By Founder and President Kurt Lieber
While the recent rains here in Southern California have been a most welcome relief after five years of severe drought, it has NOT been good for our coastal marshes, marine life, and our harbors. Let me explain.
On Tuesday, January 24, I received a message from ODA volunteer extraordinaire Darlene Summers. She said there was an inordinate amount of trash in Huntington Harbor. She sent me a picture of one spot, and while it looked bad, I couldn’t be sure how widespread it was. So, on Wednesday, she and I headed out on our newly purchased and refit “Plastic Patrol” Zodiac to see what we could see.
We didn’t get 20 feet away from the boat launch before we were astounded (and surrounded) by single-use bottles, Styrofoam plates, ice chests, bags, balls, plastic caps…. It was a total mess.
We worked that area for about 45 minutes and could tell we were not going to be able to get it all. So, we headed further out into the harbor area to see if it was that bad elsewhere. We headed towards the wetlands that border the harbor. We didn’t see much, so we took off for the far side of the harbor, and WHOA! Packed into a line of boat slips were big patches of floating debris—nearly all plastic.
To give you a picture of the area: There is a concrete culvert that funnels water from the land up north down to the ocean. This culvert is about 30 feet wide. Where this water dumps into Huntington Harbor, they have installed a floating boom that is designed to stop the plastic that floats on the surface from entering the harbor and flowing into the ocean. It works pretty well most of the time, but with the massive rains we had, it wasn’t strong enough to withstand all the water pressure. It broke on Tuesday and a “tidal wave” of debris was let loose into the harbor.
Because of the currents and tides, the debris is constantly shifting from one location to another, but it will eventually find its way into the ocean…unless someone does something about it.
Darlene and I gathered as much plastic junk as our boat would hold, but realized we need more people to help us out. I consider this an urgent emergency!
Seeing firsthand all beautiful birds swimming in this trash breaks my heart. We now have surf scooters (species of bird) on their annual migration from Alaska. They use this area as a rest and feeding stop. To see them swimming in this filth is just disheartening.
They are on the endangered species list, and we are not doing them any favors by forcing them to navigate their way around our trash. And remember: Much of the plastic debris in the ocean is small enough to be consumed by ocean critters like these!
You are needed! Come help clean this up!
I am asking you to please come down and help us out. ODA will be doing a big cleanup on Sunday, the 29th. We’ll have bags and scoop nets. If you have a small boat, please bring it along! ODA will pay for your launch fee if you help remove this garbage. Someone has offered to donate a bunch of vegan food for lunch, so you can even fill your ocean-defending belly and share some good company!
See you there?!
If you can’t make it Sunday, but want to be involved—your donations will help cover the costs involved in protecting ocean life form this deadly plastic debris. :-)