Back in September, San Diego Coastkeeper partnered with the National Geographic Society to put on a community workshop about current ocean issues in Southern California. As a follow-up to that event, Coastkeeper facilitated a National Geographic grant program to support projects that carried the messages of the workshop to the public.
Two Coastkeeper staff members, Catie Fyfe of Birch Aquarium and Al Barret, Coastkeeper all-star volunteer, collected and reviewed proposals for many different projects throughout Southern California relating to ocean recreation and conservation. We selected five awardees whose projects relate to the workshop and also align with Coastkeeper’s mission to protect and restore fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters. This was not an easy task – I’m used to being the one applying for funds!
Grant Awardees are:
- WiLDCOAST – Education and outreach for marine protected areas (MPAs) to 200 K-12 students in the communities around south San Diego Bay.
- Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation – Educational field trips for 1,050 3rd grade students as part of the “Watersheds and Wetlands” component of The Environmental Stewardship school program.
- Santa Barbara Channelkeeper – Facilitating understanding, awareness and compliance with the provisions of new southern California MPAs through Spanish translations of existing outreach maps and materials.
- Tyler Stern and Lindsay Bonito – Implementing a La Jolla kayak industry training session for recreation professionals in the La Jolla Shores area in order to create awareness and comprehensive understanding of facts regarding the La Jolla Ecological reserve.
- USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies – Taking 20 select participants to the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island to learn about MPAs, scuba diving, indicator species and the impact of human activity on the coastal habitat, and developing educational materials to expand outreach to the broader public.
Coastkeeper held a reception on Monday to honor awardees, which included a talk by Shannon Switzer, a National Geographic Young Explorer who uses photography to promote ocean awareness and conservation. We were honored to host Shannon and grant awardees in celebration of their hard work to protect our ocean. Keep up the good work!
You missed out if you did not attend Signs of the Tide last night. We had a packed house of informative speakers and engaged audience members who all wanted to know–how do I buy sustainable seafood in San Diego? We have a full event recap coming soon, but San Diego Coastkeeper promised to share this list of San Diego-based seafood retailers and restaurants that we compiled in conjunction with Slow Food Urban San Diego (like them on facebook). Remember, this is not an exhaustive list.
Remember what we said–do your research, ask questions, know your priorities and ask more questions. We do not promise that all of these businesses only buy from San Diego fisherman or only sell fish from San Diego’s waters. We also do not promise that all of the fish they sell meet safe harvesting practices. But, we do know that this starting place will get you in the right direction so that you can begin asking for and supporting the use of local fish caught sustainably by local fishermen.
Also, like our friends at San Diego Fisherman’s Working Group on facebook. That’s how you can keep in touch with Pete Halmay and get updates on his progress in developing a way to buy fish directly from San Diego’s fishermen at the docks.
Big thanks to all of our speakers Dr. Russ Vettner, Chef Chad White, Fisherman Pete Halmay and Maritime Alliance President Michael Jones.
And please weigh in–where do you find your local sustainable fish in San Diego?
What can you Do?
1. Select Sustainable: Get educated about the solutions to the global issue of depleting fish populations–choose the a sustainable fish caught with sustainable practices. You can download the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide or smart phone app. You can also look for the blue Marine Stewardship Council certification on seafood available in stores. This label carries products from fisheries assessed by the Council as originating from a sustainable fishery, which allows gives consumers to identify and purchase seafood from well-managed sources. As an educated consumer, remember to ask questions when you visit a retailer or restaurant.
2. Buy Local Fish: Remember to ask where your fish is from. Seafood that is caught outside of San Diego must be shipped long distances to reach our plates. This requires large amounts of fuel, which releases many pollutants into the air that harm our environment. Seafood that is caught or raised in San Diego spends far less time in transit; giving consumers a product that has a smaller carbon footprint and helps our local economy. Knowing where fishermen catch your seafood enables you to choose healthy options of the freshest and highest quality seafood. Thinking local ensures that local fishing communities can compete with large national and international processors and maintain traditional coastal communities.
3. Support Local Fishermen: San Diego has a fleet of small-scale, owner-operated boats that target well-managed fish populations. By supporting local fishermen, you’ll preserve the environment and strengthen your community by investing your food dollars close to home. Buying local is this easy: find a fish merchant or retailer that purchases fish primarily from fishermen who practice sustainable fishing techniques in local waters and eat at local restaurants that have an environmentally conscious philosophy. The small additional cost of a locally caught fish is a wise investment in our ocean’s and our region’s future. Soon you will also be able to buy directly from fishermen, on the docks and at farmer’s markets.
Sustainable Seafood Retailers
Many moons ago, I had this fabulous idea to put together a website resource to help residents find local, sustainable seafood in San Diego. That shouldn’t be hard, right?
Several iterations later, we’re still defining “sustainable” and trying to break down what that means here in San Diego. Even though I use the word in a ton of our communications, I’ve come to realize that the word “sustainable” is one I’d like to drop like those last five pounds.
What does it mean anyway?
You can ask five different people and get five different answers. It’s a buzz word that embodies all things Earth friendly, but everyone’s definition of what’s good for the planet differs, right? You may drive a Prius and feel good about reducing your carbon footprint. But I ride a bike because I don’t think a hybrid is enough. But my neighbor works from home. Who’s right? In some degree, we all are. We are all making steps to reduce our impact.
Surely “local” is easier to define. But as it turns out, some fishermen consider “local” to be what’s caught in Baja, but that seems pretty far to me.
A few weeks ago, I went to the OB Farmers market to pick up my CSA from Suzie’s Farm and buy fruit from Smit Orchards, when I happened to walk by Poppa’s Fresh Fish. I remember reading about this booth on Yelp and salivating at the reviews of this guy’s fish sandwiches. And then I saw that he also sold fresh fish fillets.
So I decided to ask questions.
Maybe I got lucky, but I randomly asked the owner of Poppa’s Fresh Fish, Mark, and he’s been a wealth of knowledge. And patience. My favorite part of our conversations and emails about what sustainable and local seafood means to him and to me is that he keeps encouraging me to ask questions. And he gives me the straight shootin’ answer. I’ve learned that we don’t always agree on what is sustainable or local, but he helps me find fish that meets my needs and that’s important.
Here are few things that I’ve learned from him:
1) I wanted fish caught hook & line, but the only two fishermen he buys from that do this are currently taking advantage of lobster season, and therefore not fishing.
2) He warned me about deep set fish & line, which means it’s one line but it holds several short lines shooting off of it, which produces a lot of bycatch (this means catching fish that you didn’t intend to catch).
3) He has a guy that will butterfly net a fish, which means he dives into the water with a net and will scoop up one fish. It’s more expensive to buy fish this way, but guarantees zero bycatch and local waters.
4) Sea urchins seem popular right now. And when he serves them from his booth, they are still moving. (Ok, we didn’t discuss this, but I did watch it happen.) I hear sea urchin tastes great, and they currently have healthy population numbers.
5) If I email him a few days in advance, he’ll save me a side of fish, which costs less because it requires less work on his end. This deal makes it easier for a budget-sensitive shopper to make the best decision on purchasing local, sustainable fish.
We hope to publish our sustainable seafood in San Diego guide soon. Your input is valuable: what do you consider local, sustainable seafood?
Last week, I attended National Geographic’s Marine Recreation Workshop at Scripps Seaside Forum. The workshop brought together some of Southern California’s top business owners, professionals and employees in the marine recreation community. People traveled from as far as Santa Barbara to listen to presentations on current ocean issues. Presenters included experts from Birch Aquarium, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I Love A Clean San Diego, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research and our very own Alicia Glassco of San Diego Coastkeeper. At the end of the event, National Geographic announced a grant program for any business or organization having to do with the ocean, intended for projects relating to some of the topics discussed at the event (for more information on the grant program, contact me). Here are highlights from the presentation.
- Water Quality – Issues and Causes: Inland actions are directly related to our ocean through watersheds. These watersheds carry pollution such as yard clippings, pet waste, fertilizers and pesticides, chemicals, trash and motor oil. Prevention of our ocean happens inland. Click here to learn about ways you can help minimize pollution and join us in testing the water in our watersheds.
- Marine Debris: Impacts, Removal and Prevention: Alicia talked about the debris found in our oceans, with an emphasis on harmful plastic waste. These plastics are often mistaken for food by animals, leaving them to suffocate, starve and die. The Pacific Gyre, sometimes incorrectly referred to as the “Garbage Patch,” is a soup-like current system in the Pacific Ocean consisting of tiny bits of photodegraded plastic. We can prevent plastic and other debris from entering our ocean by refusing to use plastic foam products or take-out containers, encouraging businesses to use alternative materials or asking for foil or bringing tupperware for to-go foods.
- The Science Behind Marine Protected Areas: Marine protected areas (MPAs) succeed all over the world, like in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico. There, fish are bigger, they are having more offspring, ecosystems are thriving and fishermen are reaping the benefits due to the “spillover effect.” All-in-all, MPAs are easy ways to keep the ocean healthy, especially when the community is on board to ensure their success.
- Biology, ecology and movement patters of pelagic sharks of the Southern California Bight: What is a pelagic shark? It refers to a shark that lives in open water, rather than near to shore. What is the Southern California Bight? This is the large circular current system stretching from Baja to the Channel Islands and Santa Barbara. Blue sharks, white sharks, mako sharks and thresher sharks are common in this area, because the bight serves as a rookery or nursery for all these species.
- Marine Mammals: This presentation focused mainly on two kinds of pinnipeds or marine mammals with short, flat and wide flippers – seals and sea lions. Seals are small, football shaped, propel themselves on dry land by doing what looks like “the worm” and they have no external ear flaps. Sea lions are larger, propel themselves on land by using their back flippers as a sort of third foot and have external ear flaps. These animals are often on our beaches; this does not mean they are stranded. A standed seal or sea lion looks dehydrated, has dry eyes, has excessive wrinkles and you can see their hip bones. When you see a distressed animal, call a rescue team or alert a lifeguard to do so.
- The Ecology and Conservation of Giant Kelp Forest Communities: Did you know that the kelp forest in La Jolla grows the size of one adult blue whale per day?! Kelp grows so fast that it replenishes itself once every six months. Kelp forests serve as vital ecosystems for a variety of marine life, but it is negatively impacted by overfishing. This is because top predators, like lobsters and sheephead, are overfished, leaving no predator of sea urchins behind. Sea urchins eat kelp and can kill off entire forests, causing what are called “urchin barrens.” This is why one of the benefits of MPAs is healthy kelp forests, leading to healthy ecosystems.
- Communicating Ocean Conservation: making our messages meaningful: In delivering these important messages to clients, visitors or community members, know your audience. Knowing their values will help you design a message that is meaningful to them. Using simple models and analogies helps people understand issues in real, understandable terms (for example, “La Jolla kelp grows the size of a blue whale per day”).
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 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.
It’s summer–what better time to get your feet wet in the name of science?
We’re talking about marine protected area monitoring, which will help us understand the state of our sea and track the effects of the underwater parks going into effect off the south coast in October. Thanks to $4 million in grants from the Ocean Protection Council, a number of Southern California groups will soon begin a “baseline study” that will give us a snapshot of current ocean health and uses, and a yardstick for future changes.
San Diego Coastkeeper is getting involved, too. We need help with local efforts and data collection to help monitor San Diego’s MPAs. Are you out on the water (or underneath it) and want to help track what’s going on inside our protected areas? Contact me to get involved.
The word is out on the wonders of California’s underwater parks—they are good for sea life, of course, but that also makes them great places to snorkel, kayak, bird watch and tidepool. That’s why we’re so excited about this new interactive map showing the location of all marine protected areas in U.S. waters. Check it out – it’s a great way to learn the rules and get to know your local ocean sanctuary.
Finally, if you want to show your love for Big Blue, consider a new Whale Tail license plate. Proceeds help fund the Adopt-a-beach program, Coastal Cleanup Day, and other worthy causes.
Speaking of which, Coastal Cleanup Day is just around the corner – check out this website for a cleanup site near you.
Great news from Stockton, CA:
The Fish and Game Commission set an October 1, 2011 implementation date for the southern California marine protected areas! The network was designed to protect sea life and habitats at iconic coastal areas like south La Jolla and Swamis, leaving nearly 90 percent of the coast open for fishing. The new underwater parks, many of which connect to public beaches, will improve access for recreation, study and education while boosting the overall health of our ocean. You can learn all about it on KPBS or in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
If you’d like to find out more or get involved in the protection of your local marine protected area, let us know! We’re excited to begin a new phase of ocean protection, and we’ll need volunteers like you to spread the word and act out for marine conservation.
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!