As divers, we take for granted sometimes that there are people out there trying to protect the ocean for us. We assume that when there is a major issue or event like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that every acronym in the government and science community is going to leap up and solve it, and for the most part they try to do just that. But what about the gradual declines of ecosystems that take years to happen and often longer to make right? Who deal with those problems. It might surprise you to know that in Los Angeles, divers like you are the ones making a difference.
Located on eastern most tip of Los Angeles County, the Palos Verdes Peninsula is a special place to divers. It’s where scuba first took off in America over 70 years ago and why not? It was beautiful with lush kelp forest teeming with life, providing both a physical and spiritual bounty to the adventurous new underwater water explorers diving it. It was almost too good to last so naturally it didn’t. Between it’s proximity to the largest commercial port on the West Coast, a local population with millions of people and growing, and it’s role as super convenient chemical dump site for Monsanto, we pretty much managed to turn this underwater paradise into a visual study of what the moon might look like under 80 feet of water. Now fixing a problem like a burnt out light bulb is easy. When the old bulb is gone, replace it with a new one. Replacing, repairing, and protecting hundreds of hectares of burned out kelp forest isn’t quite that easy.
There have been lots of work done over the past 45 years by a lot of different groups and organizations to repair and restore this once pristine ocean habitat. Success has been limited despite the effort but right now there is group of recreational divers and a concerned and dedicated conservation group working to change all that.
Ian Jacobson is the Kelp Project Coordinator for Los Angeles Waterkeeper, an organization dedicated to insuring the quality of water in and around the county of Los Angeles. He’s more than a scientist however. More accurately, he’s a leader, working with a well-trained team of volunteer divers to restore the denuded kelp forests along the Palos Verdes Peninsula. If he hasn’t got his team controlling an out-of-control purple urchin population, then he’s got them planting giant kelp stipes or vacuuming invasive sargassum(an evil invasive weed). There is always plenty to do and making headway towards recovery is a constant struggle. And it never stops. When work needs to be done, it needs to be done. And it’s paid off handsomely. Over 15 acres of kelp forest have been repaired to become the amazing habitat it once was. For more information about this successful program you can look here.
So what’s the problem and how can all divers help? Simple. Working with volunteers isn’t as cheap as it sounds and the overhead can really add up. Funding is always an issue. Right now the Los Angeles Waterkeeper Kelp Project is in a financial crisis. They need $20,000 to sustain the project until Spring when new funding to continue their work off Palos Verdes will become available. Good ideas and volunteers are always welcome as well. The team is always looking for helping hands.
I’ve always been a big believer that divers are the best stewards of the ocean that any community has. We get so much pleasure from our escapes beneath the waves that it’s only natural that we would want to protect our marine paradise. Supporting the Kelp Restoration Project and Ian’s team is a great way to do it. And some day, when the waters off the peninsula are once again home to magnificent kelp forests supporting the marine life it’s supposed to, you’ll know, when it mattered, you made a difference.
See you all out there.
Los Angeles Waterkeeper has set up a funding page at classy.org to make donating easy. Give early and give often.
Despite how happy these throwback Los Angeles County Instructors look, most divers are bummed to be on the beach for at least the first few weeks of the New Year. When it does open up, remember to be safe and pick your entries.Until then, those of us at CFD remind you to stay cozy and we look forward to seeing you out there.
Hi Kids. It’s lobster time again here in the southern California bight and with divers massing to make their first jump at midnight(and last at God knows when), let’s take a minute to think before we stride. I’ve put together a list of gentle diving suggestions that might help make this a memorable and/or enjoyable experience.
So from the top;
- Diving at midnight is just a horrible idea. You’ve worked all week and hustled home to get your ship together to make an island-bound boat or meet up with your buddies to ply the local waters. Then you end up waiting around to take life sustaining equipment into the dark recesses of the Pacific at a point where you would normally be in bed. Why? Tomorrow you can dive at 7:30 pm and be home by 11. Camaraderie and seafood is overrated.
- Anyone who tells you that the big bugs are hiding beneath the bull kelp is lying. They are not there. They were never there. They will never be there. They are also not really deep. Don’t be a diving shmuck. They are by the same spots you saw them hiding back when you dove the same area during the daytime.
- It’s not a race. Bug fever is anti-social behavior. Shoving people by the gate doesn’t help get you any more lobsters. It only makes you a douche. Relax. It’s a big ocean.
- If you’re standing at the gate wondering why you are getting ready to take a giant stride for your 3rd dive of the night at 3:54 am, turn around and take a forward roll into your bunk. Sleep to dive another day.
I know this may take some of the romance out of opening night but it’s a long season. Pace yourself and enjoy it. I think it was Lloyd Bridges who famously said “He who sleeps and snuggles away can always dive on Saturday.” Or maybe it was my 3 year old daughter. Either way, if you head out, be safe and follow the rules. No bug is worth getting a ticket or said ticket punched for.
It’s kind of hard these days to not to notice that California is in year 4 of severe drought. Lawns are getting browner, reservoirs are getting shallower, and my wife still isn’t buying my failure to wash her car as “conscientious water conservation.” Everything and everybody is struggling in one way or another as we march on through the dog days of Summer, praying for the El Nino to come and flood the living crap out of us.
As divers, we can feel safe knowing that our watery ocean playground is safe but what about the estuaries and wetlands bordering our coastline? With over 90% of Southern California’s coastal wetlands already lost to development and other man-made concerns, we can’t afford to lose more. Last night at the G2 Gallery in Venice, concerned citizens checked in with local scientists for the latest word on how these unique and critical ecosystems are faring. The highlight of the evening was provided by Brenton Spies, a scientist working out of the Jacobs’ Lab at UCLA. Working on the impact physical processes can have on water quality, community structure, and the presence/absence of endangered fauna, Brenton’s studies have taken him to all of the approximately 375 various wetland California. In particular, Spies uses the tidewater goby, a particularly tough and adaptive species, as the vehicle by which he helps explain his journey up and down the state studying this unique ecosytem. While stopping short of calling them proverbial canaries, Spies indicated that healthy populations of goby’s were consistent with and indicative of healthy wetlands. The takeaway wasn’t very heartening in some respects. 4 years of drought have really been hard on local wetlands but they are resilient systems and can bounce back as long as water conditions improve.
One of the real treats at the event was a chance to see first hand the photographic documentation of California’s coastal wetlands by Brenton. A talented photographer, Spies work will be on display at the G2 Gallery through September 27th. I highly recommend you check it out.
Thanks to Heal the Bay, their Chief Aquarist Jose Baccallo, and Watershed Scientist Katherine Pease for helping make this both a fun and informative night
It’s World Ocean Day and time to think about something that gives us all so much pleasure. It’s also time to think of what you can do to help protect our oceans. Below are groups working in the state of California doing just that. Think about donating a little time or money. The lobster you save might be your own. #worldoceansday.
I couldn’t help but think of the film “Finding Nemo” as I walked into Naja’s on Kings Harbor yesterday. For one thing, I’m always thinking of “Finding Nemo.” To explain, I have a 2 year-old daughter who loves the movie and lately it feels like we are always either watching it or talking about it. Always. Yesterday was different however. It wasn’t about Nemo, or Marlin, or Bruce, Or Dory, or Crush et al(shoot me please). It was all about the white milky liquid that was diffusing out into the harbor , transforming my picturesque ocean view into the environmental equivalent of spilt milk, and by spilt milk I meant a chemical dump.
It was ugly in the harbor. The noontime crowd of yachties and tourists, rousted out of their midday malaise, were visibly upset to see what was happening to the normally picturesque waterway. The fear of unabated dispersal of whatever this chemical was palpable. Okay maybe not palpable but it was still concerning. Then, when things seemed darkest and hope was almost lost(roughly half an hour later give or take), help finally arrived. It was the city of Redondo Beach public works. And then the RB Fire department.And then the RBFD Harbor Patrol. And then department of Fish and Wildlife. And then the Coast Guard. Everybody got on site and did there jobs. Booms were dropped and pipes were cleaned. They all seemed to be working smoothly together. It was very confusing. Within, 2 hours, the crisis was averted and the problem dealt with. It great to watch . I later found out from an official on the scene that the cause of the spill was some moron decided to get rid of a couple gallons of paint by dumping it in the storm drain. They didn’t catch the person of course but luckily the paint was water soluble. Thanks to quick action by the appropriate agencies yesterday, a crisis of then unknown magnitude was averted. It could have been a lot worse.
I guess to bring it all back around it really does come down to Nemo and my 2 year-old daughter. The next time you see someone dumping something into the gutter or fertilizing a lawn and them over-watering it, remind yourself what Gill the Moorish Idol knew all too well.
To report illegal dumping/discharges, anywhere in Los Angeles County, into the storm drain system, call 1(888)CLEAN LA, 24 hours per day. For more information, visit the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Website, see the “Don’t Trash California” campaign, and get more information on keeping our neighborhoods, oceans, and local waterways clean.