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Mar 31 2005

Status & Field Report - March 2005

Well, it's been a long 3 months since our last dive. The rain has been relentless, with only a few days of diving opportunity in between the cloudbursts. Since the weather has prevented us from diving, we have switched to other opportunities to educate the public about our underwater habitat.

In December and January, ODA volunteer diver Chris Aultman took me up in a helicopter (he's a pilot) to survey the coast for concentrations of lobster traps, and have a look at the huge urban runoff that resulted from the intense rains (see pics at top of page). We flew over the mouth of the Santa Ana river, between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach and headed south all the way to Dana Point. We documented the ocean just a couple of days after a substantial rain on both occasions, and were appalled by the amount of trash and runoff in the water.

From 1,000 feet above, we could see garbage floating along the current lines running parallel with the coastline. The color of the water had turned from green/blue to chocolate brown, indicating a witch-brew of toxins. All the oil, brake pad dust, pesticides, fertilizers, cat and dog feces got washed from our lawns and streets and dumped into the ocean in huge amounts. The usual water pollution advisories were out, "Do not enter the water for at least 72 hours after a rain". But this time they also added that you shouldn't even walk on the sand with bare feet for fear of getting rashes and lesions on your feet and ankles! That makes me wonder - what are the anemonies, feather dusters, nudibranchs, gorgonians and the other benthic life supposed to do who can't wear shoes or relocate?

We did locate several areas of high concentrations of lobster traps that we documented and will visit these sites throughout the year looking for more abandoned gear. We also observed that the fishermen seem to target one area intensively for about 2 to 3 weeks then move on to another area.

Much thanks to Chris for taking me up in the helicopter and covering the cost of the flight. It was a real eye opener for me, and now we have some great video to show of the whole mess. I hope the benthic life that lives here somehow survived the onslaught of the pollution.

In February, I spoke at a meeting of the West Los Angeles dive club. It was a very difficult 50 mile drive in the heavy rain, but upon arrival I was greeted to a full room of interested divers. I showed our latest video and we made a lot of new friends and members. Scott Sheckman, ODA Executive Director, also joined helped us raise some MUCH needed funds. Thanks WLA dive club! And hope to see you all sometime soon and please call in with those trap locations.

ODA will be at the Whale Festival on March 13th in Dana Point. Please come by and meet lots of great people who are doing wonderful work to help the environment here in Orange County. Stop by our booth and learn more about ODA.

Kurt Lieber
Founder & President
Ocean Defenders Alliance

 
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