San Diego Coastkeeper and WILDCOAST work to make a difference on San Diego’s beaches

photo credit for Myles McGuiness IMG_0676JPG
Yellowtail Surgeonfish (Prionurus punctatus) grazing on the reef, San Agustin Bay, Huatulco Bays National Park, southern Mexico, November

What is more synonymous with summer than a day spent at the beach or on the water? Here in Southern California, our coasts are our pride and joy. We swim and surf, kayak and paddle board. We laze on wide sandy beaches and hike on the sandstone cliffs that tower above the waves. We fish from piers and boats, and we play on all manner of watercraft from jet skis to sailboats to mega yachts.

With 70 miles of coastline, our beaches and bays are arguably among San Diego’s most valuable natural resources, but our coastal waters and marine life are under siege from urban runoff, pollution and other environmental challenges. Luckily, local organizations such as San Diego Coastkeeper and WILDCOAST (known south of the border as COSTASALVAJE) are leading the way in conserving our iconic shores through both education and action.

For 22 years, San Diego Coastkeeper has protected and restored fishable, swimable and drinkable waters in San Diego County by focusing on community-based local advocacy. San Diego Coastkeeper’s efforts include an education program to get kids excited about conservation; advocacy staff to help enforce the Clean Water Act and water quality monitoring; and a marine debris program that sponsors beach cleanups and works to reduce plastics in our oceans and waterways. Last year, beach cleanups yielded 9,000 pounds of trash, which included 10,000 plastic water bottle caps, 26,000 small pieces of other plastics, 4,300 intact plastic bags and over 59,000 cigarette butts! (Those cigarette butts are especially toxic—experiments have shown that one butt in a liter of sea or river water can kill half the fish in that liter. Think what 59,000 could do to our waters!)

Whether bringing illegal business and governmental water polluters into compliance with the law or helping to reduce the number of sewage spills and resulting beach advisories, San Diego Coastkeeper’s accomplishments and actions are substantial and can be found on their website, sdcoastkeeper.org. Celebrate San Diego Coastkeeper’s victories and make future ones possible by attending the annual Seaside Soiree on September 13 at Bali Hai Restaurant. Tickets and info are found on sdcoastkeeper.org/act.

WILDCOAST was founded 17 years ago by Serge Dedina (see Person of Interest in this issue) to protect some of the most beautiful and biologically significant coastal areas in the Californias and Latin America. With offices in Imperial Beach and four locations in Mexico, WILDCOAST focuses on marine ecosystem and wildlife conservation programs. In San Diego County, the organization is particularly active in the management and protection of 17,000 acres of marine reserves from Imperial Beach to Carlsbad. To educate and excite the next generation of ocean stewards, WILDCOAST works with youth groups, particularly the under-served, on “floating labs,” where kids get to know and appreciate the area’s aquatic richness. “It’s amazing how many kids in San Diego County have never been to the beach,” Dedina notes. “It’s so rewarding to get them out on the water and watch their interest grow.”

From protecting sea turtle nesting habitats in Oaxaca to preserving grey whale breeding areas in Baja California’s Magdalena Bay and promoting healthy, nondestructive recreational activities such as surfing, kayaking and snorkeling in San Diego’s Marine Protected Areas, WILDCOAST’s myriad successes and ongoing programs have both international and local reach. Learn all about them at wildcoast.net.

Want to help save our coast?  Become a volunteer with either of these organizations or join a beach cleanup—there are at least two per month. September 16 is Coastal Cleanup Day, with over 100 beach cleanups happening throughout the county. Check the event calendar at sdcoastkeeper.org for locations. Of course, donations and sponsorships are always welcomed by both of these organizations.

[For more information: San Diego Coastkeeper, sdcoastkeeper.orgWILDCOAST, wildcoast.net]