Philippines – A Marine Biodiversity Hotspot (Post for Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ #11)

When my daughter was little, one of her favorite places to visit was the California Academy of Sciences, located within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  We spent a lot time looking at exhibits there, from the dramatic dioramas in the African Hall to working in a show at the Morrison Planetarium.

Of all the permanent and temporary exhibits at the Academy, the place where we spent the most time was the Steinhart Aquarium.  It was a fascinating place for kids and adults, and when we had family visiting, it was often a place we took them during their stays with us.

The California Academy of Sciences looks much different today than it did when we lived in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and the Steinhart Aquarium now feature a Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit.

Philippine Coral Reef at SteinhartThe 212,000 gallon exhibit includes the largest display of living coral in the world — all from the Philippines, a country that has the most diverse reef ecosystem in the world.

I’ve always wondered what the connection was between the Steinhart Aquarium and the Philippines, and recently learned that researchers from the Academy have worked in and around the Philippine archipelago (of over 7,000 islands) for over 100 years.

Last year, a team of scientists from the Academy explored new sites and depths in an area of the Philippines off the coast of the main island of Luzon, near Batangas.

Map of Philippines highlighting Batangas

This area  — near Isla Verde — is called the “Coral Triangle” and reportedly has over 1/2 of the world’s species of coral.

Isla VerdeFrom the Academy’s website…

Within the Coral Triangle is an area known as the Verde Island Passage—waters teeming with such an abundance of life that Academy scientists suspect it may be “the center of the center” of biodiversity.

Our 2014 expedition sought to document the astounding life in the Verde Island Passage by collecting and identifying species not yet described (and in many cases never before seen) and creating a base of knowledge that will help to protect this area going forward.

And what Academy researchers found in this “Coral Triangle Area” last year was amazing.  On June 8th, 2015 — and to celebrate World Ocean Day — they made this announcement:

100 new marine speciesHere are photos of some of the new marine species found during the expedition…

Philippine new nudibranch

 

Multi colored Philippine tunicates

Nudibranch Philippines

These new marine species are stunning, and how incredible to learn that there are still undiscovered species living in our oceans!

And who knows… perhaps one of these newly discovered creatures will help us produce a cure for cancer or hold keys and answers to the mysteries of life on our planet.

So the challenge is…. how can areas like this “Coral Triangle” be protected, knowing what we do about the severe threats to marine life and the health of oceans surrounding the Philippine islands due to pollution, over-development of coastal areas, poverty, overpopulation, climate change and unsustainable fishing practices?

From the Academy website:

To combat these dangers, the Academy developed a practice of rapidly translating data collected in the field into effective marine conservation actions.

By working with Filipino and international governments, organizations, and communities, we’ve been able to create real-world change.

Real world change means that as new discoveries are made, scientists take the data and work in collaboration with Philippine government officials and decision makers so that in turn, policy makers can take immediate actions to help protect these areas.

I realize solving the problems that harm our oceans are complex, and will require global cooperation and focus — especially as it relates to pollution and poverty.  But it seems to me, the method directed by Academy scientists may be a good model if immediate steps are indeed taken to preserve natural resources.

It is easy to be cynical (I know I am at times!) but I do think this approach, and increasing awareness about marine life is a positive step towards helping us — and the next generation of human beings — to be better stewards of our oceans and our natural resources.

Maybe the next time someone is tempted to leave trash or plastic bottles on the beach, they will remember these amazing creatures and the harm that it will cause…and do the right thing.  Ideally, the new generation will place as much focus on conservation issues as is placed today on celebrity news / political gossip.  Yes, I’m hopeful!

This video from the Academy tells how the 7,107 islands in the Philippines came to be…and the urgency in studying its marine biodiversity hotspots.

Have you heard of these new discoveries?

Are you hopeful, as I am, that scientists, conservation groups and a willing government / policy makers (and we, the public) can reverse the decline of our ocean’s health… or do you think it is too late?

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This post is part of a series in support of the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers blogging challenge hosted by Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast.  To take part in this blogging event and to see other submissions for the theme “Healthy Oceans – Healthy Planet” click here.

Previous Earth-Friendly Chroniclers articles posted on LolaKo.com are here.

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Related:

10 Ways to Rise Above Plastics

Article about the plastic bag ban in California (California is the first U.S. State to ban single use plastic bags)

Link to California Academy of Sciences

Purple flowers for Cee’s Photo Challenge — and they are invasive in this part of California

I’ve seen this plant with beautiful, spiky purple flowers growing around Monterey Bay for many years.  I took photos a few months ago when they were in full bloom.

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The flower photo above is from a shrub growing in the wild, near the Salinas river, where the river merges with the Pacific Ocean.  I spotted it while taking photographs for a post about my watershed.

I’ve always found these flowers attractive — and also photographed some in bloom at the entrance of Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey.

Monterey Fishermans Wharf yellows and pink 1

I read on one of the blogs I follow that Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge theme this week was purple, and remembered these flowers.  I have wanted to take part for a while, and thought the flowers were perfect to post for the theme.

Not knowing the name, I did an image search and learned that they are called Pride of Maidera (Echium candicans).  It is a perennial shrub native to the island of Maidera in Portugal, much loved by bees and butterflies for its nectar.  It is drought tolerant, and a popular ornamental plant in coastal California.

Great to know!  Except… it is also an invasive plant species, and now being removed in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park National Recreation Area so that the native habitat can be restored.  Sigh 🙁

And so… I’m also linking this post to Just Another Nature Enthusiast’s challenge — Earth-Friendly Chroniclers #9 — focused on invasive plants.

Here is another beautiful purple flower from a plant that I know is not native to California.  Right  now, it is growing all over our landscape, from fields, to the side of the roads and embankments.

Do you know what it is?

Wild Radish flowers purple

The flowers are from a wild radish.  Most wild radish have white flowers, but sometimes, they also have purple flowers.

From the CalFlora website:

Wild Radish California

I pulled out one of the plants and sure enough, I get that it is a wild radish… It is tiny, but the root smells like, and looks like a radish.  A miniature of the “daikon” types I see at Asian stores.

Wild Radish  roots

Wild Radish notes

Some more purple flowers for the theme… and I’m pretty certain these are not invasive here in my little part of the world.

My favorite purple flower shot thus far are the wisteria at the Pacific House Memory Garden, posted for the changing season photo challenge.

Memory Garden Wisteria

Click on the photo for more garden images, taken at the historic Monterey downtown area.

And lastly, a non-flower related (but these young girls are pretty as flowers!) photo of Baile Folklorico dance group members, performing for a community celebration on the occasion of Cesar Chavez Day.

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Click on the photo to see more dance photos, for the commemorative holiday that celebrates the legacy of civil rights and labor movement activist Cesar Chavez (promoting community service).

Yellow Starthistle: Invasive plants and the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Challenge

Sometimes, it is hard to know what plants are native to the area.  If you see it everywhere, for as long as you can remember, it must be native, right?

Field of Yellow Starthistles

Field of yellow starthistle – Photo via Invasive.org (Creative Commons) by Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California – Davis, Bugwood.org – See more at: http://www.invasive.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5374358#sthash.rDPc2dA5.dpuf

Or maybe the weather and the soil is perfect for the type of plant, and actually it is an invasive plant — a “plant bully”, the theme for this week’s Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Challenge hosted by JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org.

Yellow Starthistle Detail

Photo – Creative Commons by Stephen Ausmus, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org – See more at: http://www.invasive.org

When we lived in the East Bay area (Contra Costa County, California), yellow starthistles grew by the side of the road, in between paved walkways, in open fields…and in our backyard.

The spines under its bright yellow flowers were notorious for its strength and sharpness, and often flattened my daughter’s bike tires.

These thistles were brought to North America  by accident in the 1800’s, and now grow in just about every state in our nation, and in Canada.

It is considered an invasive species in California, and as you can see from the first photo for this post, absolutely thrives in many parts of California.

From the California Invasive Plant Council:

Yellow starthistle is native to southern Europe and western Eurasia and was first collected in Oakland, California, in 1869. It was most likely introduced after 1848 as a contaminant of alfalfa seed. Introductions prior to 1899 were most likely from Chile, while introductions from 1899 to 1927 appear to be from Turkestan, Argentina, Italy, France, and Spain (Gerlach in prep., Hillman and Henry 1928).

By 1917 it had become a serious weed in the Sacramento Valley and was spreading rapidly along roads, trails, streams, ditches, overflow lands, and railroad rights-of-way (Newman 1917). In 1919 Willis Jepson observed its distribution near Vacaville and stated: “It is 1,000 times as common as ten years ago, perhaps even six years ago” (Jepson 1919).

Yellow starthistles grow and thrive all over Contra Costa County, and in particular in the Black Diamond Mine areas (part of the East Bay Regional Park District), where these photos of our dogs Jake and Sara were taken in spring and early summer.

Jakey Boy

Jake — our black lab mix and best pound dog ever!

Sara Sassafras

Sara — the smallest, and sweetest Newfoundland…

During hikes in the summer and fall, we had to check our dogs during and after in case thistle spikes lodged near their paws, or attached to their fur.

Jake and Sara Contra Costa County hike

Our dogs Jake and Sara — ahead of us in scenery typical of Eastern Contra Costa County, California. By summer, many fields (like this one) will be blanketed with yellow starthistle flowers…establishing itself in wider and wider areas…

By summer, you could see the yellow starthistle’s flowers across many of the fields and hiking trails.  It crowds out native plants…and because of its long tap root, uses water that would otherwise be used by native grasses and native plants species.

It took me several years to completely get rid of it in our backyard.  I don’t like using herbicides (or pesticides) so I manually pulled each one I found.  Because of its long tap roots, I had to get at the base of the plant (with gloves because the rest of the plant also had sharp and itch-producing properties) and do a sort of twist and pull motion to get at it, and then dispose of it in the garbage.

Garden area

After pulling out yellow starthistles from the backyard, we eventually had a decent garden and patio area. Photo of the garden area by the side of the house is of my daughter (in the middle) her friend, Jennifer at right, and our dog, Sara to the left.

With diligence, it is possible to get rid of yellow starthistles in an enclosed area, and once our garden plants and pavers were in place, I did not see anymore of it.

It’s another story in many parts of the Western United States.  Again, from the From the California Invasive Plant Council:

Yellow starthistle had spread to over a million acres of California by the late 1950s and nearly two million acres by 1965. In 1985 it was estimated to cover eight million acres in California (Maddox and Mayfield 1985) and perhaps ten to twelve million acres a decade later. It is equally problematic around Medford in southwestern Oregon and in Hells Canyon in Oregon and Idaho (Maddox et al. 1985). It also infests, to a lesser degree, areas in eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and Idaho (Roch and Roch 1988).

Aside from small-scale manual removal, other methods to control this invasive species are listed on the California Invasive Plant Council, including mechanical methods (mowing down the plants before the flowers produce seed in the summertime).

The USDA has also approved and continues to experiment with insects that attack the plant’s flowers to minimize seed production.

Horse

Photo of horse taken at a ranch in Placer County, near the Sacramento Metropolitan area.

I’ve seen articles that indicated the yellow starthistle is poisonous to horses, but grazing by sheep, goats or cattle before seeds are formed can be an effective way to control growth if done at the right time (May and June).

Do you have an invasive plant in your area — or backyard and want to join in the WordPress challenge?  Click here for details about this challenge, and visit links for the challenge guideline.

My next post will be about another invasive plant where we now live in the Central Coast of California  —- the “ice plant”, which are seen along the coast and in the backyards of homes here in Monterey County.

Giant Sequoia and Coast Redwoods — Earth’s tallest trees, and about one that traveled from the Moon to Monterey

I could barely move my legs the next day…let alone my entire body, after our first hike in a redwood forest…

We had just moved to San Francisco from Germany, and decided to visit Tilden Park in the East Bay with my younger sister and her friend, Reggie.

We followed a trail, which brought us to what felt like the middle of the earth, surrounded by majestic coast redwood trees.

How tall are Coast Redwood Trees

Graphic Source: Save the Redwoods website – click to learn more about these magnificent trees

Beautiful…peaceful…but now we had to get back up and out of the Earth’s belly, and find our starting point.  Our daughter was about 3 then, and pretty much rode on her Dad’s shoulders (Jeff) for the entire hike.

We were young and inexperienced, new to the area, and most definitely unaware of the size of the East Bay Redwood Regional Park.  After all, we just went across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco…and the park bordered Oakland and Berkeley.

The San Francisco Bay area — with a population of 7 million — is California’s second largest urban area, after the greater Los Angeles area.  Since the SF Bay area is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, getting lost inside a redwood forest did not even cross our minds.

A map of the park would have been helpful, but of course, we did not have one. And there where no websites to visit, or smart phones back then.

After an entire day of hiking (of what was supposed to be a “two-hour tour”) we emerged from the forest and finally found our way back to the parking lot and to the car.

It turns out that the area we were in is 700 acres of an original redwood grove and part of 38 miles of trails in this gem of an urban park in the East Bay.

Despite my sad physical state and condition the following day, I’ve been in awe of redwoods ever since that visit to Tilden Park in the Berkeley / Oakland hills.

Tent next to Coast Redwood

Photo above of tent next to redwood trees, and below are from Jeff’s camping trip to King’s Canyon National Park in California –  a “Land of Giants” and part of the U.S. National Park System.  The widest sequoia redwood is 34 feet wide, and found in the King’s Canyon Park.

You can see a silhouette of a coast redwood in the middle, from his photo below. Note: Much wiser than in our 20’s, Jeff had maps, and a GPS device for his solo camping trip to King’s Canyon in 2011.

Kings Canyon California web

Redwoods are ancient trees — and Earth’s tallest, growing taller than a 30-floor skyscraper.  They also live for a very long time.

There are redwoods that are over 2,000 years old, which means there are living trees here in California that started to grow around the time of the Roman Empire.

From the Save the Redwoods League website:

Redwoods once grew throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The first redwood fossils date back more than 200 million years to the Jurassic period.

Before commercial logging and clearing began in the 1850s, coast redwoods naturally occurred in an estimated 2 million acres (the size of three Rhode Islands) along California’s coast from south of Big Sur to just over the Oregon border.

When gold was discovered in 1849, hundreds of thousands of people came to California, and redwoods were logged extensively to satisfy the explosive demand for lumber and resources. Today, only 5 percent of the original old-growth coast redwood forest remains, along a 450-mile coastal strip. Most of the coast redwood forest is now young.

Lifting a redwood

My funny photo of Jeff “lifting a fallen redwood” from our camping trip at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz mountains several years ago. Yes, I make my family pose for shots like these, just for my amusement…

The largest surviving stands of ancient coast redwoods are found in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Redwood National and State Parks and Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Besides being the tallest trees on Earth, redwoods are also among the fastest growing trees in the world.

From the Sequoia National Park website:

Sequoias get so large because they grow fast over a long lifetime. They live so long because they are resistant to many insects and diseases, and because they can survive most fires. Sequoias do have a weakness — a shallow root system. The main cause of death among mature sequoias is toppling.

When my daughter was young, we drove out to the California “Gold Country” in the Sierra Nevada to visit Sequoia National Park.  We went with my friend Nancy in the winter, so my daughter could see snow, and play in the snow.

My daughter is in the middle of the photo below — at around 10 years old — standing on a giant sequoia redwood tree stump at Sequoia National Park.  The photo was sun-faded, but you can see the stairs at the left side of the tree stump, and get an idea of its size.  There is snow around the base…and yes, that was one huge redwood tree!

Sequoia Giant Redwood Stump

Sequoia National Park was established in 1890 — for the purpose of protecting the giant sequoia trees from logging.  Though Yellowstone Park in Wyoming is the first official U.S. National Park, Sequoia was the first national park designated to protect a living organism – the giant sequoia redwood (sequoiadendron giganteum).  Even back then, they knew how special these trees where, and that the remaining trees needed protection.

Giant trees — with teeny tiny seeds

What is curious about redwoods is that despite being the largest and tallest trees on our planet, among conifers (pines), they have the smallest pine cones — only about 1″ inch long!

More from the Save the Redwoods League website:

Each cone contains a few dozen tiny seeds: it would take well over 100,000 seeds to weigh a pound! In good conditions, redwood seedlings grow rapidly, sometimes more than a foot annually. Young trees also sprout from the base of their parent’s trunk, taking advantage of the energy and nutrient reserves contained within the established root system.

I mention how tiny the seeds are, because it brings me back to the Monterey Bay area where we now live, and about a special coastal redwood tree, planted in Monterey’s Friendly Plaza (in downtown, historic Monterey, by the City Hall).

Redwood Trees Old Monterey 2

Redwood trees by Colton Hall — downtown historic Monterey.  Photo Spring 2015 by Lola Jane.

It is a special redwood tree because the tiny seed was carried to the moon by Major Stuart Allen “Stu” Roosa, a pilot for the Apollo 14 mission.

The Apollo program is the third NASA manned spaceflight program and landed the first 12 human beings on the Moon, from 1969 to 1972.

476px-Apollo_14_Shepard

Photo via public domain, Wikipedia — Launch date was January 31, 1971, and landing back to Earth on February 9, 1971 in the South Pacific.

The U.S. Forest service nurtured and planted the seed into a seedling, and in July of 1976 — to commemorate the Bicentennial or 200th birthday of the United States — it was planted in this beautiful park in the center of old Monterey.

The moon is 384,400 km / 238,900 miles from the center of our planet Earth — so the little seed already traveled for almost half a million miles before being planted in Placerville, California by the U.S. Forest Service.

Redwood Trees Old Monterey

Redwood Trees at historic downtown Monterey by the City Hall – photo Spring 2015 by Lola Jane

That is one special redwood tree!

I wonder how many other commemorative trees were planted all over the U.S. for the bicentennial, and if any other seeds made it to the moon and back…

If you are a Monterey Bay resident, or have visited this area, did you know there was a “Moon Tree” downtown?

I did not know about the “Moon Tree” until I participated in “The Changing Season” WordPress photo challenge.  Another reason I love blogging and photography.

Redwood Trees Old Monterey Moon Tree Sign

Related posts:

Close up of spikes - Rattan palm.  Rattans have spikes to help it climb over other plants, and also to deter animals from eating the plant.About another fast growing plant that can grow to 150 feet in the Philippines – The rattan, and the difference between rattan and bamboo plants.  Photo is close up of spikes on rattan palms. Rattans have spikes to help it climb over other plants, and also to deter animals from eating the plant.

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I originally wanted to post photos of the Monterey redwood moon tree this month but was inspired to expand this article about redwood trees after reading a post by my blogging friend Jane in Training. Her post titled “Get Lost” and forest photographs, reminded me of seeing redwoods for the first time and getting lost at Tilden Park’s redwood grove.  Thank you for the inspiration, Jane!

Redwoods at SF Strybing Arboretum

Admiring redwoods — at the Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

May, 2015 — looking at our family photos, I am adding this photo of my cousin and her daughter admiring redwood trees, during their visit to California.  We went to the Strybing Arboretum at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, which is another place to see redwoods as well as a wonderful collection of plants from all over the world.

Drive through Redwood Tree

June, 2015 – This photo of the Drive-Thru Coast Redwood by Allan of Ohm Sweet Ohm is another great image of the size of these trees.  My daughter and I stopped to visit this park during our visit to the Eel River in Leggett, California on the way to Ashland, Oregon.

Unless…Earth-Friendly Friday – Pulse of the Salinas River (and about California’s severe drought)

This post continues on the WordPress weekly Earth-Friendly challenge with the theme of water.  For the first week we learned about our watersheds.  In Monterey County and the Central Coast, our watershed is the Salinas River Watershed.

Monterey Bay in context of Region 3

The second water challenge theme included taking a “Water Footprint Calculator” developed by National Geographic.

For this week, the challenge was to learn about dams that alter the flow of our river and tributaries, and the purpose of the structure (Economic? Social? Environmental?).

P1180887

The Salinas River near Highway 1, water headed towards the Pacific Ocean.

This challenge was truly…well,  a challenge!  I did not get to the other questions to consider AFTER I learned about the dams in the Salinas river because the answer to this question was not very easy to find.

What made this challenge confusing was that the Salinas River actually covers two counties.  Searching for dams in the Salinas River first yielded information about the “Salinas Dam” built in neighboring San Luis Obispo County (South of Monterey county and where the Salinas River begins).

The contract to build the “Salinas Dam” in San Luis Obispo County was signed seven months before the Pearl Harbor attack. It took 3 years to build this particular dam, for water headed to San Luis Obispo.  I include this information in my blog post because their local paper (The Tribune) had a series of blog posts called “Photos from the Vault” that revisited local history.  Imagine my surprise when I saw a connection to the Philippines (where I grew up) on one of the headlines related to the Salinas Dam, after Japanese troops took over the Philippine capital Manila  during World War II:

Salinas Dam WWII

It is a coincidence that had me sidetracked about information that was already a challenge to research.  It brought back memories of stories told by my aunts and uncles about their difficulties during the war, when they had to hide out in the jungle and head to the mountains when our area was occupied — beginning when my mother was still a toddler.

But back to Monterey County…where, (alas!) I found California State University at Monterey Bay’s “Central Coast Watershed Wiki” and this information:

The main tributaries of the Salinas River are the Nacimiento, San Antonio, Arroyo Seco, San Lorenzo, and Estrella Rivers.

Nacimiento_River_photo via wikipedia

Nacimiento_River_photo via wikipedia

The Salinas River watershed has three large dams in its upper portion: The Salinas Dam, built in the 1940’s; the Nacimiento Dam, built in the 1950’s; and the San Antonio Dam, built in the 1960’s. The Salinas Dam is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Nacimiento and San Antonio Dams are managed by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency.

Nacimiento_River_Dam

Nacimiento River Dam photos via Monterey County Water Resources Agency

Further…

The Lower portion of the Salinas River is often referred to as the Lower Salinas River. The division of the river and its watershed in upper and lower portions is for administrative purposes only.

The Salinas River drains to both the Salinas River Lagoon and the Moss Landing Harbor in the center of the Monterey Bay.

So I will post this information for the challenge with this basic data, and will consider other questions posted for this challenge as time permits at a later time.

This information is important to learn, considering we are officially in our 4th year of drought here in California.  However, it is overwhelming and I am only beginning to understand all the organizations involved in providing water to the Central Coast Basin and their various roles (e.g., the Monterey County Water Resources Agency  and the California Department of Water Resources).

Based on the information below, sourced from government related websites…

Quality Water in Short Supply in Central Coastal Basin

…and because the area near where we live has already had seawater intrusion (I’ve posted information about this and sea level rise for the California King Tides Project) I’ll keep my blog post update for this particular challenge focused on seawater intrusion — at least for now.

Information on the California Drought

Several days ago, California’s drought conditions hit national news because our snow pack water content hit a new record low.  The annual measurement was at 5% of average, which broke the previous record of 25% of average in 1977 and 1991.

The photo below — where California governor Jerry Brown is standing at the podium — is at 6,800 feet elevation.  Normally, and for this time of the year, they would be standing on 5 feet of snow.  Instead, they are standing on grass!

California Governor Drought News

It is going to be a challenge to meet the new MANDATORY water reduction goal of reducing water use by 25%.  So, whether we like it or not, we are all going to be learning a lot more about water use, and our water sources…which makes this focus on water for the March Earth-Friendly challenges very timely.

To learn more about the latest California water content measurement (Sierra Nevada Snowpack) click here.  Excerpt:

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) found no snow whatsoever today during its manual survey for the media at 6,800 feet in the Sierra Nevada. Thiswas the first time in 75 years of early-April measurements at the Phillips snow course that no snow was found there. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. observed thesurvey, which confirmed electronic readingsshowing the statewide snowpack with less water content today than any April 1stsince 1950.  Attending the survey with Governor Brown was DWR Director Mark Cowin, who said Californians can expect to receive almost no water from the meager snowpack as it melts in the coming weeks.
More here…

For more information on this Unless…Earth Friendly challenge, hosted by JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org, click here.

Who to call if you see sick sea lion pups on the beach (in Monterey Bay or California)

Sea_lion_mother_and_pup

Sea lion mother and her pup (photo via Wikipedia commons)

You may have heard about the sick seals and sea lion pups washing up on California beaches…

If you see one here on our Central Coast beach, you can call the Marine Mammal Center (in the Monterey Bay, the office is at Moss Landing) at 831-633-6298.

For other parts of California, visit the The Marine Mammal Center website or call them at (415)289-7325.

sea lion link to Marine Mammal Center

Photo via The Marine Mammal Center

The image below is from a NOAA / National Marine Sanctuaries publication — Seals, Sea Lions and Sea Otters.

Who to call if you see sick seals sea lions or otters

I spoke to Kristen at the above Monterey / Santa Cruz number for The Marine Mammal Center.

Kristen said that sometimes, the sea lions go ashore to rest or to warm up, and may go back out to sea.  If they look thin, or sick, and especially if you see pups (which she said measure between 2 to 3 feet long) please call them and they will determine the actions they need to take.

They have the ability to take the seals in, or to transport them to San Luis Obispo or the main facility in Sausalito if needed (see The Marine Mammal Center website).

The NOAA / National Marine Sanctuaries publication on Seals, Sea Lions and Sea Otters also notes:

Stay Away from sick injured or abandoned animals

Never touch or try to push sea lions back into the ocean.  There have been reports of misguided people doing this — very dangerous!

Further information from the pamphlet:

  • Sea lions, seals and sea otters are protected animals. It’s against federal law to disturb them or cause them to change their behavior.
  • You’re too close if an animal starts to stare, fidget or flee. Slowly back away and stay at least 150 feet or 46 meters away. Seals on land are especially wary and may rush into the water or abandon their pups, threatening their survival.

Last month, a New York Times article reported:

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday about 940 sick and starving young sea lions have washed up on California beaches so far in 2015.

That compares to about 225 sea lion strandings that officials normally would see between January and April, said Justin Viezbicke, NOAA stranding coordinator for the West Coast region. Roughly 540 sea lion pups are being treated at rehabilitation centers between San Diego and San Francisco.

Climate change related? The article continues…

Scientists say warmer coastal waters are forcing nursing mothers in the Channel Islands or Mexico to head out farther for food, leaving behind their young for longer than the normal two or four days. An estimated 300,000 sea lions live from the Mexican border to Washington state.

NOAA Climatologist Nate Mantua said the warming is likely a historical record for the northeast Pacific and the West Coast. The ocean is between 2 and 5 degrees warmer for this time of year due to the same high-pressure system that has the state in its fourth year of drought.

This is the third year that an exceptional number of pups have stranded or died.

Sadly, the latest numbers for the sea lions strandings are now reported at over 1,400 now over 1,800 (updated March 20, 2015).

Related:

 

  • Monterey Aquarium jellyfish exhibit 2

Post about Severe Weather and Jellyfish Blooms – related to ocean warming for the WordPress weekly challenge Earth-Friendly Friday

 

  • Sick Baby Pelican

About the Pelican Die Off — when sick baby pelicans started showing up in strange areas on the Central Coast during the summer of 2012.

 

UNLESS… Earth-Friendly Friday: My Watershed – The Salinas River Watershed

Salinas River State Beach Sign webThere are several beaches on the California Central coast named after the Salinas river.

We visit these beaches often, but I did not think about the name, or about the Salinas River or its source, until the blogging challenge for Earth-Friendly Friday on the topic “Water – What’s Your Watershed?”.

The challenges this month will focus on WATER — and coincides with water related events during March (International Day of Actions for Rivers and the United Nations World Water Day).

To get started for the first week in March, the challenge is to think about rivers and streams, and to post photos. and take a look at watershed rivers/streams near us — and to tell a little about them.

Salinas River by Dole Facility facing east web

Photo of the Salinas RIver facing east, by California State Highway 1 byr the large Dole shipping facility near the city of Marina

This challenge is interesting because I did not know very much about watersheds — and in participating in this challenge, I learned something new!

The Salinas River Watershed

The watershed for our area is the Salinas river watershed and covers 4,600 square miles.   It turns out that the Salinas river originates in San Luis Obispo county (south of Monterey County) before emptying into the Monterey Bay — and merging with the Pacific ocean.

Information from the Sustainable Conservation website:

  • The Salinas River flows northwesterly through the Salinas valley (the valley lies in the Coast Ranges and is defined to the west by the Sierra de Salinas and east by the Gabilan Range).
  • It is 10 miles wide and 155 miles long
  • Primary land uses in the Salinas River watershed are row crops, vineyards, pasture and grazing lands, as well as urban areas, military bases and public open space

Problems Facing the Watershed

I’ve posted several articles on my blog about Monterey County’s mild weather, rich soils, and its multi-billion dollar agricultural industry.  The agricultural industry is a major source of jobs for many in this county, but is also a source of environmental problems.

Again, from the Sustainable Conservation website:

  • The intense agricultural production has created a variety of problems for the area’s natural resources.
    1. Rainfall and irrigation produce runoff that carries soils and associated pesticides and pollutants into the watercourses and down to the ocean.
    2. Clearing stream banks of vegetation has reduced and degraded habitat for avian and aquatic species.
    3. Erosion has filled the streams and reduced their natural functioning.
    4. The degradation of habitat and water quality has contributed to the steep decline in steelhead (fish) populations, and generally reduces the diversity of species and natural productivity of the area.
  • Unabated, this continuing loss of natural functioning contributes to the overall decline of California’s native plant and animal species and lowers the quality of life for our communities as well.
Salinas River by Dole Facility web

Salinas river flowing towards Pacific Ocean by California State Highway 1, facing west near Dole facility and town of Marina

The Salinas River Watershed is the 4th largest watershed in California.  Interestingly, the Salinas river is also known as the “The Upside Down River” because unlike most California rivers that flow west or south, it flows northward and has one of the largest subsurface flows in the nation.  From the Conservation Consulting website:

  • The river flows into one of the worlds most diverse marine ecosystems, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
  • The river is designated by the California State Water Resources Control Board as one of the most critical watersheds in California (more on California water resources, here)

I’m planning on visiting some river areas farther up our county this year and learning more about the Salinas river, including about the 20 wineries along Monterey County’s “River Road Wine Trail”.  I wonder…do these river road wineries follow the Salinas river or its tributaries?

Photo below from another California State Park beach area related to the Salinas river, near the town of Moss Landing, California.

Salinas River State Beach at Moss Landing 1

Photo after sunset near Salinas River State beach at Moss Landing

To take part in this challenge and to see responses.. click here.

This new blogging event is inspired by prophetic words written in 1971 by Dr. Seuss in his book – The Lorax …” UNLESS . . . someone like youcares a whole awful lot,nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Story of the whole valley web Related: Oldtown Salinas photos and post about author John Steinbeck for WordPress Photo Challenge.

The Salinas River is mentioned in many of Steinbeck’s novels.

Quote below from his 1952 novel,  East of Eden…

“The Salinas was only a part-time river.  The summer sun drove it underground.  It was not a fine river at all, but it was the only one we had so we boasted about it –how dangerous it was in a wet winter and how dry it was in a dry summer.”

From hunting whales to celebrating whales in Monterey Bay

IMG00581Among the photographs posted the year I began my blog in 2011 were images from a beach walk that turned out to be remnants of an old pier in Moss Landing, California.

IMG00580

We were still new to the area so I did not yet know the history. and I noted that “from this angle, it had a sort of mysterious, Stonehenge feel about it” on the blog post, and asked if anyone had information.

I immediately received comments from my friend Jean, who grew up in Santa Cruz, as well as Monterey County native Melanie Mayer-Gideon informing me that the items jutting out from the beach were indeed remnants of the pier that once stood there.

I also learned the pier was used by whaling ships — and the area’s beach landed and processed whales, which may explain my Stonehenge comment, since Stonehenge was a burial ground in its early history.

Whalefest LogoLast month, the annual festival called “Whalefest” took place in Monterey’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf.  The festival promotes the Monterey Bay as the “Whale Watching Capital of the World”.

The festival is in its 5th year and celebrates the migration of whales, the Monterey Bay’s marine wildlife, and raises funds that benefit local marine conservation and non-profit organizations.

While this festival is a positive one and educating the public on whales and wildlife conservation is important, I think it is also important to explore and look into the history of whales in this area…before “Whalefest”.

A publication from the state of California Fish and Game Commission titled “A History of California Shore Whaling” provided information, starting with early accounts of whales on our coast from 1602:

Perhaps whales were first mentioned on our coast by Sebastian Vizcaino in the year 1602, though this is of purely literary interest, for we do not need to be told that whales were on the coast as long as there have been such things as whales.

The following translation of Vizcaino’s voyage is given by Venegas in his history of California in 1758:

“This bay also had been already surveyed by the Almirante [one of Vizcaino’s ships] who gave it the name of Bahia de Belenas or Whale Bay, on account of the multitudes of that large fish they saw there, being drawn thither by the abundance of several kinds of fish.”[1]

Carmel Whaling Station

This was in Lower California, but farther on in the same account in writing of the Bay of “Monte-rey” he includes among the animals of the bay “huge sea wolves [or sea lions] and whales.”

Venegas himself says: “But the most distinguished fish of both seas are the whales; which induced the ancient cosmographers to call California, Punta de Belenas, or Cape Whale; and these fish being found in multitudes along both coasts give name to a channel in the gulf, and a bay in the south sea.” “Cape Whale” refers to Lower California, “both seas” to the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California.

California SealThe report (by Edwin C. Starks, Stanford University and printed in 1923 by the California State Printing Office) discusses whaling methods, from conventional ship whaling to “shore whaling”.

The shore whaling part is where the Moss Landing pier history comes in.

Included in the report were historical photographs of the operation at the same beach where I took my photos in December, 2011.

Whaling Station at Moss Landing

Humpback at at Moss Landing Whaling StationHumpback at at Moss Landing Whaling Station 1Humpback at at Moss Landing Whaling Station 2

Early societies used whale oil processed from whale blubber to light oil lamps as well as for soaps and margarine.

When kerosene (also known as paraffin)  was invented and more economical vegetable-based oils became available in the mid 1800s, the demand for whale oil declined, and the whaling industry — including shore whaling operations —  started to cease operations.

Whale hunting policies also changed after the signing of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in 1946 to “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”.  The regulation governed the commercial, scientific, and aboriginal subsistence whaling practices for its fifty-nine member nations.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was set up as a result of the 1946 agreement, and in the 1980s, the IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling.  From the IWC website:

Uncertainty over whale numbers led to the introduction of a ‘moratorium’ on commercial whaling in 1986.  This remains in place although the Commission continues to set catch limits for aboriginal subsistence whaling.

Today, the Commission also works to understand and address a wide range of non-whaling threats to cetaceans including entanglement, ship strike, marine debris, climate change and other environmental concerns.

It is interesting that the invention of kerosene, a by-product of petroleum, most likely saved some species of whales from extinction.  Yet, another modern petroleum-based material — plastics and nylons used in marine nets, ropes / ship rigging — is now contributing to the trash problems plaguing our oceans and threatens whales.

I wondered why whales have been on my mind recently…and the purpose for this blog post.  Maybe a combination of the disturbing news last week on the new study of the enormous amount of  plastic trash entering our oceans had me thinking about marine life, and, as I am nearing my 4th year blog birthday, I am looking to see if older posts need updates, including one that had my Moss Landing pier photos (What Low Tide Reveals) .

As it turns out, this blog post exploring the history of whales in the Monterey Bay, from hunting them to now celebrating them in a whale themed festival  —- is actually one of hope for me…

It is validation that although we human beings can create suffering and havoc, we are also capable of change, that we can invent something — or come up with solutions to address the mess that we create (I am thinking about our current oceans plastics mess here, too!)

The same beach area once used to land and process whales is now home to the  Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institue (MBARI)…

…a world center for advanced research and education in ocean science and technology, and to do so through the development of better instruments, systems, and methods for scientific research in the deep waters of the ocean

MBARI building photo

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) building now stands in the area previously used for whaling operations

And from their website on “Why MBARI is located in Moss Landing?”

Monterey Bay is one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water in the world. The Monterey Canyon, which bisects Monterey Bay, is one of the deepest underwater canyons along the continental United States. MBARI’s facilities at Moss Landing are located within meters of the head of Monterey Canyon, allowing researchers to reach waters 3,600 meters deep within a few hours of leaving port.

Last night, the new series EARTH: A New Wild aired on PBS.  Among the stories featured (focused on our oceans) was about turning a slimy, industrial wasteland at New York City’s Pier 29 back into an ocean habitat.  They are doing this through helping oysters repopulate the area.  The oysters and muscles filter the water, and quite quickly, it becomes clean enough for other species to move in.

Why do Whales sing image

Click on image to learn why whales sing….

If we can implement a way to clean the ocean water near a metropolis like New York City…well, why not other places?  Again, hopeful! 

The program is well produced, and I will try to catch the rest in the series.

Click on the whale photo to learn more, and to see the article about why whales “sing”.

Have you heard whale songs?  When I was 15, my art teacher played whale songs in the background as inspiration during a week when she encouraged her students to create art, or write poetry about whales.

You see how teachers can inspire?  Here I am now…a grandmother…who loves whales.  Maybe that is the point of this post too…inspirations, and to always have hope.


 

Further reading:

A History of California Shore Whaling – BY Edwin C. Starks, Stanford University,  California State Printing Office, Sacramento 1923

Whaling Controversy – Article on Wikipedia about the international environmental and ethical debate over whale hunting.

Related post on LolaKo.com:

What does whale baleen feel like?

What does whale baleen feel like?

 

Monterey WhaleFest at Old Fisherman’s Wharf

Photos and blog post  from a visit to WhaleFest with my grandsons Jun and Gabriel

 


 

UNLESS…Earth-Friendly Friday: Book Recommendation – Plastic, A Toxic Love Story

book_plastic_greyThis post is in support of a brand new weekly WordPress blogging event created and hosted by JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org.

The theme for the first challenge is Plastic, and I’m submitting a book recommendation.

The book Plastics – A Toxic Love Story, by science writer Susan Freinkel is comprehensive, and a fascinating read about the history of plastic and products familiar to all of us.

I highly recommend if you want to understand our love/hate relationship with plastics. For local residents, it is available at our Monterey County Public Library system.   Introduction below:

Here is an excerpt from a post on my blog right after the book was published:

Ms. Freinkel chooses eight objects to help tell the story of plastic:  The comb, the chair, the Frisbee, the IV bag, the disposable lighter, the grocery bag, the soda bottle and the credit card.

She examines how these objects are made, the history, the culture of plastics, and how synthetics affect our health and environment.

A speaker from a plastics manufacturer’s conference in 1956, is quoted as saying “Your future is in the garbage wagon”.

How true…and it turns out that today, the average American throws away 300 pounds of packaging a year — and this mountain of containers and wrappings accounts for about 1/3 of the municipal waste stream.

Initially, we had to be taught to throw away plastic items — especially after the depression era culture of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”.

But it did not take long for us to absorb the lessons — especially because everyone was becoming more prosperous — at the same time when many disposable products were entering the market.  Life magazine dubbed this (then) new era “Throwaway Living” .

To take part in this timely WordPress challenge topic and to see other submissions for the theme click here (http://justanothernatureenthusiast.org/2015/02/06/unless-plastic/).

This new blogging event is inspired by prophetic words written in 1971 by Dr. Seuss in his book – The Lorax

” UNLESS . . . someone like you

cares a whole awful lot,

nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.”

Trash and Trends: The Keurig® single-cup coffee brewing system

Jeffs Blueberry Cherry Tea Cake

Image from my post “California Cherries”

— NOTE: I’m also submitting this post for the new weekly WordPress challenge on the topic of PLASTIC WASTE REDUCTION, because sometimes, we buy new products that unintentionally add more plastic trash to our waste stream.  To see other submissions for the theme click here.

Coffee is a beverage enjoyed by people all over the world, and like most coffee lovers, it is part of my morning ritual.

Single coffee brews

Image snapped from from the Keurig Web Site

When I started seeing single cup coffee makers like the Keurig® brewing systems, I wondered if it was a fad, or just a passing trend.

I continue to see these systems sold everywhere — so, it seems it is here to stay.

Yes, it is convenient, and perhaps less wasteful if different members of the family can make their own cup —  especially if say, one likes a dark roast and another a lighter type roast coffee.

But of course, I thought about the resulting TRASH.

All those little single serve plastic containers and covers, that most likely will not be recycled, and end up in trash cans — adding to our landfills, where it will stick around for hundreds of years.

And it turns out I’m not the only one thinking of all the trash resulting from these single cup coffee pods.  Excerpt from the website TakePart.com:

About 95 percent of K-Cups are made from #7 plastic, which usually isn’t biodegradable and may contain BPA.

As for the remaining 5 percent of the pods, it’s tough to recycle them because the plastic container is attached to a foil lid—a big no-no for recycling centers.

A 2013 survey from the National Coffee Association found that nearly one in eight American households owns a single-serving coffee machine, and last year Keurig Green Mountain, the manufacturer of the machines and the pods, produced 9.8 billion K-Cups. There’s no way to tell how many of those ended up in landfills.

Which is why it was great to see a 97% Biodegradable single serve coffee pod, made by the Rogers Family Coffee Company.

Single Serve Coffee Biodegradable

The new, mostly biodegradable product made me say “Yeah!” — a product for those who love the convenience of this coffee brewing system, but concerned about the resulting trash problems.

The problem though is that the new versions of Keurig® single cup coffee brewers “lock out” competitor brew pods.

And so then it was….”oh oh… not so fast, Jane, it’s not that easy” (and cue dejected sound from a sit-com ringing in my head)…

From the Rogers Family Coffee Company blog:

In August of 2014 Keurig Green Mountain® replaced the standard Keurig K-Cup® brewers with a new version 2.0. This new version is very similar to previous models except for ONE thing… it includes a new lockout technology that only allows “Authorized K-Cups®” to work.

It does this by visually identifying a special ink on the lidding. Any cup without this “special” ink is rejected by the machine thus ensuring Keurig’s® marketplace dominance. While other companies are quickly working to adopt this special ink to their cups we at Rogers Family Company® believe that your right to choose any option is imperative.

Thankfully, Rogers has come up with an adapter called a “Freedom Clip”…and if you have a newer Keurig® coffee maker and want to use the biodegradable coffee pods, you can adapt it:

Freedom Clip

The Rogers Family Coffee Company is offering these “Freedom Clips” free on their website, along with a free sample of their biodegradable one-cup brews (click here for more).

Are you a coffee lover too, and own these Keurig® systems?

How do you make your coffee?

Recycle GlobeRelated: If you are not sure what the difference is between the terms biodegradable and compostable, check out this Native Leaf blog post to learn more.

 

UNLESS…Earth-Friendly Friday: Plastic trash problems in California

This post is in support of the brand new weekly WordPress event inspired by prophetic words written in 1971 by Dr. Seuss in his book – The Lorax

” UNLESS . . . someone like you

cares a whole awful lot,

nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.”

 

Created by blogger Just Another Nature Enthusiast, this is my submission for the first topic: Plastic – an excellent choice for the first challenge!

THE PROBLEM

There is a huge problem of plastic trash — especially single use plastic bags — in California, where I live.

  1. California FlagCalifornia is the most populous state in the U.S….and its citizens use a whole lot of single-use plastic bags — about 14 billion bags yearly.
  2. Most plastic bags are NOT recycled, and many bags end up marring the landscape, and worse, finding its way to beaches, and then in the ocean.
  3. Because the California coast covers 840 miles (1,350 km), and 15 of California’s 58 counties directly face the Pacific Ocean, the chances of sea creatures ingesting plastics by accident — like migrating Pacific leatherback turtles that mistake plastic for jellyfish and other food — makes this problem beyond just blight on our beautiful landscape.
The beautiful California coast

The Big Sur Coast, Central Calfornia

HOW IS THE PROBLEM BEING SOLVED

I’m happy to report that on September 30, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown  signed into law SB 270 —  the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bag, effective this summer!

The bad news is that immediately after the law was signed, a plastics manufacturing trade group called “American Progressive Bag Alliance” went to work and gathered enough signatures for a referendum in the November 2016 ballot.

The trade group gathered over 800,000 signatures, well over the 505,000 valid signatures needed for a referendum (and by the way…I’d like to understand why people signed…How can you be against a law that cut down on trash and protects our sea creatures?)

So…if the signatures meet the requirements, then the ban is suspended until Californians can vote on the matter.

I posted this chart in my September article about the bag ban, and I think it is worth including for this challenge if you have not seen it:

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IF IT IS NOT BEING SOLVED, WHAT COULD BE DONE TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION / OR PROVIDE A SOLUTION?

So…despite what the plastics manufacturers are doing to overturn the plastic bag ban, I do think the tide is turning about plastic bag use, and it is just a matter of time until there is a ban on single-use plastic bags for all the states in the U.S.

First though, it starts with each one of us, doing what we can to educate ourselves on the problem, and then taking action, even if it means WE pick up plastic litter when we can, as we are out and about with everyday routines.

For ideas on how to help clean beaches and keep plastic trash out of the ocean without having to take part in “official” beach clean-up days… please see my post One woman’s beach clean up or click on the photo below.

Beach Heroine

Find out about everyday heroes for PLANET EARTH and its inhabitants…like this woman…

After all, it just takes one person because…”UNLESS . . . someone like you cares a whole awful lot,nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

To participate in this timely WordPress challenge topic and to see other submissions for the theme click here (http://justanothernatureenthusiast.org/2015/02/06/unless-plastic/)

This is a terrific WordPress weekly challenge, and I congratulate Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast for creating a place to share ideas about conservation.

I believe that a lot of people do care!  What about you?

WPC: Depth — King Tides and flooded paths at Elkhorn Slough

Last Wednesday, we had super high tides in our area.  These high tides are also called “king tides”, and can damage property as well as cause erosion in coastal areas.

I went to Elkhorn Slough the day of the high tide to take photographs and take part in the California King Tides Project.

Elkhorn Slough Viewing Area web

Outside of San Francisco Bay, Elkhorn Slough harbors California’s largest tract of tidal salt marsh.

It is home to more than 135 aquatic bird, 550 marine invertebrate, 102 fish species, sea lions, harbor seals, and California sea otters.  It is also a temporary home to hundreds of bird species that use the slough during their annual migrations.

It is a treasure in this area of California, and a special place to see wildlife up close — and a safe place to kayak (weather permitting of course!)

Elkhorn Slough web

Here is a little about the area from the Elkhorn Slough.org website:

Dunes and broad stretches of open sandy beach characterize the inner curve of Monterey Bay.

The expansive beaches are interrupted only by the outlets of the Pajaro and Salinas Rivers, and the entrance to Elkhorn Slough and Moss Landing Harbor.

The protected waters of the slough and its associated mudflats, wetlands, and nearby dunes provide a haven for a wide variety of birds, fish and unusual marine life.

This remarkable variety of habitats provides visitors a rare opportunity to explore and discover nature’s secrets.

Elkhorn water web

The tide for the area is normally around 5 feet.  During the king tide, the tide rose to over 6 feet and flooded walking paths, as well as the parking area of Kirby Park, one of the launching points for those who want to kayak in the slough.

For a comparison, here is a photo of my grandchildren walking the path at Kirby Park, taken on a foggy day in 2009.

Elkhorn path no flooding web

And below are photos I took from my phone camera on January 21, 2015, one of the “king tide” days…

Elkhorn flooded path 1 webThe tide reached its peak while a family was at the viewing bridge, and they had to pass the flooded path to get back to the parking area.

Some waited for the water to recede, including me!  I do like to keep my feet and shoes dry, and was not willing to walk on the logs that lined the path (I’m not good at balancing…and pretty sure I would have ended up with more than wet shoes).

Elkhorn flooded path web

Parts of the path have already eroded…

Elkhorn water eroding path web

And those who parked in the launching area to kayak may have been surprised to see water near their vehicles upon their return.

Kirby flooded parking area web

Parts of parking area near launching ramp flooded…Kirby parking and docking area web

We will see if these tides get more severe, meaning many coastal areas, and even small parks like Kirby will need funding to repair and raise walking paths and parking areas.

Documenting the differences will hopefully help in budgeting and planning for these changes in our environment.

This post is part of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.  The theme this week is Depth, from Ben Huberman:

This week, share with us your take on “depth” — you can take it literally, like me, by showing something (a dense forest, your lawn after a blizzard) that suggests volume, a distance between surface and bottom. Or go with a more figurative approach: use a deep color palette, play with your image’s depth of field, or highlight a person, a place, or an object to which you feel deeply connected.

More information: California King Tides Project – Snap the Shore, See the Future 

The California King Tides Project help people visualize how sea level rise will impact their lives.  Via smartphones and social media, we invite you to document “king tides” – the highest high tides of today, which will be the average water levels of the future.

The pictures that you take help scientists and managers better plan for future flood risks, and give you a way to participate directly in the science that will drive decisions in your community.  Everyone is welcome to participate!

gw-sewater-intrusion2

One of the side effects of salt water intrusion is contamination of freshwater sources.  Graphic Source: Blog post from (Journalist and Photographer) Sabrina Doyle’s website.  Click on image to visit website and for more information.

San Francisco Bay is RISING.  There is an educational video on the California King Tides website about sea level rise and global warming.  I highly recommend viewing if you have an interest in the environment, ocean warming and resulting sea level rise as it relates to the Bay Area and beyond.  See below or link here: http://california.kingtides.net/what-is-sea-level-rise/

And if you are interested in more LolaKo.com photos and posts related to Elkhorn Slough, click here.

Is the area where you live affected by these super high tides?  What is your opinion on climate change?

California the first U.S. state to ban single-use plastic bags

California Flag

The California State Flag, adopted in 1911.

California is the most populous state in the U.S….and its citizens use a whole lot of single-use plastic bags — about 14 billion bags yearly.

Thanks to a new bill signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown today, we can at least dramatically cut our plastic bag use and prevent single-use plastic bags from going into our landfills (since most bags are not recycled) and more important, decrease (and eventually eliminate!) escaped plastic bags that mar our beautiful landscape.

Having a statewide ban protects the environment of the state of California from this needless trash, and now, smaller cities / municipalities do not have to create their own ordinances…it’s done, and the entire state is covered!

The bill — SB 270 — is the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bag.

“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” said Governor Brown. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

More from the Governor’s website:

The legislation, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), prohibits grocery stores and pharmacies from distributing single-use plastic bags after July 2015 and enacts the same ban for convenience stores and liquor stores the following year. It will also provide up to $2 million in competitive loans – administered by CalRecycle – to businesses transitioning to the manufacture of reusable bags.

…“I applaud Governor Brown for signing SB 270 into law. He continues to lead our state forward with a commitment to sustainability. A throw-away society is not sustainable. This new law will greatly reduce the flow of billions of single-use plastic bags that litter our communities and harm our environment each year. Moving from single-use plastic bags to reusable bags is common sense. Governor Brown’s signature reflects our commitment to protect the environment and reduce government costs,” said Senator Padilla.

California coast from above web

Southern California coastline. Photo LolaKo.com

“The California coast is a national treasure and a calling card for the world, helping us attract visitors and business from around the globe. Removing the harmful blight of single-use plastic bags, especially along our coastline and waterways, helps ensure the kind of clean and healthy environment we need to have a stronger economy and a brighter future,” said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.  Continue reading…

This is the start of what will hopefully be a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags.

California coast web

My grandsons Jun and Gabriel walking on the beach this summer. We spent a lot of time on the beach this summer!

The California coast covers 840 miles (1,350 km), and 15 of California’s 58 counties directly face the Pacific Ocean.  This statewide plastic bag ban is a major step towards protecting our environment and the ocean’s creatures that ingest plastics by accident — like the Pacific leatherback turtle mistaking plastic for jellyfish and other food.

Print

6 degrees pictogram via Ocean Conservancy — No matter where you live, trash can travel from your hands to storm drains to streams and to the sea.

Proud to live in California right now with this first ever statewide plastic bag ban.

I’ll end this post with this quote about the ban from Nathan Weaver of Environment California :

“This important step forward shows that we can achieve lasting victories for ocean and environmental health,” said Nathan Weaver, Oceans Advocate with Environment California. “Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our ocean for hundreds of years.”  

Monterey Bay Birding Festival and Family Day Activities September 27th and 28th

Monterey-Bay-Birding-Festival

Monterey Bay is a popular destination for tourists…but did you know it is also home to one of the most spectacular birding and wildlife sites in North America?

September is the best time to see wintering shorebirds and is the peak of fall migration for many bird species…which is why the Monterey Bay Birding Festival is held during the month of September.

The 10th annual Monterey Bay Birding Festival is happening now through Sunday, September 28th. For more about the birding festival, visit the festival’s website, here. Excerpt:

Word Class Birding

From soaring golden eagles, effortlessly gliding California condors, cheeky bushtits, gorgeous Townsend’s warblers, scampering snowy plovers, to thousands of sooty shearwaters streaming along the ocean’s surface, few places can match the diversity of species as the Monterey Bay region.

September marks the peak of fall migration, with wintering shorebirds arriving en masse. Warblers and other passerines are doing the same, and we even start seeing the first appearances of wintering ducks and other waterfowl. Meanwhile, just a few miles offshore, jaegers, shearwaters, and alcid are present in good numbers. There’s no better time to visit the Monterey Bay area to see the greatest number of species or to find a rarity.

Extraordinary Presenters 

This year’s lineup of nightly speakers, headed by author, artist, naturalist and conservationist Kenn Kaufman, simply soars.  Continue reading…

Photo gallery above, my amateur, first attempts at taking photos of shore birds taken at Moss Landing, with my NOT fancy camera.

So far, and as of today, September 26th, 2014, birding festival attendees have spotted most of the birds on this year’s festival checklist.  Wow, and there are still 2 more days to go!.

Birding Festival 2014 bird sightings web

In conjunction with the festival, there are also terrific (and free) family community events happening this weekend including a Habitat Festival and Native Plant Sale organized by the Watsonville Wetlands Watch.

Watsonville Wetlands Watch poster link

For more information on the native plant sale, click on the flyer above, and for more on the nature activities, bird watching and exploration walks for Family Days at the Watsonville’s Nature Center, see / click on the Family Days flyer below or call 831.768-1622.

Family Days poster

Native Leaf will exhibit at the Birder’s marketplace on Friday and Saturday. Visit Native Leaf’s website (news and blog page) for more details on hours and marketplace location.

Spectacular nature photographers (like Ooh Look Photography) as well as authors and artists specializing in exquisite bird, nature and wildlife art are also exhibiting at this year’s marketplace.

Purple blue jellyfish-like creatures (related to dangerous Portuguese man o’ war) stranded on Central California beaches

Earlier this week, we noticed these purplish blue jellyfish-like creatures stranded at the Moss Landing – Salinas River State Beach (Central California coast)…

Vellela jellie like creatures washed up on California beaches wb

My 9-year-old grandson, Jun standing next to a Velella — a sort of close cousin to jellyfish, and closely related to Portuguese man o’ wars.  Photo Lolako.com

We have not seen these before, and they looked very interesting, with a blue, disc-shaped purplish bottom on one side and sliver of jelly-like material and flap on the other side.

Vellela jellie like closeup washed up on California beaches

Velella velella – photo by Lolako.com

At first we saw one or two every 5 to 10 feet….but then, as we walked further down the beach, we started to see hundreds of them.

Vellela jellie like creatures washed up California beaches wb

Velella velella stranded at Central California beaches. Photo by Lolako.com

We found out they are a close cousin to jellyfish and are called Velellas.

They are also known as sea raftby-the-wind sailorpurple sail, and little sail. They are found in most of the world’s oceans, and live on the surface of the water.

The top, jelly part acts like a sail and floats above the water, and the bottom blueish part is actually a colony of polyps with tentacles that catch prey like plankton, fish eggs and small shrimps.

Though quite small, these creatures are closely related to Portuguese man o’ wars.

But unlike Portuguese man o’ wars with tentacles of up to 160 feet (50 meters) that are venomous and dangerous to humans (even the ones washed up on the beach!) the much tinier Velellas’ are generally harmless to humans.  Still, the website Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) recommends not touching one’s face or eyes after handling Velellas.

Everything else you would want to know about Velellas is on the EOL website, which is where we also found this terrific video.

Velella – Planktonic Vessels from Parafilms on Vimeo.

Colonies of polyps transported by prevailing winds, velella drift at the surface of warm seas.   Plankton Chronicles Project by Christian Sardet, CNRS / Noe Sardet and Sharif Mirshak, Parafilms.  See Plankton Chronicles interactive site: planktonchronicles.org

Because Velellas cannot propel themselves, they are at the mercy of prevailing winds, and explains why they can sometimes wash ashore, stranded on beaches by the thousands.

Shore birds did not seem interested in eating the washed up Velellas…so they’ll just decompose or get washed back to sea at next high tide.

Have you seen Velella before or know more about these creatures washing up and stranded near where you live?

More Moss Landing beach related post from Lolako.com:

My encounter with a (not so scary) California snake

Backyard snake Monterey County CA 1

I’m sure my intense fear of snakes stems from an  encounter with a huge snake when I was around 5 years old.

We lived near a rice field in the province of Bulacan (Luzon island in the Philippines).

While I was in the outhouse (an outdoor bathroom) by myself, the snake crept inside through the gap between the bamboo door and the dirt floor.

I froze in fear, and then let out the loudest scream I could summon.  Shortly after, I heard my mother running towards me and then right outside the outhouse door.

I was too frightened to move and unhinge the door, so my mother had to break the door to get to me — and not so easy to do as she was in the late stage of being pregnant with my brother.

Perhaps because of my screaming, or maybe it was really interested or following something else, the snake was gone by the time my mother got through the door.

Rice Fields and mountain background

Rice fields in the Philippines, coconut trees and mountain backdrop. Photo Lolako.com

Since venomous sakes — including the Philippine spitting cobra, one of the most venomous snakes in the world — often hunt for rodents in rice fields near where we lived, a group of neighbors, with their machetes firmly in hand, formed a line at the rice fields behind the outhouse to look for the snake.  I can’t remember if they caught it.

Rice-Field-Almost-Ready-for-Harvest

Many decades later…I am (understandably!) still afraid of snakes.  I am not fearful of spiders, or bees or most bugs really…but when I think of snakes and sharks...the feeling of fear is immediate.

And it turns out that even people without a conscious fear of snakes are wired to react fearfully to snakes because snakes were among the earliest threats and predators to human beings.

A few days ago, my 9-year-old grandson Jun found a 2 1/2 foot long snake skin in the backyard.  Fascinated, he was holding it stretched above his head when he came over to show me his find.

And this morning, as I was coming from the driveway, here is what I encountered…

Pacific Gopher Snake in Monterey County

I now know that snakes are important to our ecosystem...so instead of running away and screaming, I grabbed my camera and took a photo (thank you zoom lens) so I could learn more about this snake living near our home.

Pacific Gopher Snake range in California

A visit to the California Herps website’s picture gallery made it easy to identify the snake.

It is a Pacific Gopher snake and harmless to human beings.  It is found in a wide range in the state of California, as shown in red shade on the map at left.

Because gopher snakes are sometimes mistaken for more dangerous rattlesnakes, they are killed unnecessarily.

The California Herps website notes:

It is easy to avoid this mistake by learning to tell the difference between the two families of snakes as shown in these signs.

Unless you have experience handling venomous snakes, you should never handle a snake unless you are absolutely sure that it is not dangerous.

rattlesnake vs gopher snakeHere are some interesting snake facts:

Worldwide:

map of world distribution of snakes

map of world distribution of sea snakes and land snakes via Wikipedia

  • Snakes are found in every continent except Antarctica (see Life is short, but snakes are long blog post on the most widespread snakes in the world)
  • Most snake bites occur in agricultural and tropical regions
  • There are 3,000 known species of snakes — of which, only 15% are considered as dangerous to people.
  • Most snake related deaths occur in South Asia, with India reporting the most deaths of any country (this would make sense though, as India is the most populous country in South Asia).
  • Worldwide, snake bites are most common during the summer when people are outdoors and when snakes are most active

In the USA from the wanderingherpetologist.com

  • There are more casualties in the United States due to car accidents (37,594), lightning strikes (54), and dog attacks (21) each year than from venomous snakebites (5).
  • Approximately 7,000-8,000 people are envenomated each year in the United States but there is only an average of 5 casualties
  • In Texas alone, there were more casualties in 2005 from drowning (308), firearms/hunting (79), and venomous arthropods (16) than venomous snakebites.

In California

  • CaliforniaHerps.com– a guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of California is a super website with loads of information, pictures and useful links.  Visit the page on what kind of reptiles and amphibians might live near your home and how to encourage them to stay there, by clicking here.

I am less fearful of snakes since I learned that most snakes are NOT dangerous to humans, and that most snake bites to humans are caused by snakes that are NOT venomous.

Remember though, unless you are a snake expert,  it is best to leave lots of room between you and any snake you may encounter…and don’t kill snakes!

Further reading and resources:

Related post about animals (and endangered animals) from Lola Jane (click on photo to link to article)

Sierran Tree Frog profilePost about the Sierran Tree Frog (photo by Lola Jane)

…It is comforting to know the little frogs survive in our backyard, despite the large presence of big business agriculture in our county (Monterey is the only county in the United States with more than 1 BILLION in annual vegetable sales).

 

Leatherback-turtle-found-dead-off-leyteAbout the Giant Pacific Leatherback Turtle and the connection between Indonesia / the Philippines and Monterey Bay, California)

Photo by Austin Don Perez for Bayan Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula, via post by Iloed.C at www.skyscrapercity.com

 

Philippine-Eagle-Close-up-photo1On the critically endangered and magnificent Philippine eagle (Photograph by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com)  ...the Philippine Eagle, pithecophaga jefferyi – and referred to as “haring ibon” or king bird.  It is among the rarest and most powerful birds in the world.  In 1995, it was designated as the national bird as well as an official  symbol of the Philippines.

Shark-photo-Sean-Van-SommeranPost about Sharks!

The photo is of a 4,000 lb shark tagged in Santa Cruz, California and caught by accident in the Sea of Cortez area, Mexico.  Photo Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, contributed by Sean VanSommeran.

Also see comparison of shark attacks vs. lightning fatalities on the US Coast

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.”
— Baba Dioum

Drought and the 2014 official California shower

2014 California Shower

This is a somewhat funny graphic on showers during a drought — but it is actually a reality that we need to consider in light of California’s drought emergency.  (Graphic source – Save our Water website)

What do you think?  Skip a shower — shower every other day or two?  Super short showers?

Strigil used by Greeks and Romans web

Photo of ancient shower/bath tool called a strigil

Skipping a shower or two every week may be better for our skin and hair anyway.  There are parts of the world where taking a shower every other day is the norm.

Just as long as we don’t have to skip showers altogether!

Ancient Greeks and Romans used olive oil and this tool called a strigil to clean dirt off (first they rubbed olive oil on their skin, and then scraped away dirt and grime).  Hmmm…

It’s a good thing there are over 400 growers / producers of olive oil in California…oh wait, the drought can adversely affect olive oil production too!   The 2012 drought in Spain — the world’s top olive oil producer — resulted in a huge drop in Spain’s olive oil production, and increased olive oil prices in Europe.

So okay, we will continue to do our part to cut our water use, and hopefully we will not have to revert back to using olive oil and a strigil instead of modern showers.

Showering habits aside, and on a serious note, the drought here in California will affect not only our vegetable crops, but also olive oil, nut and fruit production.  Farmers are already having to pull out or let trees die and expect losses for many crops.

Less nuts and fruits to pick means less work for the agricultural sector, higher prices for everyone...

President Obama is in the Central Valley today with a promise of millions of dollars in aid to help California farmers due to the drought.  He also pledged to speed up federal help that threatens the agriculture industry.

Save Water link to Christian Science articleMore on Obama in California: a pledge of drought aid, climate change planning, from the CSMonitor’s website, here. 

“He’ll offer a message of hope and a message that the federal government will do all that it can to try to alleviate some of the stress connected with this drought,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Thursday night.

Lolako.com drought-related posts:

If you live in California, how has the drought affected you?  As a resident here, are you making changes to your routines or plan to?

Zero Waste…from the city of San Francsico to Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Can you imagine a time when we recycle or compost everything in our household and send NOTHING to landfills or to incineration facilities?

The recycling rate for Americans has increased to 34% compared to less than 10% a few decades ago.  Although we are headed in the right direction, the latest data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on our municipal solid waste indicate there are still millions of tons of trash going to landfills.

Recycling-Bins-at-big conferences

For environmentally progressive cities and businesses, standard recycling programs are not enough.  Zero waste is the new goal and the next step towards protecting our environment and conserving resources for future inhabitants of our planet.

I posted a new article on Native Leaf’s blog about San Francisco — voted the greenest city in North America— and its zero waste goals including how they plan to recycle textiles (because we in the U.S. send 39 million pounds of textile products to landfills each year).  Click here or the photo below to view the blog post.

View of San Francisco from TI rd

Early evening panorama photo of picturesque and environmentally progressive city of San Francisco, California (population 825,863).

Recently, an organization called the U.S. Zero Waste Council awarded its first ever Platinum Certification to the Northern California-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.   Excerpt:

…The goal of businesses participating in the Zero Waste Certification program is to divert all end-use material from landfill, incineration and the environment, while achieving a minimum of 90 percent diversion based on the standards set by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA). Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is exceeding this by 9.8 percent.

Sierra Nevada logoSierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Chico facility received this platinum certification by reaching an amazing 99.8% trash diversion rate!

The sustainability culture at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is established  during the first day of work, when employees are given reusable water bottles and reusable shopping bags.  What a terrific way to set the tone and culture of sustainability…and for how the company works.

In addition to this recognition, Sierra Nevada also received awards from the EPA (Green Business of the Year), PG&E (Clean and Green Award), the state of California’s Waste Reduction Award Program, among their many accolades.

This is one beverage that environmentalist can feel good about drinking!  For more on how Sierra Nevada achieved their 99.8% diversion rate, click here.

What if all major metropolitan cities and corporations set zero waste goals?  With the way things are going and the strange world climate patterns we are experiencing, we may not have a choice….that is, if we want our grandchildren to live in a planet similar to what we now have.

I do wonder if the Philippines’ biggest beer (and largest food company) company, San Miguel is setting sustainability programs…

Related Lolako.com post:

Informative graphic from the U.S. EPA below.  Click on the graphic or here for posters, facts and figures on municipal solid waste in the United States.

EPA Recycling Graphic

Some rain finally, but there is simply not enough to meet water demands in California

California is 2/3 into the wet season, the time of the year when we are supposed to get the most rain.

water drops cling to pine needles after rain

water clings to the tips of pine needles after Wednesday, February 6, 2014 rainstorm

Though we finally have rain — and rain is in the forecast for many parts of California this weekend — it would have to rain every other day until May of this year to get our water to normal levels (see press conference video from California Department of Water Resources at the bottom of this post).

Monterey County Field

Irrigated farm fields, Moss Landing – California Central Coast

With most of California’s water going towards irrigation needs for 10 million acres of farmland, and because California grows nearly half of all fruits, nuts and vegetables in the United States, our worst drought on record will surely have a ripple ffect for the rest of the U.S. in terms of the cost and availability of produce and nuts.

Droughts increase our wildfire and firestorm risks, and as of the end of January, 2014 there were already 400 fires across the state compared to ZERO fires in January of 2013.

And now for the first time in the 54 year history of the California State Water Project (SWP) – the largest state-built and operated multipurpose water and power system in the United States — no water will be released for urban and agricultural uses.  This means that water allocation to all 29 public water agencies in California is being cut from 5% to zero, except for human health and safety needs.

So even with the expected rain this weekend, our state still face severe water problems and California residents need to get serious and creative with water conservation efforts to continue to address our continuing drought emergency.

Water Saving Hero

Water Saving Hero graphic from an Urban Drought Guidebook prepared by the California Department of Water Resources in 2008 (note: website on this graphic is no longer operational)

Related:

Information on the latest in water-efficient technology from faucets to toilet fixtures available on the California Urban Water Conservation Council website

Most recent press conference posted on YouTube from California Department of Water Resources below:

Of interest:

  • California has approximately 100 million acres of land.  Of this total, 43 million acres are used for agriculture (16 million acres are grazing land and 27 million acres are cropland).

The California State Water Project, the largest state-built and operated multipurpose water and power system in the United States, includes 34 storage facilities, 20 pumping plants, four pumping-generating plants, five hydroelectric powerplants, and approximately 701 miles of canals, tunnels, and pipelines including the 444-mile California Aqueduct.  For more, visit the California Department of Water Resources website, here.

hot_topics_smoke-flames

California’s higher than normal temperatures, record driest year and now a drought emergency

Something is not quite right with our winter weather.

Frisbee and no frost here

Silhouette photo of our grandsons enjoying the late afternoon warm weather at the beach last week with their Frisbee.

Here in the Central Coast of California, most of us can’t remember the last time it rained, and are experiencing much warmer than normal temperatures.

According to the most recent State of the Climate report, published by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), our state had little rain (AGAIN) last year, resulting in a record driest year.

2013 National Precipitation ranking

Temperature-wise,California also had much warmer than normal temperatures last year.

2013 Statewide Ranks NOAA

Even without the official stats, we know the weather is certainly not normal and we were not surprised when California Governor Jerry Brown issued a proclamation last week declaring a drought emergency (to urge Californians to reduce their water use by 20% indoors and out).

From the website Saveourh2o.org:

“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” said Governor Brown. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”

...The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the first snow survey of the year on Jan. 3 and officials measured the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20 percent of average for this time of year.  According to DWR, the readings this month and in 2012 are the driest on record.

Not only is the snowpack dry, the state has suffered from a lack of rain, with many areas ending 2013 with the lowest rainfall amounts on record. 

According to DWR, Gasquet Ranger Station in Del Norte County—which is normally one of California’s wettest spots with an average annual rainfall of nearly 100 inches—only received 43.46 inches last year.  Sacramento ended the year with 5.74 inches of rain, vastly lower than the normal 18 inches the region usually receives.  Downtown Los Angeles set an all-time low with just 3.4 inches of rainfall.  The city’s average is 14.74 and the previous record low was 4.08 set in 1953.

Field ready for planting Monterey County

In a state (and especially here in Monterey county) where agriculture is a major industry, this creates serious problems for farmers and significantly increases wildfire / firestorm hazards.

We are in dire need of major rain storms to alleviate the drought situation…but so far, there is no rain in the immediate weather forecast.

seelings farm field monterey county

To learn more about what we can do to conserve water, visit the Save our Water website (I’ve added their widget to my website’s sidebar for an easy link, and to get daily water saving tips).

Did you know…California produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables across the nation?  American consumers regularly purchase several crops produced solely in California.  Production Statistics Source: California Department of Agriculture

Related:

KQED’s The California Report: How will drought affect California Agriculture?  Agriculture consumes about 80 percent of the water used in California

California Drought And The U.S. Food Supply – Tom Ashbrook’s On Point Program on the drought emergency in California, and what it may mean for the nation’s food supply.

Hundred Years of Dry: How California’s Drought Could Get Much, Much Worse (from Time Magazine Science and Space – scientist fear California’s long-ago era of mega-droughts could be back)

Field of strawberries rd2

Rows of strawberry plants Monterey County California

 

Lolako.com agriculture-related posts:

Why the China communist party ban on extravagant banquets may save some sharks from extinction

Each year, millions of sharks are killed just for their fins, a practice called shark finning.  The fins — the most profitable part of the shark — are removed and the shark is returned to the sea alive, and eventually sinks to the bottom of the ocean and suffocates.

Outside of Asia, the state of California and New York are among the largest market for shark fins.  A new law banning the sale of dried shark fins took effect in California in August of this year.  In New York, a new law banning the possession, distribution and sale of shark fins will also be in place next summer.

Shark fins NOAA photo

Photo of NOAA agent counting confiscated shark fins via Wikipedia commons – http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag230.htm

Although U.S. bans will impact shark fin demands, the bans should also focus internationally, and on the worlds largest consumers of shark fin products, namely China, Japan and Thailand.

Last year, Chinese communist party officials banned extravagant items like expensive shark fin soups from official banquets.  This military action made a big difference in shark fin consumption in China.

Excerpt from an article posted on The Independent earlier this month:

A crackdown on extravagance and corruption within China’s ruling Communist Party is causing headaches for officials used to splashing the cash on banquets, but it’s proving a lifesaver for sharks.

Consumption of shark fin, the key ingredient in the pricey and extravagant banquet staple shark-fin soup, has dropped by 70 per cent since the end of last year, according to Ministry of Commerce data.

The party leadership launched a campaign in December, vowing to target extravagance and waste, and demanding austerity from cadres and military officials as a means of curbing graft (click here to read the article)

This move by Chinese military officials is similar to a Wal-Mart effect.  As the world’s largest retailer, manufacturing decisions by Wal-Mart — such as,making its vendors minimize plastic packaging — affects the environment simply because of Wal-Mart’s size.

So let’s hope this extravagant banquet ban in China will continue to lessen the demand on shark fins.  And that continued education from celebrity ambassadors (like the Yao Ming / Richard Branson pleas for Chinese diners to stop eating shark fins) puts a stop to this cruel practice and  give shark populations a chance to recover –especially in light of the improving Chinese wealth, making this once expensive restaurant item more affordable  for many more diners (scary thought!).

Richard Branson and Yao Ming Shark ban

Retired basketball star Yao Ming teamed up with British magnate Sir Richard Branson (founder and of Virgin Atlantic) to launch a campaign urging Chinese diners to stop eating shark fins soups.

Right now, 50 of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

I do wonder if the celebrity ambassador actions influenced military officials, and what impact it made, at least prior to these extravagant banquet bans.

I am less fearful of sharks now after learning about sharks on my post about the 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez,

Sandbar Shark (Photo via NMFS - NOAA)

Sandbar Shark (Photo via NMFS – NOAA)

Related Lolako.com posts:

U.S. coast comparison of shark-attacks vs number of lightning fatalities

The man-eater label — shark attack or a shark-encounter

Links:

San Francisco based Wild Aid – Celebrity Ambassadors

Below video on shark finning

And I thought we had algae problems…

Have you heard about the largest algal bloom in the world?  It is in China’s Yellow Sea…and has turned sections of the Yellow Sea green.

Two young tourists take photos on a beach

Photograph: Imaginechina /Rex Features via The Guardian News and Media

The Yellow Sea is located between the Korean Peninsula and mainland China.  This year, the Yellow Sea algal bloom covers 11,158 sq miles, which is twice as much as the previous big bloom in 2008!   The China algal bloom covers more area than the entire state of Maryland, which covers 9,775 square miles.

algae-carpet-2-moss-landing-elkhorn-slough-rd11

Algal bloom Moss Landing Monterey county. Photo Lolako.com

In my post, Algae Abundance, I found out that the growth of  some algal mats — at least locally, here in Elkhorn Slough and the Monterey Bay — are a result of excessive nutrient levels (e.g., from fertilizer runoff from agricultural fields) and limits on how much tidal water enters parts of our slough.

Without-Algae

Photo: Lolako.com

The photos  above and below is near Moss Landing harbor — free of algae and then covered in algae.

algae-carpet-at-moss-landing-near-elkhorn-slough

Photo Lolako.com

See more photos and videos on the Yellow Sea — biggest algal bloom to date — on this link here to The Guardian article.

Would YOU go in an algae filled sea or body of water for a swim?

Yellow Sea

Photo via Wikimedia commons

And link here to Lolako.com’s Algae Abundance post

Did you know….

  • The Yellow Sea gets its name from sand particles from Gobi Desert sand storms that turn the surface of the water golden-yellow.
  • It is also one of four seas named after common colors.  The others are the Black Sea, the Red Sea and the White Sea..