Marine Protected Areas Update: Celebrate the Ocean!

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper
Hello friends,
World Oceans Day, on June 8, is a day to celebrate the Big Blue and all it provides, from food and fun to fresh air and jobs. San Diego Coastkeeper is offering a couple of ways to celebrate our ocean (and our MPAs!):
UCSD, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Coastkeeper are celebrating the new stormwater treatment installations at Scripps Institution of Oceanography on World Oceans Day (June 8th). The event highlights ocean pollution prevention in La Jolla and includes guest speakers and a tour of the installations. Please email me if you’d like to attend.
World Oceans Day party at Hennessey’s Tavern La Jolla (June 8th) – join us for food and drink specials, games, live music and good times
Go Blue Day at PETCO Park (June 9th) – the Padres are going blue for World Oceans Day! Tickets for our special “Go Blue” section can be purchased here
Now for MPA status:
We are waiting to hear the South Coast MPA implementation date from the Fish & Game Commission, but it’s likely to take place this fall.
Work continues to plan protections for California’s far north coast, with the community’s landmark unified plan currently under review by the California Fish and Game Commission.
The central part of our coast is already dotted with undersea parks, which scientists are currently studying to monitor the recovery of local sea life. The experiences from the Central Coast will help the South Coast in implementing and monitoring our MPAs.

World Oceans Day, on June 8, is a day to celebrate the Big Blue and all it provides, from food and fun to fresh air and jobs. San Diego Coastkeeper is offering a couple of ways to celebrate our ocean (and our MPAs!):

  • UCSD, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Coastkeeper are celebrating the new stormwater treatment installations at Scripps Institution of Oceanography on World Oceans Day (June 8). The event highlights ocean pollution prevention in La Jolla and includes guest speakers and a tour of the installations. Please email me if you’d like to attend.
  • World Oceans Day party at Hennessey’s Tavern La Jolla (June 8) – join us for food and drink specials, games, live music and good times
Jessie_Altstatt_Adams_Cove

Photo Credit Jessie Altstatt

Now for MPA status:

  • We are waiting to hear the South Coast MPA implementation date from the Fish & Game Commission, but it’s likely to take place this fall.
  • Work continues to plan protections for California’s far north coast, with the community’s landmark unified plan currently under review by the California Fish and Game Commission.
  • The central part of our coast is already dotted with undersea parks, which scientists are currently studying to monitor the recovery of local sea life. The experiences from the Central Coast will help the South Coast in implementing and monitoring our MPAs.
Stay tuned for more MPA updates!

 

 

Published in Marine Conservation

MPAs: Status, Sustainability and Seafood, oh my!

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper
We are back and ready for MPA action. Our big win in December gave us some amazing new conservation sites at Swamis, south La Jolla and Imperial Beach. Here’s the current status:
While we won the battle, the war is not over
In January, recreational fishing groups filed a lawsuit against the California Fish & Game Commission for alleged violations in the process of South Coast MPA adoption. Let’s stand behind the Fish & Game Commission’s decision and continue to spread the good word about marine conservation!
According to last week’s Fish & Game Commission meetings, South Coast MPAs are likely to be implemented in fall of 2011.
Cooking with Coastkeeper
Join San Diego Coastkeeper in our Sustainable Seafood Cooking Class (http://localhost/sdcoastkeeper/act/green-events-in-san-diego/sustainable-seafood-cooking-class.html). We are teaming up with Chef Jenn Felmly and Sea Rocket Bistro to bring you 3 nights of awesome hands-on lessons about sustainable seafood. Come with an appetite to learn (and an even bigger appetite to eat!). Tickets can be purchased here (https://app.etapestry.com/cart/SanDiegoCoastkeeper/default/category.php?ref=1841.0.270857305).
Meanwhile, along the California coast…
In May, the North Central Coast (http://www.caloceans.org/mlpa-regions/north-central-coast) celebrated the first anniversary of their network of MPAs stretching from Mendocino to San Mateo County.
Next up, the North Coast (http://www.caloceans.org/mlpa-regions/north-coast) study region is working to develop its own system of underwater state parks.
Thank you for your help to protect California’s marine ecosystems. We look forward to keeping you updated on San Diego’s new MPAs, and watch out for new and exciting opportunities to get involved in marine conservation!

We are back and ready for MPA action. Our big win in December gave us some amazing new conservation sites at Swamis, south La Jolla and Imperial Beach. Here’s the current status:

 

south-la-jolla-mpa

Photo credit Dana Roeber Murray

While we won the battle, the war is not over

In January, recreational fishing groups filed a lawsuit against the California Fish & Game Commission for alleged violations in the process of South Coast MPA adoption. Let’s stand behind the Fish & Game Commission’s decision and continue to spread the good word about marine conservation!

According to last week’s Fish & Game Commission meetings, South Coast MPAs are likely to be implemented in fall of 2011.

Cooking with Coastkeeper

Join San Diego Coastkeeper in our Sustainable Seafood Cooking Class. We are teaming up with Chef Jenn Felmley and Sea Rocket Bistro to bring you 3 nights of awesome hands-on lessons about sustainable seafood. Come with an appetite to learn (and an even bigger appetite to eat!). Tickets are now 2 for the price of 1 and can be purchased here.

Meanwhile, along the California coast…

In May, the North Central Coast celebrated the first anniversary of their network of MPAs stretching from Mendocino to San Mateo County.

Next up, the North Coast study region is working to develop its own system of underwater state parks.

Thank you for your help to protect California’s marine ecosystems. We look forward to keeping you updated on San Diego’s new MPAs, and watch out for new and exciting opportunities to get involved in marine conservation!

 

 

Published in Marine Conservation

Can Kayaking in La Jolla Keep our Water Clean?

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

This is the fourth 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.

Kayaking_Ang

Angela, co-owner of Hike Bike Kayak, looking for leopard sharks in Pinky, the kayak.

Hands down one of the coolest things about San Diego is kayaking in La Jolla.  In fact, when our staff first asked me for my bio for the website, they asked me to answer this question: “What is one thing I wish everyone knew about San Diego?” I promptly answered Adams Avenue Grill in Normal Heights, but kayaking in La Jolla came a very close second. I may be biased since I used to be a guide at Hike Bike Kayak Sports and spent nearly every day on the water teaching others to enjoy what I know now is an Area of Special Biological Significance, but it’s still downright awesome. And you should go . . . soon.

There are lots of scientists at Coastkeeper who can tell you why it’s so significant and special from an ecological point of view, and it’s all very impressive.  But as the only staff member with a bona fide college degree in Outdoor Recreation, what I can tell you is how amazing this area is for all of us to get out and enjoy.

I’ve kayaked so many places from remote Baja, the Amazon, Hawaii, and beyond, and I’d be hard pressed to say I enjoyed any of them more than some of my two hour tours in La Jolla.  I saw grey whales, green sea turtles, sea lions, common dolphins, bottle nose dolphins, blue sharks, angel sharks, a white shark, leopard sharks, limpets, shore crabs, garibaldi, sheapshead fish, harbor seals, skates, rays, guitar fish and the list goes on and on.  And the craziest part of it all is the area I kayak is less than 3 square miles and right outside a major city.

This is all in our backyard folks.  I implore you, if you haven’t already, wait for the tourists to leave, and sometime between Labor

Kayaking_Dave

Dave, co-owner, of Hike Bike Kayak and Water Quality Monitoring Volunteer, gets attacked by the elusive sand shark at La Jolla Shores.

Day and November, get down to my friends at Hike Bike Kayak for a tour.  And when you do, you’ll surely find a new appreciation for the biodiversity right here in San Diego.  With the fantastic guides still going strong at HBK, you will no doubt learn a lesson about how urban runoff continues to be the number one threat to our water quality in San Diego.  

When you come back with your new inspiration, hit me up (dylan@sdcoastkeeper.org) to get involved in protecting our ocean by joining a Coastkeeper program like our new Pollution Patrollers.  Hooray kayaking!

Published in Marine Conservation

Translating state policy into action on the ground (or in the ocean)

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

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.

The newly planted ecology embankment at La Jolla Shores.

The newly planted ecology embankment at La Jolla Shores.
Photo Credit: K. O’Connell

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!

 

 

 

Published in Marine Conservation

Swimming Pools to Tide Pools: Your Neighborhood and ASBS Pollution

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

This is the second 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.

I’m the new kid on the block when it comes to San Diego Coastkeeper’s marine conservation program, and I’m on a mission to soak up (no pun intended) all the details I can about our local preservation efforts in San Diego. One major nugget of wisdom I’ve learned in my hunt for knowledge is that ASBS are an integral part of San Diego’s (and California’s) marine conservation efforts. Let me impart on you some of my newly aquired insights, dear reader.

Both the La Jolla and the San Diego-Scripps ASBS are in the Los Penasquitos watershed. This highly urban water system stretches as far inland as State Route 67, and all water in that zone eventually flows to the coastline where both ASBS are located. Trash, pollution, chemicals and general muck that accumulate inland will sooner or later wash into the ocean through these coastal areas. Streams, gullies, pipes and holes in seawalls discharge inland water into the ocean, carrying with it  all the bacteria, copper and metals, oil and grease, pesticides and nutrients accumulated eastward.

In the La Jolla ASBS, most of these pollutants come from the flow of natural water bodies, stormwater runoff and sewers. Of the 196 discharges, seventeen different municipal storm drain outlets have been identified in the ASBS, and some pipes on the bluffs and gullies empty into the tide pools, which are teeming with fragile marine life.

In the San Diego-Scripps ASBS there are 92 discharges, and a lot of the pollutants come from landscaping and pipe drainage from (gasp!) private residences. Residential sources of pollution are a result of failing to pick up after pets, letting a car leak fluid onto a driveway, allowing chemicals to enter a storm drain through hosing or dumping and more.

Ever think about where lawn fertilizer, pet waste, leaking automobile fluids and pesticides end up? If it goes into a storm drain, that means it flows directly into the ocean, untreated. Sometimes this means flowing straight into an ASBS. Storm drains dump all the dog poop, motor oil and chemicals that build up on our streets and sidewalks offshore, which is why we strongly recommend staying out of the water for 3 days (72 hours) after it rains. Surfing, swimming, or snorkeling in pollution = reckless, hazardous and certainly not the best underwater view.

The City of San Diego, UCSD, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and San Diego Coastkeeper have joined forces to reach our goal of zero discharge in both ASBS. We are committed to educating the public, implementing changes and securing a clean future for not just La Jolla, but all of San Diego’s coastline. You can help protect our ASBS by making simple water-friendly choices from installing rain barrels to participating in guerilla seedballing. Stay tuned to this blog series – we will explore some of the most cutting edge techniques to help champion the clean oceans movement. Some topics to look forward to include:

Low Impact Development: Learn about methods for construction and landscaping that minimize the impact on nature and help protect water quality.

World Oceans Day: Celebrate a healthy ocean with Coastkeeper in our ASBS.

Beach Cleanups: Wonder what type of trash flows into the ASBS? This blog post will highlight data trends gathered from beach cleanups in La Jolla.

Water-Conscious Gardening: Have a beautiful yard and protect sea critters at the same time! We’ll share with you different gardening techniques that will help keep our ASBS pollution-free.

Seedballing:
Intrigued? I know I am.

Published in Marine Conservation

Protecting ASBS: What is an ASBS?

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

This is the first 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.

asbs-la-jolla

Photo credit Isabelle Kay

I was a lucky kid. I grew up spending summers with my family in Fourth of July Cove off Santa Catalina Island, and on weekends my friends and I would soak up sun at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach. Now I live within minutes of La Jolla Shores, where on hot days I can dig my toes in the sand and get lost in a book.

There are reasons why these places are some of the most popular destinations for tourists and locals alike. The views are beautiful, the water is crisp and marine life is diverse. In fact, all three of these areas are part of California’s network of Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS). The primary purpose of ASBS is to protect and uphold the quality of water in areas which are ecologically unique and vulnerable to damage by pollution. The State of California gave these ASBS special status in the 1970s (yes, they’re that old) as a means of conservation, to help endangered and threatened species recover, to create study areas for scientists, and to set aside places for our enjoyment. We can admire the beauty and see first-hand the amazing sea life by going snorkeling, diving, kayaking and, my personal favorite, tidepooling.

There are currently 34 ASBS along the California coast. Each one is unique, containing sensitive biological species and communities in their complex but fragile ecosystems. San Diego is home to two of these areas, including 88 acres of protected ocean at San Diego-Scripps and 450 acres at La Jolla.

While pollutants are banned in ASBS, the restrictions are largely ignored by major polluters. The animals and plants that depend on high-quality water are still threatened by sewage discharge, urban runoff and litter. These hazards add to the deterioration of ecosystems like kelp forests and tide pools, they poison wildlife and they make waters unsafe for us to play in. Polluters have been unwilling to provide the resources to clean up ASBS and have pushed for legislation that would weaken the laws protecting the fragile ocean areas. This is why organizations like San Diego Coastkeeper make efforts to change habits and spread the word about ASBS and the precious resources and wildlife they protect.

Pay a visit to La Jolla and see for yourself some of the features of our ASBS. This hotspot is protected due to its outstanding amount of marine diversity and its availability for public use and research. The kelp forest is home to bat rays, garibaldi, moray eels and shovelnose guitarfish (check out Birch Aquarium’s live Kelp Cam for a glimpse). Leopard sharks gather here to breed during the summer and gray whales pass through during their seasonal migrations. In the tidepools I can find sea cucumbers, sea anemones, hermit crabs, seastars, and, if I’m lucky, two-spot octopi. If, like me, you find yourself inspired by the sights, get involved, become a member and help fight the good fight for clean marine ecosystems!

Published in Marine Conservation

A Day Without a Dial Tone

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Did you know that the average 8-18 year old American youth spends over 7.5 hours a day accessing entertainment media? That 71% of them has a TV in their room and 66% of them has a cell phones?  Really?!

I don’t want to sound like an old fogey yapping about “the kids these days.” I get it. Being able to instantly tell thousands of your closest friends that you are eating a burrito at Ranchos with Steven Roach is cool.  There is no doubt that “Googling it” is the best way to call out your buddy when he’s spouting nonsense about Tom Brady being the greatest quarterback of all time (anyone remember a guy named Joe Montana?).  But over 50 hours a week?  That means that the average kid makes more than a full-time job of avoiding the actual, non-digital world.  

San Diego is beautiful. The sun shines over us.  The hiking is epic.  We just got a sweet new network of Marine Protected Areas.  Enjoy them!  Put down the i-phone, turn off the TV and don’t forget to shut the door on your way out.  Tell junior if he wants to LOL at his friends latest OMG before Gilmore Girls comes on Youtube, that he’d better go spend some time hugging trees and rolling around in the dirt.  Send them out for a surf.  Spend the day at Torrey Pines.  Better yet, bring them to a beach cleanup.  The possibilities are endless.

We have a mantra here at San Diego Coastkeeper that asks: “Do you spend enough time enjoying the resource you help protect?”  How can we fully understand the need to protect our environment if we don’t take time to experience how valuable our environment is?  

The ever-increasing role of media technology and remote communication in our daily lives can create a dangerous disconnect between us and the natural world.  Now more than ever we must actively maintain our relationship with nature in order to appreciate our dependence on it.  More importantly, we need to teach the younger generation to do the same.  The youth of today may grow up in a world where encyclopedias, travel agents and the yellow pages are obsolete. I’m cool with that.  But it would be a crying shame to see that enjoying the great outdoors go out of style.

So stop reading my ramblings, lace up d’em boots, disconnect from your fancy pants wireless server and go reconnect with what matters.

GO PLAY!

Published in Marine Conservation

We have marine protected areas. What happens next?

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper
They are here! They are here! They are here! 

Over the last four years, I have, on occasion, felt like a small little Who down in Whoville shouting from the top of my desktop to the world around me that I believe California needs marine protected areas. When enough other Whos joined in with the shouting, our message was heard loud and clear.  And now, thanks to the landmark decision by the California Fish and Game Commission on Dec. 15, 2010, the south coast of Cali has a bright, shiny new network of MPAs.

And now you may be pondering: what happens next? Well curious cookie, I will tell you what I know. Right now, while you are at the laundromat reading this blog on your iphone, the newly adopted MPA regulations are going through their last spin on the administrative proof-reading cycle. Soon they will get passed over to the appropriate desk in the Office of Administrative Law for approval before they actually go into effect, which is expected sometime in 2011.

Translation: We know where the new MPAs are going to be (check out the map here), but the new rules aren’t officially in place yet, so for now fishing is still allowed in all the spots that will be legally protected later this year.

And how will you and I know where the boundaries are? To start, the MPAs begin and end at easily-recognized landmarks (for example, the new south La Jolla MPA goes from Palomar Street down to Missouri Street). Boundary coordinates will be incorporated into boating GPS systems and on navigation maps. I’m certain we will see some lovely, permanent signage pop up in the near future around the actual MPAs, and you can always find the information on the internet – like Coastkeeper’s website and the Department of Fish and Game’s site.

There is also a whole component of monitoring and enforcing these gems. It will be the Department of Fish and Game’s responsibility to enforce the new regulations on the water, though the MPAs were strategically placed near city, state and national parks and beaches so land-based staff (like lifeguards) can help with monitoring and community education. But we’re also counting on the fishing community to continue its longstanding heritage of respecting fishing regulations, which will ease the responsibility of enforcement.

An entity called the Marine Protected Area Monitoring Enterprise is leading a consultative process to develop an efficient, cost-effective South Coast MPA Monitoring Plan. They are working with a variety or groups on the best ways to assess the performance of the MPAs – checking the state of the marine ecosystems over time, to see how wildlife improves or changes.  

Of course, collaborative stewardship is the most essential ingredient to successful monitoring and enforcement. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, NOAA, Bureau of Land Management and National Parks Service have already stepped up to help with research, education, outreach and compliance. Many of the aquaria have exhibits or displays on MPAs for public education. And the Orange County Marine Protected Areas Committee is a good example of government and community groups working together on ocean protection – fear not, we are already working on establishing similar groups here in San Diego.

Yes, there is still a lot to come. And yes, we should still be celebrating what we have accomplished together! You are the reason there will be marine wildlife for a long, long time.

Thanks for all the fish!

Published in Marine Conservation

A Fancy Feast revelation, and the saga of sustainable seafood

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Probably most people reading this blog are a lot like you and me – we care enormously about nature and our environment. The planet is numero uno in my book, baby. Being in the mix, working for an environmental group, I’m surrounded by good influencers and bastions of knowledge who make conscientious decisions everyday to make less of a destructive impact. But I still get excited when I have an environmental epiphany all on my own!

A few days ago, I was strolling around Target with my wonderful mom (pre-3.am. Thanksgiving sale insanity), picking up a few essentials: Tom’s toothpaste, an ironing board and cat food for my mom’s fluff ball of love. We were reviewing the selections of Fancy Feast, deciding on what delectable flavors Bella would be in the mood for over the next month. There was roasted turkey, marinated chicken morsels, grilled beef (pass on the grilled liver), and flaked tuna and shrimp feast.

… Hold on there a second. Tuna and shrimp feast?! I looked some more, and also spotted a can of shredded yellowfin tuna and savory salmon! I immediately flipped the can over to look at the ingredients listing. There it was: tuna as the second item. I guess not having a cat of my own, I was always ignorantly inclined to believe that cat (and dog) food was made mostly of meat by-products and some sort of soy or wheat product to hold it all together (unless of course you shop at those gourmet pet supply places or bake your own doggie biscuits).

But there it was, right in front of my very nose – a source of seafood consumption that never once crossed my mind before. “Holy Cow!” I exclaimed, as my mom could visibly see the lightbulb click on. “We can’t get this – we don’t know if the fish is sustainably sourced or not!” My mom did a secret eye-roll but lovingly obliged and switched out the tuna for more chicken.

I came back to the office to do some quick research – I didn’t turn up anything conclusive, but from personal experience I estimate there to be at least half a million domestic felines in San Diego county alone! How much fancy feast consumption that amounts to on an annual basis I can only imagine to literally be tons.

Fact of the matter is, our house pets are very significant contributors to seafood consumption.  And while I go around handing out seafood watch cards like sticks of gum, I never thought to talk to my friends about pet food. There aren’t really any alternative canned options on the market right now, though Mars PetCare, makers of Whiskas and Sheba, have recently committed to use only sustainably sourced fish in all its pet food by 2020.  It’s a step in the right direction, but a good reminder that supporting sustainable fisheries doesn’t just impact people – we need sustainable fisheries so humans and cats alike can continue on with their fancy feasting!

Published in Marine Conservation