Date: April 23, 2012
Tonight’s Location: Bullard’s Beach State Park, Bandon, Oregon
Weather: cloudy, a few showers
Temperature: start 48º
Wildlife count: Brown Pelicans, Dunlins, Black-bellied Plover, Semi-palmated Plover,
Busy Day! We were on the marsh by 8:30 and worked with a very large group of children. They were on time, so the sessions with each group were quite long – worked on some ways of expanding the invertebrate portion of the outing. I fell in the mud getting water for the kids to wash their hands – only a 3 points fall – feet apart and one hand in the mud, but my faithful rescuer got my feet out of the muck, and not much damage done.
As soon as the sessions were over, we left for China Creek. We had prepared lunch for a picnic, but there was a stiff breeze, so we ate in the car and watched the flocks of Brown Pelicans glide directly over our heads – what a beautiful sight. We only stayed there 4 hours and came home to shower and get ready for the evening – had to get the mud off of one leg!
We picked up Bill and Pam at 4pm (Pam drove) and met Jim and Barbara at Fisherman’s Grotto. The special was grilled oysters with garlic and parmesan, so we shared those as an appetizer – wow were they good! John enjoyed fish and shrimp, and I had fish and calamari – it was delicious!
We arrived in Coos Bay at the Southwest Oregon Community College auditorium for a showing of “Ocean Frontiers,” a documentary of the success of community stewardship projects to protect the health of our ocean. The film was introduced by the speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives and the First Lady of Oregon, who presented very interesting previews of the terrific progress that has been made to protect the health of our ocean. Whatever affects the ocean anywhere in the world, affects the entire world, as all of the world’s water is one big ocean.
In Boston, the Port Authority called together scientists, oil and gas drilling companies, and shippers to share the science of whale location and sound to move the shipping lanes and use sonar to prevent hitting Right Whales. (highly endangered whales – possibly only 350 exist) What was amazing, was the cooperation of these sometimes opposing groups. The name of the marine preserve (no ships or fishing allowed) is Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary had a more difficult time. Here sport and commercial fishermen had to give up their fishing grounds, as well as diving guides had to leave areas to protect the fragile coral reefs. However, after these interests came together with scientists presenting real-time data showing the imminent death of the reefs, people acted to protect the reefs. The reefs that were dead due to huge pressure are beginning to respond and revive. As the leader of the movement, a former fishing guide himself explained, that the currents are bringing the fry around the keys from the Gulf and new growth is occurring. However, the current also carries pollutants.
That brought the next change – from Iowa farmers. After discussions of local farmers with state department of Agriculture and the University, Iowa farmers were bused to Louisiana to go fishing on the Gulf and see firsthand the good and the bad of the pollution caused by run-off from their fields. Nitrogen and phosphorus, (fertilizer) runs off fields, is carried down the Mississippi to the Gulf, where it causes huge algae blooms. The algae dies, decomposes and pulls all of the oxygen out of the water, creating enormous dead areas in the Gulf – miles and miles of dead fish – indeed, all creatures of the sea dead! Through voluntary experiments, these farmers learned that there is not the need for the current high levels of fertilizer – their yields were just as high with lower levels. That saved them money! Many are also creating wetland ponds on their property, which naturally remove the pollutants, as well as planting prairie grasses in their grass waterways and edges of their fields. An additional bonus is the new habitat for wildlife. It was a great success story in the making.
Finally, and only a few miles south of us, is the Port Orford Marine Reserve, which like the others, is a cooperative venture of forward looking fishermen and scientists. They realized that if THEY themselves didn’t do something, there would not be fish left and their livelihood would be lost. Together they created the Reserve, which is a no take area. They also worked to restore the Elk River, by researching pollutants and creating natural plant breaks to remove pollutants before they reached either the river or the ocean.
It was a very hopeful presentation – with lots of cooperation showing the good that people can do together.