Southern California’s Urban Ocean cover

Southern California’s Urban Ocean

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Southern California’s coast and ocean have all the ingredients to serve as a model for a sustainable relationship between humans and nature.





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Southern California’s Urban Ocean

Busy

Southern California, from Santa Barbara to the U.S.-Mexico border, has a uniquely busy coastline.

It is home to several kinds of human activity, including commercial shipping and recreation, and it features marine life and natural beauty that is world renowned. It’s a place where industry, recreation, and wildlife all coexist in close proximity.

The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are among the largest and busiest in the world. Their commercial impact ripples out across millions of livelihoods both in marine and terrestrial industries.

Travelers

Photo Courtesy of the Aquarium Of The Pacific

Travelers

At the same time however, they are seated in the middle of one of the most important, diverse, and delicate natural regions of the world ocean. Our coastline is home to thousands of marine species, and like the ships that travel to and from the port from across the world, many of the species in our local marine habitats, whether they are marine mammals, fish, or even invertebrates, are likewise travelers.

Critical Roles

The natural roles they play here and elsewhere are critical to the future viability of ocean biology worldwide.

Will we have offshore wind farms in the waters off our coast in the future? Or aquaculture farms?

No doubt if these things come to pass, we will want them to be out of the way of our beautiful sunsets and our best surfing and diving spots. We won’t want these things to harm any of the local ocean’s important ecosystems or the amazing animals in them.

Heavy Use

Photo Courtesy of the Aquarium Of The Pacific

Heavy Use

But we have to face the reality that we already make heavy use of the ocean in Southern California in ways that benefit humans first.

Searching For An Answer

We bring nearly half of all imported finished goods into this country by way of the ocean through the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, we drill for oil on twenty-six offshore platforms, and we currently discharge more than 1.2 billion gallons of wastewater into the ocean every day.

What if there was a way to do some environmental good, bring new business into our local economy, and preserve our local ocean culture in one fell swoop?

Coming Together

It’s becoming clear that human population growth, rising energy demand, and stresses to the environment will all affect life in Southern California in coming decades. Experts agree this situation will require some planning.

In 2011 experts gathered at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, in a forum hosted by the Aquarium and the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute and Sea Grant program.

The Aquarium regularly hosts forums like this to bring together the brightest minds in science, research, conservation, policy, and industry to explore major environmental issues.

Heads Together

Photo Courtesy of the Aquarium Of The Pacific

Heads Together

This time, we brought together about forty representatives from colleges and universities, state and federal government agencies, various ocean and renewable energy industries, conservationists, and other stakeholder groups to explore the concept of coastal marine spatial planning, or CMSP, and how it might be applied to the Southern California Bight.

CMSP

Bight is a geographical term referring to a bend in the coastline. The Southern California Bight extends from Point Conception in Santa Barbara south to our border with Mexico.

CMSP was one of the recommendations that came out of President Obama’s executive order for the establishment of the nation’s first national ocean policy.

It’s a process that’s designed to allocate legitimate and important uses to appropriate coastal and ocean areas in an effort to benefit both environmental health and economic prosperity.

Fishermen And Seals

Photo Courtesy of the Aquarium Of The Pacific

Fishermen And Seals

It would build upon California’s efforts to protect biologically sensitive areas designated through the Marine Life Protection Act. Important human uses might include offshore wind farms, aquaculture, and other sustainable projects that could contribute to our energy and food system resources and the regional economy.

Balance

CMSP could be especially important for Southern California because of our high and growing population; our cultural identity as a region that boasts ocean tourism, recreation, and lifestyle; and a strong consensus that environmental standards in protecting our ocean and marine life should not be compromised.

Many people care about both a healthy ocean and a healthy economy; it’s a question of how to achieve and sustain both in our region.

The experts that came to our forum began to draft a vision statement and process for implementing CMSP in Southern California. Much more work, discussion, and planning need to take place, but Aquarium officials think this concept holds a lot of promise.

Urban Ocean Festival

Photo Courtesy of the Aquarium Of The Pacific

Urban Ocean Festival

The Aquarium hosts an annual Urban Ocean Festival that celebrates the nexus of all of these human and animal activities.

Artistic Outreach

Photo Courtesy of the Aquarium Of The Pacific

Artistic Outreach

The festival weekend features uses of the arts to interpret urban ocean issues and to spotlight the unique beauty and aesthetic of Southern California’s urban ocean.

Recycled Originals

Photo Courtesy of the Aquarium Of The Pacific

Recycled Originals

At the festival, we showcase the talents of local artists to capture the unique beauty of the urban ocean and a fashion show and contest in which designers will compete to create the best garment out of recycled materials.

Special Activities

The festival also features interactive mural painting sessions, poetry readings, and a special poetry boat cruise, films, guest lecturers, and musical performances.

Seafood for the Future, the Aquarium’s sustainable seafood program, conducts sustainable seafood cooking demonstrations.

During the festival, and three more times during the summer each year, the Aquarium also offers an urban ocean cruise touring portions of the port complex that the public generally doesn’t see.

Sharing Space

Photo Courtesy of the Aquarium Of The Pacific

Sharing Space

The container ships entering the ports here share shipping lanes with the largest assemblage of migrating whales in the World Ocean, as well as seals and sea lions, dolphins, fish, and birds, among other animals.

More To See

In fact, there’s even a nature reserve at the mouth of the Los Angeles River that’s home to night herons and other wildlife. Plus, there are tons of recreational sailors based in the nearby marina, plus jet skiers, divers, and paddleboarders on the water near the bay.

There are commercial and recreational fishing boats in the area, shuttles going back and forth from Catalina Island, a Russian spy submarine, and Sea Launch (the commercial satellite launch facility).

Aboard the urban ocean cruise enjoy commentary by an Aquarium of the Pacific educator. They also learn about what the shipping industry is doing to reduce its environmental impact.

Seeking Harmony

Photo Courtesy of the Aquarium Of The Pacific

Seeking Harmony

There’s so much to learn about the waters right off our beaches in Southern California. In a big picture sense, we humans rely on what happens in those waters every day.

Aquarium Of The Pacific