Your Week in Ocean: Indian Island Renewal, Ocean Night Tonight, Plastic Death, Dead Fish and Delayed Warfare Training
Jennifer Savage / Friday, Dec. 6 @ 9:02 a.m. / Ocean
Indian Island during last year’s King Tides.
Since 1992, candlelight vigils have been held in remembrance of the Indian Island Massacre on the last Saturday in February. Candles in hand, hope in heart, the vigils serve as a path toward healing the old wounds. One of the most significant steps forward will come when the vigils are set aside because the world renewing ceremonies have again been put into place.
You see, Indian Island was once home to two ancient villages: Tuluwat, site of the renewal ceremony, and Etpidolh. The ground beneath Tuluwat, the Wiyot village, is an enormous clamshell mound (“a midden”). This mound, measuring over six acres in size and estimated to be over 1,000 years old, is an irreplaceable physical history of the Wiyot way of life. Contained within are remnants of meals, tools, and ceremonies, as well as many burial sites.
While the infamous massacre is an obvious horror, the environmental destruction is not as easily seen. We drive over the bridges, note how the high tide submerges the island, perhaps grin at the egrets. But since the end of the 19th century, dikes, channels and other modifications have changed tidal action along the shore, resulting in the edge of the mound wearing away. Between 1913 and 1985, an estimated 2,000 cubic yards of the shell mound were lost to erosion – erosion which continues today. In addition, the shell mound was the site of uncontrolled digging in the early part of the 20th century. One amateur archeologist was said to have looted as many as 500 Wiyot gravesites. Once-visible structures of the Tuluwat village are now gone, having been destroyed or carried away by wind and waves.
But all has not been lost. The hard, practical work of buying back parts of the island, removing toxins and debris, and restoring the island physically is serving to restore the Wiyot culture and, ultimately, the world renewal ceremony.
Tonight’s Ocean Night tells the story through a short film, Tuluwat: Restoring a Culture, and presentation by Wiyot tribal members and staff. The event takes place at Arcata Theatre Lounge, is all ages, and will also include the usual opening and closing surf flicks (Chris Malloy’s Groundswell follows the Wiyot presentation), plus a short look at marine debris, big picture and small. A $3 donation is asked. Ocean Night is presented by Ocean Conservancy, Humboldt Surfrider and Humboldt Baykeeper.
One primary source of marine debris has been stemmed, or at least slowed, in the City of Arcata. The city council officially passed an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience food stores, pharmacies and retail businesses beginning February 1. Exempt bags include those used for produce, meat, bulk, gift and donated bags, bags provided for prescription medications and those smaller than 625 cubic inches. Starting in August, paper bags will cost 10 cents allowing you to get used to bringing those bags along with you.
(Some people like to suggest using that single-use plastic bags that wind up choking our wildlife and uglifying our landscapes is some sort of inalienable right. I assume they live in asbestos-laden houses where the walls are still covered in lead paint and they never mind when the neighbor’s dog poops all over their yards. Anti-regulation and pro-individual liberty, amirite?)
In not-good news, commercial crabbing remains on hold locally (KMUD is promising updates) and, in definitely rotten news, climate change is the likely cause of unprecedented mass of oxygen-poor water off the Sonoma Coast, a phenomenon that could harm the region’s prized Dungeness crab and other marine life.
You know what definitely harms marine life (besides plastic bags)? High-intensity mid-frequency sonar, the kind the U.S. Navy wants to use for its warfare training exercises off the Pacific Northwest coast. The proposed exercises, with their potential for killing whales, dolphins and other sea creatures, horrified a significant number of people. Those working to stop – or at least slow down – the Navy’s plans were granted a reprieve recently, according to a Center for Biological Diversity press release”
SAN FRANCISCO – The National Marine Fisheries Service has eight months to issue a new plan to protect thousands of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea lions from ocean noise and other threats generated by U.S. Navy warfare training exercises in waters ranging from Northern California to Canada.
The ruling by Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California today set a deadline of August 1, 2014, for the agency to ensure that the Navy’s training activities comply with the Endangered Species Act. Today’s decision stems from a September 2013 court ruling finding the Fisheries Service at fault for green-lighting Navy training based on incomplete and outdated science.
The full press release is well worth the click. See it here.
Dead fish for a good cause. Also, naked celebs! A more cerebral, local take on overfishing – and circling back around to tribal stewardship – can be found in a new video detailing tribal participation in the North Coast implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act. Perfect timing, as the completion of the statewide marine protected area network, the only one in the county, nears its first anniversary this month.
Finally, some random great white shark news – with heart-pounding video, natch.
Humboldt County Superior Court Calendar: Tomorrow
8722 Mm101 (Humboldt office): CLOSURE of a Road
Press Democrat: New web site features NorCal’s “Most Wanted”
Lumberjack News: New accreditation for health services
KINS: PM News 121113
Here Is A Partial List of Things That Don’t Belong In Liscom Slough That One Mild-Mannered Guy Removed
Today on KHUM’s Coastal Currents, Jessica Hall of Humboldt Baykeeper introduces you to a regular guy whose moral compass points to Arcata’s lowlands.
It also led him to smash up three abandoned cars with a sledgehammer. “But that’s nothing compared to player pianos and walk-in safes and the other stuff,” he told KHUM today.
Of that list above, Fish and Game (now Fish and Wildlife) made only one arrest, said Halstead. (He explains at 8:19 below.)
Hear today’s Coastal Currents:
For almost two decades, Ted Halstead has been removing garbage from the slough on the north side of Arcata bay. A lot of garbage. And with today’s King Tide (read: extra high tide, see photo below), a lot of that would’ve been swept out into the bay.
Halstead’s impact extends well beyond general decency. “I don’t think people realize how incredibly abundant these sloughs really are, and how critical they are to the fisheries industry here,” said Hall.
“If you’re a fan of salmon, halibut, the herring, the sardines, the baitfish, [a clean slough] is critical to being able to have those things,” added Halstead.
He noted that at the peak of juvenile dungeness crab season, he observed about 1,500 crabs per hour making their way out to the bay.
Jennifer Savage / Monday, Nov. 25 @ 10:51 a.m. / Ocean
Whales! As sighted outside of Crescent City in “Humpback Alley.” Everything you need to know in this episode of Coastal Currents. (Photos courtesy Jeff Jacobsen)
Lots of action in, around and regarding the ocean and bay this month. Here’s your “In Case You Missed It” snapshot:
- The California Ocean Protection Council awarded $1.3 million to seven local governments, including $250,000 to the City of Eureka for its General Plan Update: Coastal Land Use Policy – Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategies and Policies. “These grants will help local governments understand their vulnerabilities and develop plans to reduce their risks to sea level rise, storms and erosion,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird. “These voter-approved funds will assist coastal communities in preparing for a changing climate.” This program provides grants to local governments along the California coast to assess vulnerabilities to sea level rise, coastal storms, and shoreline change and to develop plans to reduce risk through updating Local Coastal Programs (LCPs), which are a key tool for action on sea level rise in California. LCPs are required by the Coastal Act for each coastal jurisdiction in California and are the basic planning and regulatory tool that guides development in the coastal zone in accordance with the Coastal Act goals and policies.
- The Humboldt Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District staff showed a bunch of policymakers around the agency’s recently acquired abandoned pulp mill, highlighting the potential and the good work the EPA has done making Humboldt Bay safer from leftover caustic byproducts of the pulping process.
- Speaking of the EPA and the bay’s industrial legacy, the Humboldt Bay Recreation Enhancement & Water Quality Fund, a result of the 1991 settlement between Surfrider Foundation, the EPA, L-P and Simpson after the two pulp mills were found to be in massive violation of the Clean Water Act, continues to provide money for education and other good times on Humboldt Bay. Recent recipients of fund grants include Friends of the Dunes ($3,100) and Humboldt Baykeeper ($5,800). To date, over $130,000 has been awarded through the Humboldt Area Foundation.
- Clean water is great. Sewage spills are not. Condolences to our friends in Crescent City, where a malfunction at the city’s wastewater treatment plant caused a spill of about 1,500 gallons of treated fluid early last Wednesday, closing the beach as a result.
- As long as you’re inevitably hanging out on Facebook, give Low Tide a Like. It’s an art and archive project assembling a comprehensive survey of visual bay histories for public re-presentation and preservation. Low Tide volunteers are collecting material on Humboldt Bay to reproduce in exhibitions, books, and archives, incorporating photos, charts, maps and other graphics. Very cool, interactive images here.
- If you’re looking to get away from the computer, take your binocs to Patrick’s Point or the Klamath Overlook or Table Bluff – any safe vantage point that gives you a good view of the ocean. There’s hella whales for days.
- Maybe you’re into high tides? This year’s King High Tides are Monday, Dec. 2 through Wednesday, Dec. 4 and Tuesday, Dec. 31 through Thursday, Jan. 2 with the highest predicted for New Year’s Day – 8.65’ at the North Spit! Humboldt Baykeeper is building on a 2012 effort to photograph sites around the bay that are most vulnerable to storm surges and sea level rise. Email KingTidePhotos@gmail.com to adopt a site.
- Finally, good news for whales! And all marine life. And all life that depends on the ocean, i.e. everyone. The City of Arcata has become the 80-somethingth – they’re increasing too quickly to be definite – municipality to ban single-use plastic grocery bags. Why is this good? Because this and thisand this and this and this. (Summary: plastic bags make up a significant amount of litter harmful to ocean creatures, the tide is heavily turned in favor of turning customers on to reusables, cities that have implemented the ban are doing fine.) Humboldt Baykeeper Executive Director Jessica Hall and Arcata City Councilmember Alex Stillman agree.
Join Humboldt Surfrider, Humboldt Baykeeper and Ocean Conservancy for Ocean Night on Friday, Dec. 6 at the Arcata Theatre Lounge. The evening will focus on Humboldt Bay, particularly the efforts of the Wiyot Tribe’s history, restoration and vision regarding the Tuluwat Ceremonial site. More to come.
Arcatans are estimated to use about four million single-use plastic bags annually. After last night, that number should drop dramatically.
In a 5-0 decision, the city council decided to adopt a bag ordinance that prohibits those plastic carryout bags found at grocery stores and restaurants.
“We’re really happy that Humboldt Waste Management did our EIR (enviromental impact report) and made it available for everyone in the county to use,” said Alex Stillman, Arcata City Councilmember. “And we’re looking forward to adopting it, and also the county considering adopting it so that we can, as a coastal city and coastal county, eliminate plastic bags from our environment.”
Arcata’s bag ban goes into effect in February 2014, Stillman said. Starting in August, the city will mandate a ten-cent charge on paper bags.
Plastic bags don’t biodegrade. Instead, they get shredded into smaller and smaller pieces until they work their way into the food chain. “There are places in the ocean where you find more particles of plastic than plankton,” said Humboldt Baykeeper’s Jessica Hall. “This is the single most popular issue when we post this on our Facebook page,” she said. “This is the thing people have really, really responded too.”
Though Stillman said she’d been eyeing a bag ordinance for Arcata since her reelection in 2006, Hall notes that this is the first plastic bag ban in Humboldt county. In addition to the city staff, Hall added that “Humboldt Waste Management Authority also gets a big high five for putting this on the table in the first place and I’d also like to thank our partners in the environmental community and the community members themselves.”
Now’s as good a time as ever to enjoy Australian comedian Tim Minchin’s epic anthem.
“Canopener” (Photo by Bob Stewart)
Oh, ocean creatures are just amazing! While you’ve likely heard about the oarfish carcass that washed up near Catalina Island, we’ve had some fantastic sightings closer to home, too. Orcas aren’t quite as exotic as oarfish, but they’ll impress you with their beauty, speed and mad predatory skills – who else (other than humans) goes after sharks?
Coastal sightings of these killer whales are rare. Out at sea, however, odds of seeing orcas increase and the folks at Naked Whale Research are hoping more people will share their stories and photos. Researcher Jeff Jacobsen recently relayed a couple:
On October 5, Robert Reed and Bob Stewart were fishing near the Eel River Buoy when a pair of killer whales happened by. Stewart took photos of the male, which Jacobsen sent to Alisa Schulman-Janiger who maintains the killer whale photo-ID catalog for California. She identified the male as CA60 aka “Canopener,” who was first identified off of Humboldt on Sept. 20 1980 – 1980!
Canopener’s been seen from Santa Rosa Island off of Santa Barbara to the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii), most frequently in Monterey Bay lately. He is a mammal eater, a “transient” ecotype, maybe the biggest one in her catalog. And despite his fearsomeness, he always travels with his mom.
The next day, Jim Yarnall and wife were in the same general area and saw another transient pair, a male and a female. Schulman-Janiger identified the female as the rarely seen CA136 and is still trying to match the male.
CA136 (Photo by Jim Yarnall)
Unknown male (Photo by Jim Yarnall)
Jacobsen explained that a rich history exists on most of the killer whales traversing the coast and, importantly, that individual whale background can be accessed via a simple photograph – providing it shows enough detail of the side, trailing edge of the dorsal fin and overall shape, and the gray saddle patch behind it.
You can be part of things! Report sightings and upload photos at the Naked Whale Research website.
Here’s some more fun local orca facts:
The mammal eaters – “transients” – seem to run a trap line along the coast, keeping that element of surprise on their side by not hanging out in one area for long.
The salmon-eating “residents” from the Salish Sea area (Puget Sound) also pass back and forth – the K pod made the news because researchers were able to track one of the whales from a satellite tag placed temporarily in his dorsal fin.
And, no doubt, Jacobsen says, the third and less-known type, the “offshores,” who tend to spend most their time west of the shelf break in deep water feeding on sharks, can be seen here too.