While FCEC’s mission is to protect people from the contamination found in local fish, there is also a need to protect and restore the local environment and its wildlife. Activities, such as overfishing and pollution, that happen near our coasts affect not just fish, but also the health of other marine life and the quality of our water. Marine environments particularly off the coast of the Los Angeles area have shown less diversity and more contamination.
Santa Monica Baykeeper to the Rescue
Santa Monica Baykeeper, a local nonprofit organization, has made it its mission to keep our coastal environment healthy and clean. It was founded in 1993 to protect Los Angeles County’s fresh and saltwater systems from pollution through advocacy and litigation.
Today, Santa Monica Baykeeper members help to protect and restore Santa Monica Bay, San Pedro Bay and adjacent waters through programs such as kelp restoration, water quality monitoring, and advocacy and litigation.
Q&A with the Staff
FCEC team members met Santa Monica Baykeeper’s Marine Programs Manager, Brian Meux, at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium’s Earth Day celebration last April. We thought the work of Brian’s organization was worth sharing, so we decided to ask the staff a few questions; here are their responses:
What is Santa Monica Baykeeper’s philosophy? Why do you do the work you do?
Baykeeper’s origin, history, and current work are based on the principle that somebody has to get their hands dirty and directly pressure polluters and governments to better care for our environment. For the past 14 years, our staff and volunteers have also been engaged in hands-on habitat restoration of kelp forests, creeks and lagoons.
Could you tell us about your Kelp Program? How often do members hold research, monitoring and restoration activities?
Kelp Program staff and volunteers go to sea about twice a week to conduct monitoring and research of marine habitats and relocate sea urchins, which heavily feed on kelp. Excessive hunting and fishing have greatly reduced the number of sea urchin predators, which has resulted in kelp forests being turned into barren fields of urchins. In order to restore the balance, Kelp Program volunteer divers collect urchins in bags and relocate them over a wide area. Since the program was founded, divers have directly restored about 10 acres of kelp forest habitat off the Malibu and Palos Verdes coasts.
Santa Monica Baykeeper’s DrainWatch team focuses on water quality monitoring. How often do team members take water quality samples and what have the samples shown about our water quality?
The DrainWatch team collects water samples once a month from storm drains that flow directly into Ballona Creek, which is a nine mile long channel that empties into Santa Monica Bay. The Ballona Creek watershed—the area of land where water drains into the creek—covers Culver City, parts of Santa Monica, Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. Since 80% of the watershed has been developed, water that flows into the creek—also known as stormwater—is contaminated with metal, fertilizer, pesticides, detergents and bacteria. The DrainWatch team’s water quality samples have shown that bacteria levels are higher than water quality standards.
What would you say has been Santa Monica Baykeeper’s biggest success?
One of our greatest successes was holding the City of Malibu and Los Angeles County responsible for stormwater pollution in our region. The lawsuits filed against both governments tasked them with preventing pollutants from entering a certain marine preserve in Malibu. These cases set a tone for enforcing regional stormwater standards throughout the nation.
What are some ways community members can get involved?
Santa Monica Baykeeper welcomes local residents and students to join in restoration, clean-up, monitoring and research activities to help improve our local waters. Most residents can get involved in our creek restoration project at UCLA, where we remove non-native plants and plant native ones. Rescue-certified divers are welcome to volunteer in our Kelp Program.
The members of Santa Monica Baykeeper are Los Angeles’ watchdogs. Help them to look after our local waterways by spreading the word and volunteering for one of their programs!
For more information or to get involved, visit www.smbaykeeper.org
Photos courtesy of Dave Witting, NOAA Scientist and Santa Monica Baykeeper