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.