework development” – including meaningful participation of the environmental community – and we remain committed to working for the protection and restoration of our coastal waters.

Why does this matter to San Diego Coastkeeper?

As the voice for San Diego’s water, Coastkeeper is committed to ensuring the region’s waters remain fishable, swimmable and drinkable. Over the past 20 years, we have:

Coastkeeper is concerned that if the environmental community isn’t involved and properly recognized in the planning of this marine spatial project, the results could contribute to streamlined industrialization of our already-stressed marine environment – meaning a major step backwards for the health of our coast.

Why is environmental community involvement important?
The Commission and Port say they view this new marine spatial planning project as an opportunity to expand on collaborative, coordinated management of the San Diego coast. However, past traditional land-use planning projects haven’t generally involved such collaboration.
To ensure that the planning of this project prioritizes the health of our coastline, the environmental community must have every opportunity to be involved, and that voice must not be marginalized in the process.

We will continue to be your water watchdogs by fighting for the health of our inland and coastal waters and ensuring that Coastkeeper remains part of the planning for our marine coastline.

Stay up to date on Coastkeeper’s advocacy efforts by following us on social media and subscribing to our newsletter.

Published in Marine Conservation

Does San Diego have aquaculture?

Written by Matt O'Malley

San Diego has aquaculture projects of various sizes and purposes in San Diego County. Each is a different form of aquaculture–which means they are in the business of fish production. While each of these projects exists today, there is also a major fish farm proposed in federal waters off San Diego’s shoreline that has our attention–Rose Canyon Fisheries.

offshore aquaculture of the coast of MaineOffshore aquaculture off the coast of Maine. Photo by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

As proposed, that industrial fish production operation would be a 24,000-plus pound commercial project off the San Diego shoreline. Because of the nature of this project, we call for congressional action to establish a clear federal regulatory framework for all aspects of the offshore aquaculture permitting process to precede any individual permit. In addition, we want to see an extensive overhaul to the environmental protections proposed for this project. If you have more interest in this aquaculture project, you can read more about the Rose Canyon Fisheries project and our concerns about its environmental impacts.

But, we thought it could be helpful to explore the variety of other aquaculture projects that currently reside in San Diego County–two located on the shoreline and three located inland. These fish farms operate under established permits and/or standards created to protect the region’s water quality, include regular monitoring to ensure the standards are met, and are in waters and lands leased from the government with an accompanying property right to locate there. These fish production businesses must adhere to water quality rules, and violations can be addressed through traditional legal and public comment means, and ultimately they remain accountable to our Regional Water Board and the general public. Many of these standards and avenues to ensure accountability would not apply to the proposed Rose Canyon Fisheries project mentioned above.

Nearshore Aquaculture

Leon Raymond Hubbard, Jr., Marine Fish Hatchery in Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad

800px-Dalyan near Kaunos detailCurrently, the most prominent fish aquaculture project in San Diego, the Leon Raymond Hubbard, Jr., Marine Fish Hatchery sits in state waters. It was built in 1995 on property donated by San Diego Gas and Electric, and it aims to replenish white seabass populations lost to habitat changes in Southern California and to fishing pressure. It is overseen by Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and has the capability to produce over 350,000 white seabass annually. The project is part of the Oceans Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program, through which the biological, ecological, and economic impacts will be assessed because it may serve as a model for future replenishment programs.

The facility can produce over 350,000 juvenile white seabass annually, which get sent to one of 12 to 15 volunteer-run net pen facilities located on the coastline from San Diego to Santa Barbara. San Diego’s net pens are located in a boat slip in Mission Bay and at the foot of Grape Street Pier in San Diego Bay. When the fish reach a certain size, they are released into the ocean, free to grow to adulthood and reproduce in the wild for fishermen to catch.

Carlsbad Aquafarm, Inc. in Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad

Since 1990, this floating shellfish farm cultivates blue mussels, pacific oysters and seaweed. It now has a secondary line of products for “live-feed” that includes micro and macro algae, copepods, amphipods and brine shrimp. The farm uses sustainable suspended long-line fishing methods that cause minimal impact on the marine habitat, wild fish populations, water quality and the marine environment. Each day over 600 gallons of fresh seawater from the Pacific flows through the lagoon, providing a clean source of seawater and nutrients for the shellfish. This farm uses lab testing and UV purification systems to monitor environmental impact.

Inland Aquaculture Projects

Portable Farms in Escondido and Tilapia Mama

Escondido has a tilapia farm called Portable Farms that says it uses a sustainable set up to produce tilapia and fresh vegetables simultaneously. The facility keeps tilapia in a 900-square-foot barn filled with pools and breeding tanks. Each year in a 6’ by 8’ space, it can produce 100 pounds of fish and 400 heads of lettuce without using soil or fertilizer. Tilapia Mama features a similar set-up and offers classes to anyone who wishes to learn how to raise tilapia and make their own backyard fish farm.

California Koi Farms in Fallbrook

Biosecure KOI breeding and growing intensive facility in IsraelThe California Koi Ponds began breeding and raising koi in 1974. People can visit the farm to see how they are bred and raised and to choose the fish you want to buy.

The Center for Aquaculture Technologies in San Diego

This facility handles work in salmonoids, shrimp, tilapia and zebrafish. It started in 2012 with a focus on advanced technologies to improve aquaculture productivity. It aims to expand its research facilities in fall 2015, which it says will house additional cold and warmwater marine and freshwater species.

Published in Marine Conservation

Resolutions Simple Enough For a Kid

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Kathryn C. Kelchner, a marine science teacher from the Chesapeake Bay, knows that lecturing isn’t the way to inspire kids to become passionate about taking care of our waters. 

So for New Year’s Resolution she took a new approach. She hung a bulletin board by the bathroom hallway, where students tend to loiter, avoiding going back to class. She posted 32 simple New Year’s resolutions for the ocean; all small things that kids and adults can do to have a positive impact on our water.

The simplicity of her New Year Ocean’s resolution bulletin board inspired us. We had to share her resolutions and we’ll be adopting as many as we can this year to ensure fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters continue to be a prime part of life in San Diego. This year I will…

  1. Make sure every single piece of trash is removed from the sea, starting by organizing local beach cleanups
  2. Reduce my use of pesticides & fertilizers – including bug spray
  3. Refuse single-use plastics
  4. Turn off car engines while waiting in lines to reduce idling time
  5. Use native plants in my landscaping
  6. Avoid plastic microbeads in body and face washes
  7. Pick up a piece of plastic litter during my day
  8. Unplug electronics like (toasters, TVs and computers) from outlets when not in use
  9. Try to use less disposable plastics (by substituting sandwich baggies for reusable containers and thermoses for water bottles) to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our ocean
  10. Use the Seafood Watch guide to inform my purchases of seafood. This will assure that I’m not encouraging overfishing of at-risk populations
  11. Become an advocate for one endangered or affected marine species and learn all about them. Then I will tell as many people as I can
  12. Learn about how ocean acidification affects turtles, sharks, right whales, walruses, polar bears, reef coral, or shell builders
  13. Enjoy and share in the life and beauty of the ocean, especially with other kids
  14. Skip the Straw! This will help reduce plastic use and keep it from ending up in the ocean
  15. Help take care of the beach
  16. Reduce my carbon footprint
  17. Be careful of marine life while on my boat
  18. Buy ocean-friendly products like jewelry not made of coral or sea turtle shell
  19. Go to the beach and take only pictures; leave only footprints
  20. Not wash my car in the street
  21. Pick up after my pets
  22. Be careful of what I wash down the drain
  23. Use natural soap and cleaning products
  24. Use cloth shopping bags
  25. Cut up monofilament fishing line, string, and rope before discarding, and NEVER let balloons drift off
  26. Prevent air pollution by not using aerosols
  27. Drive less and bike more
  28. Not flush medicines down the drain or toilet
  29. Not throw trash in waterways
  30. Not use antibacterial soap. Its most common ingredient, triclosan, is not completely removed during waste-water treatment and is toxic to marine organisms
  31. Take up SCUBA diving
  32. Not feed the seagulls off the pier

How many of these will you resolve to do in 2015?

Published in Marine Conservation

Bay Health Improves as Campbell Sediment Cap Remains Effective

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

The Campbell Shipyard used to be one of the most unfishable and unswimmable bodies of water in San Diego. From the 1880s to the 1920s, this part of the San Diego Bay served as a garbage dump, shipbuilding hub, petroleum-manufacturing center and gas-waste disposal site. These industries left massive amounts of harmful chemicals (PCBs, tributyltin, heavy metals and others) embedded in the bay’s sediment. Ever since, they have slowly leaked into the bay’s water and crippled local ecosystems. The contaminants have also worked their way up the marine food chain and now harm the health of seafood in the area.

According to the Campbell webpage on the Port’s website, in 1995 the Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered the Port of San Diego to solve the pollution problem. So the Port of San Diego, in partnership with San Diego Coastkeeper, San Diego Surfrider, members of the Bay Council and others developed a $15-million restoration plan. The project included an excavation of 15,000 cubic yards of polluted sediment from the bottom of the bay and the creation of a cap to isolate remaining contaminants from the rest of the bay’s water. The cap, built out of armored rock, concrete jacks, sand and a 1.6-acre eel grass habitat, is designed to restore biodiversity to the bay. The plan also included a 20-year monitoring period that began in 2008.

Campbell Sediment Cap Diagram

I’m proud to announce that water-quality tests indicate that the cap has been effective at keeping pollutants out of the bay. The eel grass habitat is now a thriving habitat for local sand bass, lobsters and other marine life and a protected nursery for young fish populations.

The Campbell Sediment Cap is a shining example of the great things we can accomplish when state and local municipalities, businesses, community members and organizations like San Diego Coastkeeper work together with the common goal of protecting and restoring swimmable, fishable, drinkable water. You can hear the details of the full story, starting from the 1800s to present day, at the Port of San Diego’s new Campbell Sediment Cap educational site


Published in Marine Conservation

Port Funds $2.5M to Protect Water and Communities

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

cleanup san diego bay

“The San Diego Unified Port District will protect the Tidelands Trust resources by providing economic vitality and community benefit through a balanced approach to maritime industry, tourism, water and land recreation, environmental stewardship and public safety.” – Mission statement of the Port of San Diego

As advocates, individuals and organizations, we have many opportunities to influence policy. We are the voice of the people, the children, the wildlife and the water. That is why San Diego Coastkeeper seeks opportunities to interact with elected officials and policy makers. It is why we utilize public forums to express concerns and give kudos. And it is why we want every person to know that they have a voice. You can attend any public meeting and be heard. You can write a letter or request a meeting with your elected officials. You can do that today.

This week, I was reminded of this wonderful aspect of our democracy. At its regular board meeting on October 14, the Board of Port Commissioners considered transferring funds to the Port’s Environmental Fund and Marine Terminal Impact Fund. The Environmental Fund advances projects to improve the condition of the bay and surrounding tidelands. The Terminal Fund advances projects that offset the impact of maritime terminal operations on communities near the tidelands. Taken together, these two initiatives manage projects that care for our community and ensure Port operations have a positive influence on the surrounding environment.

While deciding the funding for these activities is a seemingly benign task–perhaps even an altruistic one–two factors belie that simplicity. First, in past years, the Port has borrowed money from the Environmental Fund to shore up operational costs. Second, the Port’s own mission declares environmental stewardship and public safety as essential parts of its purpose. The decision on October 14 turns out to be one that speaks directly to the Board of Port Commissioner’s dedication to the promise made in the Port’s mission statement.

Since the Port tidelands and surrounding communities encompass five cities and many acres of protected land and water, environmental and community advocates paid close attention to this decision. Thanks to effective leadership and a timely heads up from Environmental Health Coalition’s Kayla Race, I attended the meeting to deliver comments to the commissioners alongside EHC and staff from the office of David Alvarez, San Diego City Council Environment Committee Chair.

Below are the comments I delivered on behalf of San Diego Coastkeeper. Read to the end to find out what happened. 


Good afternoon Chairman Nelson, Commissioners,

My name is Megan Baehrens, Executive Director of San Diego Coastkeeper and member of the Port’s Environmental Advisory Committee, where we were briefed on and discussed this issue in August.

First of all, let me applaud you and commend the staff on achieving a budget surplus while also fulfilling your mission. That is no small feat.

And on top of that, I commend the clarity of purpose that leads you to this decision about re-funding the Environmental Fund. While having borrowed from the fund in order to sustain important operational needs—without which the mission cannot be met–is understandable, returning those funds is equally essential to achieve the environmental stewardship that forms an important part of that mission.
I urge you to fund the Environment Fund fully at $2.0 million. And I want to call out the fact that this is not a conversation solely about dollars and cents. Each dollar represents an environmental benefit. And a benefit that has been foregone for the time that those funds were used elsewhere. Now that we have the opportunity, thanks to prudent operations, our Port deserves a fully funded environmental stewardship effort.

In regards to the Marine Terminal Impact Fund, I understand that each option you consider includes the same funding and applaud the care-taking of communities affected by marine terminal operations. The MTIF has been plagued by administrative challenges that lead it so far to mete out very few funds, if any. I hope, indeed urge you to ensure, they are addressed shortly. Otherwise adding funds to that pot is like throwing good money after bad. The Environmental Fund serves as an example of ways in which the Port has effectively issued grants and I believe you can take that as an example.

Thank you for your stewardship of our Port communities and environment and for the opportunity to speak today.


The Commissioners unanimously approved adding $500,000 to the Marine Terminal Impact Fund and $2 million to the Environmental Fund.

One moment stands out from the discussion at the meeting. Chairman Bob Nelson and Commissioner Rafael Castellanos noted that the only public comment on the item came from people speaking in favor of returning $2 million to the Environmental Fund. In any public decision, it is our right and responsibility to voice our position, our preference and our reasons for both. In this case, we are validated in that effort.

I want everyone to experience the power of civic engagement. So Coastkeeper will soon be hosting events to help you understand the ins and outs of making your voice heard. Keep an eye on the newsletter and we’ll see you then.

Published in Marine Conservation

Staying Safe and Staying Green

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Welcome to part four of our five part blog series (see part one and two, three and five) on the best ways to enjoy San Diego’s very own ASBS and Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both protected areas — the Cove and Shores are both classified as Areas of Special Biological Significance and La Jolla Shores is also a marine reserve known as the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. These posts will show you how to enjoy these special places while not harming those that live there. 

In the last post, we went through some ideas to protect the environment while tidepooling!  Today, we will see some tips on how to protect ourselves during our explorations while still being envrionmentally friendly.

Safety Guide

Tidepooling is usually a safe activity, for all ages; however, you can get yourself hurt if you are careless. Here are some safety tips, based on my own experiences in La Jolla Shores, I would also like to share with you:

  1. Stay away from the cliffs.
    La Jolla Shores is a special place, and one of the things that make it special are the cliffs. They are dangerously beautiful – rockfall is a constant threat.
  2. Watch out for waves.
    They can hit you by surprise and can even sweep you off your feet! Always keep an eye for the sea; La Jolla usually has short waves, which lead to a false sense of safety. Don’t stay near rock edges.
  3. Wear closed and sturdy shoes. 
    Rocks, mussels and barnacles can be sharp – protect yourself. Wear comfortable clothes.
  4. Know the tides beforehand.
    You may became stranded by the rising tide.
  5. Mind the algae.
    Some algae are very slimy, therefore slippery, don’t step on the algae or you can fall.
  6. Protect yourself from the sun.
    Apply sunscreen often and generously. Wear protective pieces of clothing and don’t forget your hat.
  7. Go in the winter!
    Take advantage of San Diego’s mild winter, when you can enjoy the lowest tides. You will be able to see so much more!

Greener Habits Guide

Now that you know how to be safer in the tidepools, it is time to be greener! What you bring to the beach is a big part of this, and choosing environmentally friendly alternatives to the products you usually bring. It is noticeable that while advertising tries to sell us the most expensive and high-tech, the best solution is often cheap and/ or homemade.

Sunscreen that is good for you and the environment. 
You already know that you have to use it and probably how to use it effectively. Yet, some heavy chemistry goes in this products to defend skin from the sun, and there is evidence that this can cause harmful effects in wild organisms.  You can choose biodegradable sunscreen or avoid high toxicity components to minimize effects.  Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of toxic components. Sprays and powders spread chemical particles everywhere – creams are a better option. You can also avoid very high SPF, as it can be more toxic.

Reduce single use plastics 
Snacks like cereal bars are handy, but they can contain high levels of sugar and come individually packaged, often with non-recyclable materials. Fruit is often the best solution-healthy, tasty, and biodegradable. I prefer reusable bottles for water and/or homemade juices instead of sodas and juice boxes with those individually wrapped plastic straws that often are gone with the wind.

It’s tidepooling time!

Now that you have your backpack ready and know how to be safe in the pools, it is time to go outside explore the wildlife of the shore. Just don’t forget the tidepool rules we learned on the last post. With this information, you will be up to a great time, without causing much impact on nature. Experiencing natural habitats is great way to create an environmental conscience. It is everybody’s obligation to protect these habitats, so we all can visit and enjoy.

Written by Thais Fonseca Rech

Published in Marine Conservation

Marine Ecology 101

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Welcome to part two of our three part blog series (see part onethree, four and five) on the best ways to enjoy San Diego’s very own ASBS and Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both protected areas — the Cove and Shores are both classified as Areas of Special Biological Significance and La Jolla Shores is also a marine reserve known as the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. These posts will show you how to enjoy these special places while not harming those that live there. 

Before we go exploring the tidepools, let’s learn a little bit more about this habitat.


Many species live in the narrow band between the sea and the land. Some of them make rocks their home because of the support it provides for them. These creatures are subject to many hardships: they have evolved to endure desiccation, wave impact, and insane temperature changes. Because of this they often have hard bodies with shells or calcareous (a hard, cement-like substance) deposits. Tidepools are filled with competition. Space is scarce on the rocky shore and the organisms are constantly fighting for it. They try to outgrow each other and often get creative to find new spaces. They also have to protect themselves from wave impact which is why they are often strongly attached to rocks.

The lower parts of the rocky shore are occupied by algae and other organisms that are willing to stay underwater most of the time. The higher parts are full of limpets (#8 on illustration) and barnacles (#3 on illustration) that are able to survive long periods with out water, also known as desiccation. The level of exposure to the waves and other environmental factors results in zonation of the tidepools.

Stronger organisms live in parts of the tidepools exposed to stronger waves (High Tide Zone) while fragile ones hide in protected areas (Low Tide Zone).

The zonation is very important to keep the balance of this amazing coastal ecosystem. The food web (who eats who) in the tide pools is quite complex — it consists of many levels and many different predators. As a consequence, each species has adapted to a different strategy to obtain food, creating rich and beautiful biodiversity.

tide-pool-tramplingFragile Beauty

All this ocean beauty could be menaced by our activities.

Walking (trampling)
The constant stepping on top of rocks removes their algal cover and destroys the tide pool community.

Collecting animals or even empty shells can leave the hermit crabs homeless.

Urban runoff
After it rains, the sediments and pollutants from the streets can be deadly to the tidepool creatures.

Our trash can enter the tidepools and cause damage. We need to take action to protect the tidepool communities.

The tidepools house many living creatures — when we explore them we are only guests. In the next posts, we will see what it takes to be good guests. We will talk  about “house rules”, and the ways to take care of ourselves while in this beautiful wild place.

Written by Thais Fonseca Rech

Published in Marine Conservation

The Dos and Don’ts of Snorkeling

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Welcome to part five of our five part blog series (see part onetwo, three and four) on the best ways to enjoy San Diego’s very own ASBS and Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both protected areas — the Cove and Shores are both classified as Areas of Special Biological Significance and La Jolla Shores is also a marine reserve known as the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. These posts will show you how to enjoy these special places while not harming those that live there. 

Hey, everybody! Here I am for the last of the posts in this series (insert your own dramatic music here) about the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. This time to talk about snorkeling etiquette. Although this is a low impact activity, snorkelers – who flock to La Jolla Shores – can cause significant damage. In order to prevent this, we can follow snorkeling etiquette similar to the tidepooling. Be sure to take care of your safety by making sure you know the basics of snorkeling and are well prepared before you enter the water.

1. Check that your equipment is well adjusted before entering the water.

2. Check the water and weather conditions.

3. Always go with a friend – it is safer and so much more fun.

4. Use sun screen. Sunburns hurt.

5. Please don’t disturb sediment/sand. This can cause harm to defenseless sea creatures by burying them.

6. Be careful while swimming. The waves can throw you like a rag doll, pushing you against rocks and other people. Algae can block your visibility and impede your swimming. More info here.

7. It is very important to retain your energy and stay close to the shore, especially if you are not a strong swimmer.
8. Pay attention to your surroundings, as you may encounter other swimmers, boats, and even sea mammals.

9. Don’t forget to take your trash away. Be mindful of your gear and don’t forget it on the beach.

10. Wash all your equipment and let it dry for some time, before you visit other bodies of water. By doing so, you minimize the chances of carrying an invasive species with you.

You are key in preventing impact in a rich and beautiful environment like the tidepools. We can’t risk losing such an iconic, ecological, and economically important habitat – all the effort taken to protect the tidepools and other marine habitats will pay off in the end.

See you at the cove!

Written by Thais Fonseca Rech

Published in Marine Conservation

Tidepool Dos and Don’ts

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Welcome to part three of our five part blog series (see part onetwo, four and five) on the best ways to enjoy San Diego’s very own ASBS and Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both protected areas — the Cove and Shores are both classified as Areas of Special Biological Significance and La Jolla Shores is also a marine reserve known as the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. These posts will show you how to enjoy these special places while not harming those that live there. 

Tidepooling is a great way to explore the outdoors and learn about nature. The gorgeous sea anemones, abundant mussels and luscious algae are great teachers of ecological relations in the sea (and can turn into beautiful pictures for Facebook). However, tidepooling can have a negative impact on the organisms that live there. Even though tidepool organisms are incredibly strong, they are still sensitive to human activity — you can kill several organisms in a single trip!

Tips To Reduce Your Impact

This isn’t the ultimate guide on tidepooling. You still need to use your good sense to navigate the pools. Here are some tips to help conserve the tidepools:



  1. Know before you go.
    Learning about marine life is a great way to prevent risks and increase enjoyment. Different places have different organisms and types of rock. These will change the way you need to behave. You can learn more at San Diego Coastkeeper’s website or California Marine Protected Areas website.
  2. Take only pictures
    Don’t take any shells, pebbles and organisms with you.  La Jolla is a Marine Reserve which means all of these are protected by law. It’s a temptation, I know; they are so pretty.
  3. Watch animals from a distance
    Bring your binoculars and camera; you will be able to see more without getting close! Because they are protected by law, you shouldn’t approach marine mammals. They can get aggressive if they feel cornered or threatened – have you seen how big they can be? You don’t want one angry at you.
  4. Leave your pets at home
    They may be attacked or chased by wildlife.
  5. And finally, take your trash with you.
    Bring a bag and keep this place beautiful for everyone!


  1. Don’t touch animals
    Sea animals are divas: look, but don’t touch. Touching can cause damage and/or stress to the organism. You can also get hurt. If you feel that you really want to touch the organisms, Birch Aquarium has a pool where you can touch them.
  2. Don’t overturn rocks
    The rocks protect fragile and shy creatures; by overturning them, you are exposing animals to the elements.
  3. Don’t feed or try to attract animals
    The animals can become reliant on humans. Human food can make animals sick too.
  4. Don’t destroy or damage the landscapes
    Be mindful of the next tidepoolers.
  5. Don’t step on organisms
    Watch your step; avoid stepping on delicate marine life or dislodging animals. Trampling is one of the biggest damages of tidepooling; it can potentially change the pool community.

I hope that these tips help you to enjoy your time at the tidepools. I hope it also helps to diminish the impact in the sea life. Given how many people visit La Jolla Shores each year, keeping good tide pool etiquette is the only way to make sure that future generations will enjoy the same beautiful tide pools we enjoy today. Still have questions? Check out these other tidepooling guides: California State Parks BrochureMarine Wildlife Viewing Guidelines, and Whale Watching Guidelines.

 Written by Thais Fonseca Rech

Published in Marine Conservation