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Saturday, January 24, 2009

At the Edge of the Bay

Earlier this month, we had a wonderful combination of unusually warm weather - 85 degrees here in Los Angeles - and very low tides. So both Saturday and Sunday (January 10th & 11th) we spent some time enjoying the local tide pools. They did not disappoint.

We were amazed at the abundance of sea life: sea anemones, sea stars, a small sea turtle (stuck in the rocks, which fortunately everyone left alone), a colorful sea slug, and even a small octopus.

My son pointing out a tide pool to a younger boy on Saturday.

Several of the tide pools were simply chocked full of sea anemones. Especially impressive is that this is within the city limits of Los Angeles. Click on any of these photos for a larger image.

There were several other families there Saturday - which helped in finding things like this small and very colorful "Spanish Shawl" sea slug. I've never seen one of these before.

On Sunday we were back - and my daughter found this trove of star fish (technically, of course, they aren't "fish", just like technically the sun doesn't really "set").

Here's a close-up view. Wow, amazing variety - and abundance.

Sunday was also unusually crowded. Chalk it up to a weekend afternoon with some of the lowest tides of the year, and summer-like conditions in the middle of January. Unfortunately, a few individuals decided to take a "souvenirs" - including one family who filled a plastic grocery bag with half a dozen star fish. When I asked them to put them back, they looked at me like I was from another planet.

I made some follow up phone calls about this later that week. Someone finally got back to me from the California Department of Fish and Game. Yes, it is illegal to take star fish. I e-mailed the women I spoke to and, thanks to Google earth, gave her the exact location of the tide pools. I suggested a posted notice there at the beach, but didn't get any sort of response, so I have no idea if my e-mail just ended up in the electronic version of the "circular file."

Apparently, it is legal to harvest the mussels growing on the rocks, at least during winter months. They're plentiful (they grow everywhere, including the pilings of piers) and are edible. It was a little weird have some people carefully walking around the tide pools, while these guys were knocking mussels off the rocks with a shovel.
Of course, there is a balance. Almost anywhere can be picked over or over fished, especially in a large city like Los Angeles. On the other hand, care of the oceans has been entrusted to mankind. 3000 years ago, King David of Israel wrote "You [the LORD] made man ruler over the works of your hands; You put everything under his feet ... the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas." (Psalm 8:6,8). Sadly, the concept of "dominion over the earth" has been misunderstood or abused. The seas are not simply dumping grounds.

I appreciate the work of Heal the Bay here in Los Angeles and the Surfrider Foundation in terms of long term stewardship (although they might not use that word) of our oceans. Much needs to be done, and it's depressing knowing how much trash - especially plastic - ends up in the oceans every year. Stupid, really.

It's my hope that 200 years from now, my great-great grandchildren can stand at this same spot and enjoy an even cleaner and healthier Santa Monica Bay.


Ken Paris said...

It looked like a fantastic experience.

LA being such a large city, people seem more interest in what is best for THEM irregardless of laws or other people's needs. I think that is why the woman did not blink at you when you explained it was illegal to remove the starfish. It is too bad.

Anonymous said...

Spectacular photos. Must have been truly inspiring in person, at least until those pillagers took the starfish. Even more sadly, the starfish are taken home, die, and the sublime colors are lost, and eventually the starfish are thrown out. Alternatively, there are those that collect for their personal salt water aquariums (or to sell, illegally, to those w/aquaria). Looking at it a little different from what Ken said, I don't think these selfish attitudes (that's putting it mildly) redound only to large cities. God has shown us all too clearly that these attitudes are attributes of humankind. But the more people who object to this behavior, the more the spotlight is turned on those who work only to serve themselves. Why are so many species of animals and plants extinct either altogether or in the wild? Because everyone had to have one or two (or more) to take home. The old, "there are plenty more where those came from." Tell that to the passenger pigeon and the Carolina parakeet. Gene