Anna and I had a lovely visit to Napa Valley in late March. It rained for a good part of the visit, but spring was definitely in full swing. I especially enjoyed our visits to Schramsberg, Frog’s Leap, and The Terraces wineries.
I was literally pounding my steering wheel while listening to the KPBS Editors round table butcher coverage of the Marine Life Protection Act this morning. They did minimal research (at best), but were more than happy to speak about it anyway. There are several things which were missing from the discussion or simply incorrect:
“Fish stocks haven’t changed in 10 years”
Gloria quoted an op-ed from the UT written by someone from the fishing industry saying the fish stocks had not changed since the law was passed, in 1999. That is simply wrong and they didn’t really follow it up correctly – our fish stocks are not the same as they were 10 years ago. Major pelagic species are under huge threat and the catch size of many species is going down. It seems like everyone forgets that California has a salmon industry in a death spiral. Thankfully someone mentioned the LA Times Altered Oceans series.
“The MPAs will help keep spear fishing away from swimmers”
I’d love to see a list of all the incidents that would prompt this concern. My guess is there are very few. No one wants to spearfish where people are swimming as beaches make for lousy fishing. Why was this even discussed as a valid issue?
“Closing areas will lead to overfishing the only areas left open”
This is a ridiculous statement for several reasons. The size of the MPA at best is going to be in the 15-20% range, far less than the 30-40% range recommended by scientists. If closing that small of a percentage of space available leads to environmental destruction, then we are in horrible shape and it is all the more reason to close areas off. For more on this point, see the next two:
“The MPA’s are about protecting certain areas and will hurt fishing”
Marine preserves are not only about conserving life in the preserve. They are also about increasing life in non-preserve areas. Frequently Marine Preserves *increase* yields in non protected areas as they act as nurseries for the rest of the ocean.
“California fishing industry is well regulated, management is working”
Using salmon as an example, clearly it is not working for all species. Size and catch based fishing regulation alone (as California has) is a very poor management of fish stocks. Most species do their best reproducing when they are very old and mature. It can take many years, even decades for some species to reach a prime reproductive size. If you allow the taking of fish over a certain size only, you are targeting the very best producers of new fish. By blocking off MPA’s, you allow a portion of those best breeders to survive and produce the next generation.
Considering this network broadcast The National Parks: America’s Best Idea not that long ago, I found it very surprising that they didn’t understand the impact or importance of the Marine Life Protection Act. MPA’s preserve our ocean wild areas for generations to come in the same way our National Parks have for land use. These areas are critical to sustaining our economy, our food supply, our way of life, and ensuring it is still as much of a joy to explore our coast in 50 years as it is today.
Flying back from Calgary today we passed by the wildfires north of LA. The plume of smoke was visible from far off, and the fires seem quite close to populated areas.
2009.08.06 Diving Yukon and Ruby E
Heather, David, and I had some great dives on the Yukon and Ruby E at the start of the month. Visibility was the best I had seen on the Yukon and it was a lot of fun to explore.
2009.08.14 Diving Avalon Dive Park
Adam, Paul, Pete, and I took off for some quick ferry diving at Avalon dive park. Our ghetto dive boxes with tank bands worked great. I’ll post some photos at some point. Visibility above 40 feet was great, deeper it was very cloudy. I got to meet Oscar, the huge sheephead. His size isn’t apparent in the photos, but he is a monster.
The LA Times has some good coverage of the large debate around the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. They even get a quote from the Avalon institution known as Dr Bill:
But Bill Bushing, a marine ecologist who has been diving off Catalina for 40 years, believes reserves are the only hope of saving critical habitats and bringing back the kind of 400-pounders that made scales creak a century ago.
“The marine protection area selection process has become so tainted by politics and self-interests that it is losing sight of its original goal,” said Bushing, who has proposed five no-fishing zones at Catalina. “That is to bring marine ecosystems back to life by setting aside a network of protected areas based on the best possible science.
“It’s not reserves that will ruin local economies,” he added, “it’s overfishing.”
On Saturday I headed out on the Sea Bass to dive some oil rigs just off the coast of LA. The first dive was on the Elly oil rig. Visibility was a solid 50 feet until the end of the dive near the water pipes. There were lots and lots of playful sea lions of all sizes. A few came down to visit us on the super structure at about 80 feet, blowing bubbles and barking. After that they left us alone for while and we explored the mass of life growing on the supports. At 30 feet a large group came to visit us, and playfully looped around us while blowing bubbles.
The next dive was on the Ellen oil rig. The visibility had dropped to about 25 feet and it was fairly dark under the structure, but it was still fun to explore the structure. The currents had really picked up when we were doing our safety stop – a steady swim was needed to keep place. There weren’t as many sea lions on this dive, but it was probably that they were bored with us finally. There was a third dive scheduled on the Eureka rig, but my ear was giving me trouble so I had to bail out.
It was a gorgeous sunny day with barely a ripple on the water. The boat staff and the other divers (especially my insta-buddies Heather and Harry) were friendly and knew what they were doing. Waking up at 4 in the morning to drive to LA isn’t my favorite activity, but the reward was well worth it.
Heather posted a video that gives a pretty good idea of what it is like to be in the middle of a sea lion play time – a lot of fun. I’m in the video a couple times, rolling on my side and making strange chicken wing movements. As much as I love the chicken dance, I’m actually trying to vent some stubborn air from my drysuit. Enjoy:
Anna, Pete, Paul, and myself had a great time on Catalina Island last weekend. We started in Avalon, had a nice night in the Aurora Hotel, and then took a taxi van overland to Two Harbors. The ride was a bit crazy but provided great views of the island and even a few bison along the way.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The Santa Ana winds that were burning north LA were calming the seas and warming the air on the island. We did several dives over the course of the weekend, here is a quick round-up:
- Friday afternoon we swam over to the north point off of two harbors for a nice easy dive. Run time was about an hour due to the shallow depth. Visibility wasn’t amazing, but there was a fair bit of life around to explore.
- Saturday morning we dive Ship Rock with a bit of current. Loads and loads of blacksmith in the kelp with a curious sea lion buzzing the divers. The swim south was tough going against the current, but gliding back around the rock in the current on the way back was a lot of fun. Visibility was decent, 25-50 feet.
- Late Saturday morning we dove the NE side of Bird Rock. We started to the east on the fantastic gorgonian walls – I love em. After that we explored the north wall and the shallow kelp.
- Saturday afternoon we kayaked over to the marine preserve and went free diving and snorkeling in the kelp. No seal buddies were there to play, but the lobsters and horn sharks were fun.
- Sunday morning we tried a kayak dive off Isthmus Reef. The reef wall was interesting, but very bare. The life at 20′ more than made up for it – lots of leopard sharks and other fish.