By Founder and President Kurt Lieber
Saturday, May 18th, was a really special day! ODA had our annual fundraiser for and celebration of our great oceans, filled with awe and appreciation for our wonderful supporters (both those who were there and those who could not join us).
For the third year in a row, we were delighted that Darlene Summers invited us to have the event at her place of business (Huntington Harbor Real Estate) in Sunset Beach.
This facility is ideal for getting folks together with both indoor and outdoor spaces where we can gather. Normally we have our boat Mr. Barker’s LegaSea right outside the back patio, but it’s currently out of commission due to a major repair being done.
The festivities started at 5pm, with the sun shining a warm welcome on the guests as they arrived. During the arrival time, ODA’s good friend Laura Angelini performed a thoroughly entertaining set of songs that had people tapping their feet! Laura has an outstanding voice, and between songs she told stories about how she loves the ocean and really appreciates what ODA does to preserve our marine wildlife. One of her original songs was about dolphins, and had several people near tears…[That's her in the photo above!]
For the next hour or so, everyone enjoyed the pleasant weather, good vegan food, and getting to know some of the 40 or so people who attended.
Around 6:30, we transitioned from the outdoor patio to the office lobby where I showed two videos while I talked about how ODA started in 2000 and some of our accomplishments over the last 19 years. I also got to announce an exciting project we are going to be involved within the next few months.
Exciting Project Announcement
I attended a workshop at the Marine Mammal Conference in January where I fortuitously met up with Mike Couffer. Mike is a research scientist of his own company, Grey Owl Biological Consulting, and shares his findings with NOAA and the Department of Fish & Game in California. One of his study subjects is the giant sea bass (GSB). These are truly amazing fish, as they can grow to be 650 pounds and 7-feet long!
These fish are endangered because of overfishing, but you and ODA have an opportunity to help their population grow. There’s a place where they congregate as young fish near Newport Beach. This site is in shallow water and has very few predators which allows the GSB to hang out (safely) over the sandy sea floor. As they start growing from one inch to 14 inches, they start migrating over the sand flats to a deep-water canyon that’s close by.
However, sadly, Mike has been noticing marine debris in this transition zone, and a lot predatory fish lurk there. Not good for the young GSB.
This is where ODA comes in! We’re going to remove all the marine debris we can find, with a goal of eliminating these man-made hiding places where the predators wait to ambush the GSB.
The GSB are making a slow recovery here in California, and we hope to help accelerate their comeback by working with Mike and documenting what we see before and after we remove the debris.
Back to the fundraiser
After showing our latest video, I announced two awards for our volunteers who have gone above and beyond us mere mortals.
First, was John Milligan for Crewmember of the Decade! John has literally been volunteering with us since day one, in 2000. He helped us get our first boat, the Garibaldi, ready for dive action. John is a jack of all trades: electrical, mechanical, computer whiz, and is willing to pitch in wherever he can.
He has always tried to save us money by doing any repairs that are within reason. Be it to our boats, our truck, or our computers. He has gotten us through so many breakdowns that I can’t recall half of them.
But THE big one was when we first received the Garibaldi.
We thought it would take us six months to get it ready for our dive operations. But when we opened the air filter on the engine to see how the carburetor looked, salt water poured out…The engine was filled with the stuff. We had to haul the engine out and have it rebuilt. It didn’t get any easier from there either. That six-month job took us three years to complete.
Thanks for hanging in there, John, AND for keeping your sense of humor about it all!
Next up, I was proud to announce Kim Cardenas as Crewmember of the Year! Kim is a really unique lady. She is a dive instructor, a technical diver, certified cave diver, and dives all over the world. But, ever since she found out about ODA, all her spare weekends find her out with us.
Kim started volunteering with us in 2014, and rarely misses any of our marine-debris-removal outings. She also started giving ODA presentations to dive clubs, environmental groups, and schools. When you meet her, you would never know the depth of skills she has because Kim is very low key and humble. This demeaner coupled with her knowledge and experience make her an invaluable leader on our dive expeditions.
Kim took her commitment to ODA to another level in November of last year when she went with me to document high concentrations of Dungeness crab traps set in central and northern California.
The majority of whale entanglements are due to this fishery. We took two flights along the coast of Morro Bay, and then another one from Monterey Bay to Bodega Bay. When we saw several thousand traps in Drakes Bay and Bodega Bay, we were horrified. Our plan was to spot them from the air and then go back with our small boat to GPS-mark each trap we saw.
We saw what must appear to a whale to be a minefield of traps. They have to try to navigate their way around these trap lines (that float from the trap on the ocean floor to the surface buoy) without becoming another victim, and their babies are even more susceptible because they spend more time swimming at the surface. No wonder whales are getting entangled up there.
We couldn’t complete the project because the boat engine broke down…but we’ll be back again this November.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to Kim, she not only has been responsible for removing over 10,000 pounds of nets, thousands of pounds of marine debris, and dozens of traps, she is fun to be around and is a much-valued friend of ODA.
After that we had a raffle of items that had been donated and we also had several silent auction items for people to bid on. The top item here was a one-week dive trip in Palau. PALAU!
Geoff Walsh had gotten this tour package donated by a friend of his who runs Palau Dive Adventures.
Thom Mullin was grinning ear to ear knowing he is going to be diving for a full week in one of the top 10 dive destinations in the world!
Thanks to everyone who came out and made this such a fun and productive event. Folks came from all over Southern California: Ventura to Pasadena and all the way down to San Diego!
Here are some of the ODA volunteers who attended: Laura Angelini, Gary Appel, Dennis Berube, Kim Cardenas, Jeff Connor, Lisa Davis, Pete Eiden, Dan Eisenbeisz, George Krisik, Al Laubenstein, Krista Lesa, Michael Lesick, Jim Lieber, Bill Maley, Walter Marti, Dave and Jean Merrill, John Milligan, Daryth Morrisey, Thom Mullin, Linda Nicholes, Blake Storie, Geoff & Susan Walsh, and Dee & Kurt Woods.
Our financial goal was to raise enough money to pay for a new davit (crane): $27,000. We got 80% of the way there – thanks to the generosity of everyone there and some people who donated in lieu of attending. We still have some tickets to the Aquarium of the Pacific to give away to anyone else who wants to make a donation towards the davit! :-)
You can see how vital the davit is: It not only deploys the RIB (rigid inflatable boat) so our crew can motor out to retrieve debris that the divers have floated the to surface, the davit also hoists up the debris so we can get it onto the deck and out of harm's way!
Thank you to everyone who procured a raffle or auction item – you know who you are and I appreciate you! Boatloads of gratitude go to this dedicated group who came early to set-up: Kim Cardenas and her friend Charlette, Lisa Davis, and Jim Leiber. Also, appreciation to my brother Jim for snapping the photos. And a BIG thank you to Darlene for letting us use/abuse your facility and for being such a gracious hostess.
I look forward to doing this again next year and hope to “sea” you there!
If you didn't get to come (or want to donate again!), we'd be honored to put your contribution with the others towards our much-needed davit (crane). Please visit our event's donation page.