The WiLDCOAST Ensenada Ocean Art Wall

Our WiLDCOAST staff in Ensenada (Baja California, Mexico) worked with local artists to create this super cool mural in the surfing and fishing community of El Sauzal. Due to the prevalence of graffiti it is critical to create ocean art that educates the public and inspires people to love our coast and ocean. It was very cool to work with Napenda Love, a hip hop and visual artist who helped us carry out projects in southern Baja. DSC_1632

 

 

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Napenda Love some rhyming at the opening of the wall.

Napenda Love some rhyming at the opening of the wall.

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WiLDCOAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN 2012

wildcoast accomplishments 2012

2012 was a great year for WiLDCOAST, the international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems that I run. With offices in Imperial Beach, Ensenada, Los Cabos and Oaxaca, our  fast-moving and strategic coastal conservation team made a big difference this year in protecting some of the most iconic and biologically significant coastal and marine sites along the Pacific coast of North America. Since 2000, WiLDCOAST has helped to preserve more than 3.2 million acres of coastal and marine ecosystems including 340 miles of beaches in Mexico protected through conservation concessions and acquisitions.

Wildcoast

Some of our accomplishments in 2012 included the following:

  • Preserved 2,970 acres of 9.3 miles of Baja California pristine coastline through private acquisitions.
  • Challenged the abysmal response of PEMEX to respond to and clean up an oil spill in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, that impacted more than 120 miles of beaches including the world-class right point breaks of southern Oaxaca and some of the world’s most important sea turtle nesting beaches.
  • Pushed the Mexican Attorney General to file legal claims again PEMEX for impacts to coastal ecosystems and wildlife from the oil spill.
  • Helped to manage and conserve more than 15,000 acres of marine ecosystems protected as MPAs in San Diego County.
  • Worked with 3,050 volunteers to clean up 154,546 lbs of ocean-bound trash in the U.S. and Mexico.
  • Protected sea turtle nesting beaches in southern Mexico where more than 20 million sea turtles hatched and 650,000 sea turtles laid eggs.
  • Reached more than 430 million people wiht 928 media pieces through campaigns.
  • Successfully convinced Mexican President Felipe Calderon to halt the proposed Cabo Cortes mega-project on Baja’s East Cape that would have built a new city larger than Cancun next to Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, the world’s most robust marine reserve.
  • Carried out 228 public outreach events attended by more than 16,000 people.
  • Worked with community residents  in Los Cabos, Magdalena Bay and Ensenada to create vibrant coast and ocean conservation art murals.
  • Established a new conservation network in Mexico, Red Costasalvaje to help bring together and train community leaders and residents to carry out coastal protection efforts on their own.
  • Supported the ongoing management of three WiLDCOAST chapters in Baja California Surf, Mexico.
  • Worked with PBS to produce an episode of the series, Saving the Ocean, on sustainable fishing and whale watching in Punta Abreojos and San Ignacio Lagoon, Mexico.
  • Received the NBC-Universal 21st Century Solutions Award for our efforts to restore and preserve the Tijuana Estuary and Tijuana River Mouth MPA.pulmo1

Thanks to all of our donors, members, staff and partners  2012 was  a groundbreaking year for conservation and WiLDCOAST. We look forward to working with all of you and all of our amazing network of coastal conservation leaders in the U.S. and Mexico to continue preserving our coastal and marine heritage.

Fish populations returned more than 460% in the Cabo Pulmo MPA in Mexico.

Fish populations returned more than 460% in the Cabo Pulmo MPA in Mexico.

Surfing Charities That Deserve Your Support

With the holidays and the end of the year approaching, many of us take the opportunty to write checks to our favorite charities. With the emergence of new surf-related non-profits dedicated coastal protection, humanitarian and community development and recreation, there is no reason that every surfer shouldn’t give back this year.

Here is a list of surf-related charities worthy of a check or online donation.

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WiLDCOAST The conservation team that I run has preserved over 3.2 million acres of bays, beaches, lagoons, and islands since 2000. A 4-star Charity Navigator ranked charity, WiLDCOAST this year mobilized more than 3,000 volunteers to clean up 150,000 lbs of trash and helped to preserve miles of beautiful coastline in Mexico.

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Wildcoast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Surfrider Foundation: The granddaddy of surfing charities, Surfrider is a well-managed and effective coastal protection organization that mobilizes its thousands of members to strategically save surf spots and beaches in the U.S. and around the world.

The Surfrider Foundation Logo

The Surfrider Foundation Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Outdoor Outreach in action.

SurfAid: This humanitarian organization carries out health related work in Indonesia. If you’ve surfed Indo and/or care about the fate of people who suffer from diseases present in tropical paradises than donate to SurfAid.

Outdoor Outreach: This San Diego non-profit is one of the nation’s most effective organizations at getting low-income and at-risk kids into the outdoors. Founder and Director Chris Rutgers, a local surfer, involves kids in surfing, rock climbing, camping and even snowboarding as a way of building self-esteem and providing recreational opportunities for kids who have very few.

Save the Waves: This Davenport-based organization focuses on preserving surf spots around the world and promoting and developing World Surfing Reserves.

Waves for Development: This New York-based charity creates life-enriching experiences in coastal communities in Peru through educational surf programs. Waves for Development is working in some of the most marginalized coastal communities to bring in surfing and get volunteers involved to assist in community development programs.

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Outdoor Outreach in action.

Center for Surf Research-SDSU: Researcher and surfer Dr. Jess Ponting has created this new academic and action-oriented research center in order to promote more sustainable surfing tourism and manufacturing and to promote great involvement by the surf industry in environmental and humanitarian issues where surfing tourism occurs. Off to a great start with groundbreaking conferences on surfing philanthropy, this is a truly innovative university research division.

YMCA Camp Surf: This wonderful beachfront youth camp located in San Diego County is an ocean oasis that provides recreational and educational opportunities for thousands of kids each year. For many campers their day and overnight camping experience here are their first real contact with the ocean.

Sustainable Surf: This San Clemente-based organization works with surfers and the surf industry to foster and promote recycling and re-use of surfboard materials, and promote better and more sustainable practices in the surfing industry.

Beach cleanup in Chile with Save the Waves.

Beach cleanup in Chile with Save the Waves.

I’m also a big fan of the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Diego and the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA. In these challenging times, all of these organizations provide critical and much-needed recreational opportunities for kids and families, including teaching kids to swim – which is key to enjoying the ocean and learning to surf.

Beaches, Sand and Money

Photo: Chris Patterson

As I watch shorebreak bombs explode at the Quiksilver Pro Francevia webcast, one thing that stands out besides the crazy hollow shorebreak is the brown large grain sand local beaches are made of.

The beaches and sandbars of southwest France, that result some of the world’s best beach breaks for surfing, are filled with large grain brown sand that flows out of the estuaries and rivers of the region.

Because much of the coastal zone along the southwestern coast of France remains free of development, with extensive barrier dunes still in place, the beaches aren’t subject to the same process of erosion as our beaches are (but there is extensive erosion in coastal cities there).

Imperial Beach, Sept. 25th,Photo: Eddie Kisfaludy/Wildcoast

In San Diego in contrast we have channelized and dammed our rivers and thrown up rocks, seawalls and structures along most of our coast.

In short we have done everything possible to obstruct natural sand flow and enhance the non-stop cycle of beach erosion.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the prescription for our own coastal erosion mess in Southern California was for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a historically inept and mismanaged agency, to build large jetties along the shoreline and even more destructive breakwaters.

Photo: Eddie Kisfaludy/Wildcoast

Later the Army Corps carried out massive dredge and fill projects to replace lost sand. In 1977 the Army Corps dumped massive amounts of toxic sediment and sludge from San Diego Bay on the beach in Imperial Beach.

Later the City of Imperial Beach and the Army Corps proposed the construction of a mile-long rock breakwater. Thanks to local surfers and the then fledgling Surfrider Foundation, we stopped that crazy scheme just as the Corps was ready to dump the rocks in the ocean.

More recently the Army Corps in partnership with the City of Imperial Beach, once again dredged the most toxic and  garbage ridden sites in San Diego Bay and dumped the garbage, rocks, and rebar in Imperial Beach along with toxic sediment.

This boy was almost impaled by this piece of metal left on the beach by the Army Corps of Engineers in Imperial Beach. Photo: Daren Johnson

A few years ago WiLDCOAST worked with Senator Tom Coburn and the Obama Administration a few years ago to stop a planed $50 million projectslated for Imperial Beach that proposed dredging an area near a sewage outfall pipe and WWI aerial bombing range. That project involved no public consultation, the involvement of secretive and highly paid sand lobbyists and PR films, millions spent on badly written environmental documents, and no effort to work with the public and or use clean sand.

So dredge and fill projects have largely been a mess in San Diego County. However, of all the projects that have been carried out those managed by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) have been managed in the most sensible way.

The 2001 regional beach replenishment effort by SANDAG resulted in the deposition of clean high quality large grain sand, extensive public consultation, and the involvement of locally-based project managers who work with local stakeholders—something the Army Corps of Engineers has no interest in doing.

On Thursday, SANDAG will finish up its sand replenishment operations for Imperial Beach after having placed more than 300,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach. The project is massive and has been well managed. For many surfers and beachgoers the current sand project has been a field course in coastal geomorphology and engineering.

After finishing in Imperial Beach this week, SANDAG moves the project to Oceanside, Moonlight Beach, Cardiff State Beach, Batiquitos, and North and South Carlsbad. In total SANDAG will place more than 1.4 million cubic yards of sand on county beaches.

Photo Eddie Kisfaludy/Wildcoast

In Imperial Beach the new sand has temporarily wiped out rideable surf over much of the beach (note to surfers—don’t waste your time coming down to IB—the entire beach is a closed out shorebreak), but I expect the sand to level out over the next few months.

As the project moves to Oceanside and the rest of North County, it will be critical for surfers and other stakeholders to monitor the project and evaluate its impacts.

As a surfer, coastal conservationist, and dedicated beachgoer, I know that having a local agency like SANDAG carry out these projects is a million times more preferable to having ecological and economic coastal disasters foisted upon us by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Photo: Chris Patterson

How WiLDCOAST Saves the Coast and Ocean

Here’s our newest PSA on the efforts of WiLDCOAST to preserve the coast and ocean. I’ll be showing this on Tuesday during my luncheon talk at the Blue Ocean Film Festival on Monterey.

Imperial Beach Sand Project 2012 Day 1

Pipes on the beach for the SANDAG sand project in Imperial Beach.

SANDAG has stared a local sand replenishment projects. WiLDCOAST supported this project as an alternative to a long list of horrific projects that deposited toxic sediment, rocks, garbage, metal and glass on our beaches under the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Hopefully this project will be a bit better.

Here is a summery of the history of local sand projects:

The history of Imperial Beach is rife with a parade of badly executed “beach replenishment” projects that have failed to actually do much to protect our coastline. The problem of our receding shoreline is the result of the combination of sea level rise, the construction of the Rodriguez Dam and the armoring of our coast.

Here is a brief history of the mostly unsuccessful and fatally flawed sand projects carried out by federal agencies at the urging of the city of Imperial Beach. Only one agency, SANDAG, has been able to carry out a successful beach project—primarily due to its commitment to using clean, large-grain sand for its projects.

1976-77: The most toxic areas of South San Diego Bay are dredged and the spoils are dumped on Imperial Beach, killing benthic life (e.g., sand crabs) for more than a decade. Local surfers still tell stories about the skin rashes they received from contact with the filthy sediment.

1977-84: The Army Corps of Engineers attempts to build a mile-long breakwater in Imperial Beach. The fledgling Surfrider Foundation and local surfer Jim Knox stop the project at the last minute. The breakwater would have forever destroyed surfing and wave action in most of Imperial Beach.

2001: SANDAG carries out a project with clean sand, which helps to create great sandbars for surfing and clearly increases the size of our beach.

2004: Army Corps dredges area near the Bay Bridge. Barges then dump toxic sediment in the surf zone including thousands of rocks and pieces of garbage, dangerous rebar and metal onto the beach and in the surf zone. Surfers call the dump area “Toxics.” One child is almost impaled by a piece of rebar that is hidden in the surf zone. The city initially denies that the garbage and rocks are from the project. No measurable benefit to beach.

2007: Army Corps permits the dredging of a toxic hot spot in San Diego Bay’s Shelter Island. Dredge spoils are dumped with no notice to Imperial Beach residents. Barge is initially turned away by Imperial Beach lifeguards. The barge subsequently works in the middle of the night to avoid public scrutiny. No measurable benefit to beach.

2009: Starting in 2000, Army Corps and the city of Imperial Beach plan a $75 million long-term project involving dredging an area near the border sewage outfall pipe that was used as a World War I gunnery and bombing area. WiLDCOAST, Imperial Beach surfers, the Surfrider Foundation, Senator Tom Coburn and the Obama White House kill the project that the city of Imperial Beach spent more than $250,000 lobbying for.

2010: SANDAG once again proposes “best practices” sand project to be carried out in 2012 involving clean large grain sand. The agency works extensively with local surfers and stakeholders to plan the project.

WiLDCOAST and Nortec Collective Hiperboreal Fight Plastic to Save the Sea

One of the most important things we can do as we see the impact of globalization on the state of our oceans is to communicate the solutions to our problems as broadly as possible. At WiLDCOAST we’ve focused on communicating the values of coastal and marine conservation in Spanish.

Anyone who travels the coast of Mexico and throughout Latin America will see first-hand the tsunami of plastic bags, bottles and styrofoam that litter beaches, estuaries and rivers. So we partnered with Tijuana’s musical innovators Nortec Collective: Hiperboreal to spread the word on the cleaning up our coast and ocean and why it is important to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic. Tijuana’s Galatea Audiovisual media collective filmed the video in the Tijuana River Valley, Imperial Beach, Playas de Tijuana and at the recent Baja Bash.

Thanks to the support of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, here’s our newest plastic-free ocean PSA:

Victory in Cabo Pulmo

President Calderon’s announcement yesterday on Twitter that he was cancelling the Cabo Cortes project that would have destroyed the Cabo Pulmo coral reef in Baja.

Yesterday I  spent the morning at the world’s most important sea turtle nesting beach, Morro Ayuta beach in Oaxaca, Mexico. The area is largely cut off from communications.

After picking up my son in Barra de la Cruz where he had spent the week with a local family, my WiLDCOAST team and I returned to our hotel in Huatulco and were greeted with the news that Mexico‘s President Felipe Calderon had cancelled the Cabo Cortes project that would have destroyed the Cabo Pulmo coral reef.

upon hearing the amazing news of the cancellation of Cabo Cortes by President Calderon.

WiLDCOAST has spent the past two years mountain a campaign to stop the Cabo Cortes project. We brought the issue international attention and organized people in the streets of Los Cabos and the East Cape. We made it a truly grassroots and global campaign.

Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park is considered the world’s most important marine conservation area–fish have rebounded there by more than 460% since fishing was banned in 1999.

My favorite part of the campaign was our finale–where we worked with Napanda-a freestyle rapper and graffiti artist to work with students in Los Cabos and La Paz to pain Save Cabo murals. In addition we placed two billboards in La Paz.

I have an amazing team at WiLDCOAST and I am lucky they did such a great job of working passionately and tirelessly to bring attention to the plight of Cabo Pulmo and additionally work with the Mexican government to conserve the federal coastal save of the park through federal conservation concessions.

And thanks to all of our supporters for helping us to conserve a world-class ocean ecosystem and proving that you have to fight hard to make conservation a reality.

The Baja Bash

It is not everyday that your charity event appears in a super cool music video. But on June 2nd, WiLDCOAST held the 1st Annual Baja Bash to benefit our efforts to conserve the coast and ocean of Baja California. Nortec Collective: Hiperboreal played an amazing set and the video above is from the concert. We were also lucky to have the participation of Javier Plascencia of Mision 19, Solange Muris and Benito Molina of Manzanilla and Diego Hernandez of Corazon de Tierra. Thanks to a great team and all of our sponsors!!

It was also an honor for me to give our first ever Ocean Defender awards to Maria Celeste of Telemundo’s Al Rojo Vivo and Dr. Octavio Aburto of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Maria Celeste after receiving her Ocean Defender Award during the Baja Bash with me in the background.

Surf and Turf: The Baja Renaissance

Javier Plascencia of Mision 19.

“Last week I surfed K-38’s,” said Javier Plascencia, the chef and proprietor of Tijuana’s Mision 19. “But the surf was pretty bad.”

Plascencia is from Tijuana, attended high school in Chula Vista, and grew up surfing in Imperial Beach, OB and his home breaks in Baja.

The rock-star handsome Tijuana surfer, along with fellows chefs such as Diego Hernandez of Corazon de Tierra, Benito Molina and Solange Muris of Manzanilla, and brothers Javier Martinez of Boules and David Martinez Muelle 3 in Ensenada are leading a gastronomic revolution and Baja Renaissance that is bringing the endemic and earthy colors, tastes and textures of Baja’s land and sea into our palates and hearts.

“Baja is undergoing a virtual renaissance now with a renewed interest in the region’s gastronomy, culture, eco-adventures, lifestyle and unique accommodations,” said Jim Pickell, CEO and founder of Baja.com, a Baja-based company dedicated to helping travelers enjoy an authentic Baja California experience.

This new renaissance and revival of the authentic in Baja is an important and much needed antidote to the ongoing doom and gloom reporting on Mexico that has convinced many Baja fanatics to stay away from their favorite home away from home.

But due to the amazing things happening in the kitchens of these chefs and the still heartbreaking beauty of Baja’s wilderness landscapes and coastal treasures, there has never been a better time to head south across the border.

My first trip across the border was in 1967, when I was three. My mother, an English immigrant, and I joined our Los Angeles neighbors, a Mexican-American family, on weekend trips to Ensenada, where we rode horses on uncluttered beaches.

Later we traveled to San Felipe with my Aunt Jill and Uncle Emile who were visiting from Switzerland. There we reveled in the fresh fish, unfiltered kindness of local fishing families, the endless beauty of the Gulf of California and the towering peaks of the Sierra San Pedro Martir.

That me on the right with my brother Nicky, my mother, and my Uncle Emile in San Felipe either in 1972 or 1973.

After I started surfing at the age of 13 in 1977, I frequently traveled south of the border to surf the coastline between Tijuana and Ensenada. Those quick trips turned into longer expeditions with my father and friends to central Pacific Baja in a beat-up olive green 1964 six-volt Volkswagen van.

We found friendly fishermen, pristine beaches and surfed perfect waves.

In the 1990s my wife Emiy and I spent two years in the remote coastal lagoons of southern Baja to carry out our dissertation research on gray whales and fisheries management.

During those two years, besides the perfect waves I surfed and the incredible encounters Emily and I had with gray whales, sea turtles, sea lions, osprey and sharks, some of the best expeiences I had were sharing freshly harvested seafood with ourfishermen friends and their families.

In San Ignacio Lagoon, Maria Luisa, a fisherman’s wife and daughter, would lead me and my wife on low-tide searches for pulpo, or octopus. These elusive creatures hid in the empty shells of callo de hacha, or hatchet clams. Maria Luisa would use a gancho, or metal hook, to pry the shells out of the tidal flats and then open up the shells to occasionally reveal an octopus hiding in a shell.

A couple of hours later she would serve us up ceviche de pulpo in the dining room of her plywood house on the shore of the lagoon accompanied by a cold Pacifico.

I thought of those meals when I sat down with Plascencia last week at Mision 19 in Tijuana’s modern Zona Rio district and ate grilled pulpo with pistachio and garbanzo. The complex and satisfying dish was a direct connection to Maria Luisa’s pulpo ceviche.

Sashimi is one of the other signature dishes in northern Baja that is offered up at Manzanilla, Muelle 3 and Boules.

“The only time I had eaten sashimi in Baja,” I told Javier, “was with the fishermen of Punta Abreojos.”

Years ago after being hit by an obnoxious mantaraya or stingray, I savored fresh yellowtail sashimi while sitting under a ramshackle fish shack in Estero Coyote, a mangrove lagoon midway between San Ignacio Lagoon and the rocky points of Abreojos.

My fishermen friends Javier, Isidro and Miguel plied me with cold cerveza that combined with delicacy and sabor of the sashimi, dulled the acute pain of the stingray barb.

For the Baja fans who long to return across the border, you can no longer afford to miss out on the experience offered up by these chefs and the great waves in Baja.

But if you need to quickly experience the sabor of the Baja Renaissance, you can catch, Javier, Diego, Solange and Benito at the Baja Bash on June 2nd at the Harbor Pavilion on San Diego Bay. There these master chefs will offer up the best of their innovative cuisine to the background of Tijuana’s genre busting musical innovators Nortect Collective: Hiperboreal.

You can’t afford to miss out on the new taste of Baja.

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