As a student attorney for San Diego Coastkeeper, my work naturally revolves around the organization’s core mission of ensuring drinkable, swimmable, and fishable waters. While water is almost always the central theme of my work, there is a difference between talking or writing about water and actually seeing, feeling, and breathing the ocean. So when the chance arose to go out on the Coastkeeper boat Monday morning, I couldn’t have been more excited!
I joined Captain Chris and my supervising attorney and Waterkeeper, Jill Witkowski, onboard the Clean Sweep. It was a warm, beautiful morning, and we set off from Kona Kai marina and headed out through San Diego Bay. As we passed by Harbor Island and rounded toward downtown, however, the beauty of the Bay was besmirched by an abundance of plastic bottle and styrofoam debris. Chris and Jill both commented that the amount of trash was unusual. But as we continued on toward Chula Vista, I couldn’t help noticing that the presence of trash did not let up.
Near a public pier and marina around National City, enough was enough and our mission turned from observation and presence on the water to trash cleanup. With Jill trash spotting, Captain Chris deftly maneuvered the Coastkeeper boat alongside debris, which I then plucked from the water. Our “harvest” included the following unsavory items: spray paint bottle, chemical mixing bottle, styrofoam packaging material, block of wood, and snack chip bags.
With the engine well at the back of the boat full of our booty, we cruised back to the marina, braving the reduced visibility and sudden drop in temperature of rapid onset fog. Back near downtown, the fog dissipated, and once more we came face to face with the problem of trash on the water. We collected a few more items, then made our way back to Kona Kai. On the ride in, I reflected on the fact that from a desk in an office or library water pollution can sometimes become an abstract concept. But putting my hand into the water to pull out trash? That made it real.
Now I encourage all you readers to get your hands in the water and pull some trash! It’s an important side of environmental stewardship, and something all us coastkeepers and friends of the environment should be involved in. On October 27, San Diego Coastkeeper will be hosting “Mission Possible: Clean the Bay Day with SeaWorld.” This event runs from 8am to 11am at Mission Bay, and food will provided by Rubio’s. So please bring your work gloves, sunscreen, boat if you have one, and give us a hand. Hope to see you there!