Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gorgeous Weekend on Bodega Bay Waters

This has been one of the nicest weekends in Bodega Bay in a long time. After an unusually long, foggy summer, we finally enjoyed clear skies, no wind, and temperatures in the 70s!

Of course, the beaches were packed, Doran Beach’s parking lots were full by midday and a steady parade of visitors streamed through town up Hwy. 1.

The water was really the place to be! It was such fun to see kids wading along the mud flats in the harbor, powerboats cruising out to sea, and a colorful Hobie Cat race, the Sharkfeed Regatta, that took place Saturday and Sunday on Bodega Bay, right off Doran Beach. Here are some photos of the festivities.

View across harbor looking toward The Tides Inn and Restaurant.

View across harbor looking towards Old Town Bodega Bay and the abandoned boat.

View of boating channel through the harbor, behind Doran Park campground.

Backside of Doran Park beach and campground.

Sharkfeed Regatta, Hobie Cat Race Sept. 26-27

I think this is a godwit.


We finally had an opportunity to take my new kayak out for her maiden voyage and it was a blast! However, I don't have any photos to document the big event because I didn't want to risk getting my camera wet. We set off from Campbell Cove beach, near Hole-in-the-Head. The soft sand makes it a great place to launch kayaks, but it's a bit of hike down from the parking lot.

Campbell Cove Beach. Doesn't this look like a scene from Gilligan's Island?

We rowed along the base of Bodega Head and watched the Hobie Cat race out on Bodega Bay, then turned up Bodega Harbor toward town. Hugging the shore, we passed an enormous flock of what seemed fifty or more beautiful white pelicans on a sandbar-boy I wished I had the camera. As we rowed quietly past, several stretched their wings to reveal the black edges. Here's a stock photo of what they looked like:

We also saw several harbor seals and hundreds of shore birds. Next time I'll try to bring my camera. It was a perfect day to kayak because there wasn't any wind, the water was calm, and the tide was high all day. Even low tide was higher than some day's high, does that make sense? Ttfn!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Volunteers Clean Up Bodega Bay Beaches

We had a lot of fun at Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday! People were in good spirits and ready to work. Weatherwise, we started out with thick fog, but it eventually burned off and we enjoyed a brilliant, sunny day with blue skies over a shimmering Bodega Bay.

We were assigned to Pinnacle Gulch, a rocky area south of Doran Park with several small beaches that you access by climbing over slightly treacherous rocks, especially during high tide, which it was. Because this was a remote area, most of the trash we found had been washed ashore rather than left behind by beach-goers.

Here's the pile of garbage we picked up.

My husband found the large items, I trailed behind him picking up dozens of small styrofoam chunks. Normally I would have overlooked them but after reading about all those tiny fragments of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I picked up everything I saw. I also found several fishing lines tangled in seaweed. I started really getting into it. With every item, I said, "Yay, I just saved a sea creature from being harmed by this." Here's more:

The event wrapped up with a delicious barbecue lunch for the hundreds of volunteers who helped out along the Sonoma Coast. Sponsored by Whole Foods, the lunch included hot dogs, their incredible Cabbage Crunch salad (my favorite, tied with their Tailgate Coleslaw), chips (have you tried beet chips?), cookies, Honest Tea, and lots of yummy samples from other food vendors. Thank you Whole Foods!

The barbecue was held at the day use area of Bodega Dunes Campground, just north of downtown Bodega Bay. I'd forgotten how beautiful it is in there, a perfect place for a picnic and hike out to the ocean. The trail takes you through the dunes out to South Salmon Creek Beach.

The Coastal Commission's preliminary results estimated 70,000 people scoured beaches, shorelines, and inland locations up and down the California coast, picking up trash and debris, covering over 800 sites. They expect to exceed 1,000,000 pounds of trash when all the totals are in. Great work everyone!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sea Sick: Press Democrat Editorial

Here's a timely editorial from our local newspaper, The Press Democrat. Remember, this Saturday is Coastal Cleanup Day!

Photo credit: Scripps Institute of Oceanography. University of California scientist Matt Durham, front, pulls in a large patch of sea garbage with the help of Miriam Goldstein during an August research trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Sea Sick:
Rising Acid Levels, Floating Trash Are Signs of Ocean Peril

Published: Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 4:00 p.m.

It isn’t obvious from the beaches on the scenic Sonoma Coast, but the health of the world’s oceans is tenuous. From declining fish stocks to rising levels of acid to a swirling vortex of discarded plastic in the northern Pacific, there are signs that the world’s oceans could present the next environmental crisis.

A new emphasis on protecting streams offers hope for restoring fisheries, as do plans to remove dams on the Klamath River and elsewhere that have kept salmon from reaching their historic spawning grounds.

This summer, California created 22 marine protection zones along the coast from San Francisco Bay to Mendocino County, which should help restore stocks of rock fish and abalone, offering more hope to the state’s beleaguered fishing industry. Similar ocean sanctuaries already were established between Santa Barbara and Half Moon Bay, and more are likely along California’s 1,100 miles of coastline.

Meanwhile, scientists at UC’s Bodega Bay Marine Lab are focused on the threat to marine life from the changing chemistry of ocean water.

Researchers say rapidly rising levels of carbon dioxide in the air — a result of global climate change — are being replicated in the ocean. That, in turn, results in higher levels of acid in ocean water.

Scientists have found evidence that mollusk shells are dissolving and mussel beds are disappearing. Their current study is focused on oysters, but they’re also concerned about long-term consequences for abalone, urchins, clams and other shellfish.

The threat is economic as well as environmental: California’s shellfish industry recorded more than $16 million in sales last year.

“Very little is known about how ocean acidification is unfolding, other than it is,” Susan Williams, the director of the Bodega Bay Marine Lab, told Staff Writer Bob Norberg. “We are already seeing dramatic effects.”

Another dramatic effect of human activity is the huge field of discarded plastic trapped in a gyre of ocean currents between Hawaii and Japan. Known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, by some estimates it covers an expanse of ocean the size of Texas and includes as much as 100 tons of plastic, most of it discarded on land.

UC San Diego researchers recently visited the zone and found some large pieces, including stuffed toys, buckets and bottles. But the small pieces, many smaller than a thumb nail, concern them most because they’re easily swallowed by seabirds and marine mammals. Japanese scientists recently reported that the plastics break down faster in the ocean water, releasing contaminants that may add to the threat to marine life. Scientists fear there may be another patch of plastic waste in the south Pacific.

It may be impossible to clean up the plastic that’s already there, but it’s one more good reason to think twice about how you dispose of trash.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

25th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day Saturday, September 19, 2009

California Coastal Cleanup Day is part of a huge international volunteer event focused on the marine environment. In 2008, more than 70,000 volunteers worked together to collect more than 1,600,000 pounds of trash and recyclables from our beaches, lakes, and waterways.

Since the program started in 1985, over 800,000 Californians have removed more than 13 million pounds of debris from our state's shorelines and coast. When combined with the International Coastal Cleanup taking place on the same day, California Coastal Cleanup Day becomes part of one of the largest volunteer events of the year.

This year's local cleanup for the Sonoma Coast is Sept. 19 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and the staging area is at the Salmon Creek Ranger Station. They suggest that you pre-register for all beach sites or call (707) 829-6689 for more information. But if you forget to call, it's still okay to just show up on Saturday morning, ready to help.

Debris from the Garbage Patch washed ashore in Hawaii.

The need for cleanup is more urgent than ever. By now many of you have been hearing about the horrific the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Technically known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, it's an area devoid of ocean currents where floating objects tend to collect.

But "patch" is a misnomer. More than 7 million tons of plastic now clog an area roughly twice the size of Texas. There's six times as much plastic in the gyre as there is plankton, which form the base of the ocean's food chain. And plastic never biodegrades; it only breaks into ever-smaller particles called "nurdles," which often resemble plankton and are mistakenly eaten by bigger sea creatures. Not only do nurdles cause malnutrition, they also tend to concentrate persistent organic pollutants like PCBs and DDT . . . with toxic effects on unsuspecting marine diners. Here's a video from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

Plastic gets into the ocean when people throw it from ships or leave it in the path of an incoming tide, but 80% of marine debris comes from urban run-off, when rivers carry it there, or when sewage systems and storm drains overflow. Despite the Ocean Dumping Reform Act, the U.S. still releases more than 850 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm runoff every year, according to a 2004 E.P.A. report.

Plastic only photo-degrades, or slowly breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, but still remains a polymer. And plastic has been proven to absorb toxins up to one million times background levels in ambient seawater, making the floating plastic a defacto poison pill. Because of their buoyancy and persistance, most of the debris that either entangles sea creatures or found in their stomachs, is made of plastic.

Groundbreaking research has been conducted aboard the ORV Alguita under the direction of Captain Chales Moore, shown in this longer video.

Isn't this depressing? I'll be there to pitch in next Saturday and I hope you can join me. It's the least we can do.

California Coastal Commission
Algalita Marine Research Foundation
Plastic Debris