Hiking the Lost Coast Trail….A Truly WILD Coast

IMG_3714WILDCOAST- the name itself implies that we work in some of the most beautiful and remote places in the world. This last week, however, I had a life-changing experience that brings a whole new meaning to wild coast. Do you like a story with bears, close calls with mother nature, and downright adventure? If you answered yes, then read on…

My job at WILDCOAST is to coordinate MPA Watch, a statewide network of organizations that trains volunteers to collect data on how humans are using coastal and marine resources. In other words, I get to take long walks on the beach for science. Sometimes, very long walks.

I recently received an offer from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Humboldt County to establish data collection sites along the 25 mile stretch of beach known as the Lost Coast. Excited to explore one of the most remote places in California, I grabbed our Conservation Coordinator Cory Pukini, Mexico Director Eduardo Nájera, and Wildlands Coordinator Francisco Martínez Vázquez and we set off for the adventure of a lifetime. The weather forecast looked wet but we thought nothing that our team couldn’t handle…working in the remote parts of California and the Baja California Peninsula like we do.

Two flights and seven hours later our team of intrepid explorers landed at the Arcata airport and met with the charismatic and knowledgeable Justin Robbins, an outdoor recreation planner for BLM. We geared up, filled ourselves with warm pho, and got a good night sleep at the Mattole campground where we would start our journey at sunrise the next morning.

At the first hint of dawn we set out equipped with everything we would need to survive three days in the wilderness including new gear generously donated to our team by Eagle Creek and Patagonia, bear canisters to save our trail mix from impending doom, and many supposedly waterproof products that proved not to be so after several inches of rain.

That first day we hiked along eight miles of coastal terraces and black sand beaches. We passed the abandoned Punta Gorda lighthouse known as the “Alcatraz” of lighthouses for how remote it was and encountered a colony of elephant seals which Cory deemed “adorable.” We finally sheltered up river just in time for mother nature to drop about four times the amount of rain as was originally forecasted.

Much of this coast is protected by the Sea Lion Gulch State Marine Reserve, one of California’s 124  marine protected areas, or MPAs. Named for the two large rocks covered with belching sea lions at its northern boundary, Sea Lion Gulch is one of the most remote and difficult MPAs to access MPAs in California. It is, however, one of the most rewarding for those adventurous enough to make the hike.

The next morning, fearing the watery worst, I cracked my eyes open to see the most gorgeous sunrise and blue skies I have ever experienced, a welcome surprise after all the rain the day and night before. Upon exiting the tent I was met with yet another surprise…a goose snuggled up against Cory through the thin fabric of his tent! He told me later he had thought it was his backpack and had been wondering why when he pushed it away in the middle of the night it kept coming back. “WILDCOAST…conserving wildlife one wet goose at a time!”

That day’s hike was probably one of the most unforgettable of my life – eight miles along coastal terrace overlooking the Big Flat State Marine Conservation Area (another MPA), rolling trail through pine forest, babbling brooks, and a herd of deer. We even ran into some surfers who claimed the waves were so good here that they hiked 12 miles with their surfboards to reach it. We stayed the night in a little driftwood shelter other hikers had left behind near the beach.

On day three we woke up before dawn to try to beat the high tide through a four mile stretch of narrow beach and sheer cliffs. An unexpected storm moved in drenching us yet again, and adding to an already high surf that made hiking the beach an adventure to say the least. We literally hopped, skipped, and jumped our way through eight and a half miles of beach, a warm shower and delicious pizza beckoning us at the end of the trail. Cory and Eduardo saw a fairly nonchalant black bear meandering along the beach (which is normal behavior in response to humans as long as you do not try to feed them). I napped in the rain and contemplated the almost complete lack of trash on the beach or the trail (recycling, using reusable bags, bottles, and containers, and disposing of your trash properly is one of the best things you can do to protect the beach!). Francisco donned a trash bag like a poncho in an effort to take some amazing pictures. Then, finally, after three days we made it.

Hiking the Lost Coast was an amazing experience that really brought home the reason why we at WILDCOAST do what we do, but more than that after rock hopping and timing waves for 25 miles I gained a whole new respect for the majesty and power of the coast. It truly is a wild place that deserves both our admiration and protection.

The WILDCOAST team was able to set up four MPA Watch transects in two MPAs (our first MPA Watch sites in the North Coast!), offer advice on interpretation and enforcement, and make some great new partners and friends. While not for the faint of heart (or slight of ankle strength), the Lost Coast offers an amazing experience for anyone with an adventurous spirit and love of the ocean.

By Angela Kemsley, MPA Watch Program Coordinator

New oil spill in Salina Cruz, Mexico, threatens sea turtle nesting sites along Oaxaca’s coast.

Earlier this week, a crude oil spill was spotted by fishermen on the banks of Salinas del Marqués on the coast of Oaxaca, approximately 4.3 miles from the port of Salina Cruz.

Area fishermen observed a black slick in the ocean allegedly coming from Mexican Petroleum (PEMEX), near the same area that  PEMEX vessels come to load oil before exporting it to other countries or states in Mexico.  

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Get to know your neighbors: Mola

A sunfish (Mola mola) swims near the surface off San Diego, California.

I am the ocean sunfish, also known as the Mola mola. Some people call me the alien of the sea because, well, I look like an alien! I’m a silver color, with very rough, thick, mucus-lined skin, and it looks like I’m only half a fish because where I should have a back fin, I have a clavus. When I was born, my back fin didn’t grow; instead, it folded into itself. This is a feature that defines all mola. I’m also told that I always look surprised because I have wide eyes and can’t close my mouth. Instead of having individual teeth, I have a beak-like structure, forcing me to always keep my mouth open. This also prevents me from chewing! I eat my food by sucking it in and out of my mouth until it turns into a mush that I can swallow. I prefer to eat jellyfish because they’re already pretty squishy and relatively easy to swallow. My digestive track is also lined with mucus to protect me against stings!

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Going Wild at IMPAC4 in Chile

By Serge Dedina, Executive Director

WILDCOAST has the opportunity to participate in the 4th Annual International Marine Protected Area Congress in La Serena, Chile. Given, Chile’s recent globally important record of creating vast marine reserves including new ones just off of Rapa Nui and Southern Patagonia, there wasn’t a more appropriate location.

There were participants from all over the world, with a great perspective all the ingredients that go into creating marine reserves.

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Get to know your neighbors: Western Sand Dollar

Photo courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium

I am the western sand dollar, scientifically known as Dendraster excentricus. Contrary to popular belief, I am neither a rock nor a shell but an actual living animal! I am probably what comes to mind when you picture a sand dollar but just like many organisms, we come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. My fish friends never believe me when I say that I am a flattened sea urchin. I know that my spines are not as big but we are both echinoids!

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Stand Up for Clean Water Now!

ACTION ALERT!

Calling All San Diego County Residents, Stand Up for Water Quality and Working Families!

For decades, South San Diego beaches have been pummeled by cross-border sewage infested pollution, causing hard working families and children to get sick from playing in dirty water. For many, the beach is one of very few free recreational opportunities available.

For years, federal agencies like the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) has stood by and done next to nothing. Meanwhile, the problem keeps getting worse and kids keep getting sick. The City of Imperial Beach, California has had enough and they are taking legal action against International Boundary and Water Commission. We need the rest of San Diego County’s cities to come together in support of working families and we need YOU to help get them on board.

CALL your Port Commissioner and County Supervisor and demand they join the fight for clean water. Ask them to join City of IB’s lawsuit!

Sample talking points:

“Hi my name is ________, I live in San Diego County, I’d like to ask the Port Commissioner to join City of IB’s lawsuit against IBWC, thank you for your time.”

“Hi my name is ________, I live in San Diego County, I’d like to ask the County Supervisor to join City of IB’s lawsuit against IBWC, thank you for your time.”

Port Commissioner Robert Valderrama 619-686-7296

County Board of Supervisors
District 1 Supervisor Cox: 619.531.5511
District 2 Supervisor Jacobs 619.531.5522
District 3 Supervisor Gaspar 619.531.5533
District 4 Supervisor Roberts 619.531.5544
District 5 Supervisor Horn 858.694.3900

To learn more about this ongoing issue, check out this latest news story: http://www.foxnews.com/…/millions-gallons-mexican-waste-thr…

#CleanWaterNow!

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Responsible Whale Shark Tourism in Mexico

Ralph Lee Hopkins

The whale shark (Rhinocodon typus) is an extremely large, slow-moving, filter feeding, carpet shark and the world’s second largest fish. Despite their size (equivalent to a school bus when fully mature), whale sharks’ diet consists mainly of planktonic organisms, to which they open their large mouths and filter the tiny organisms floating through the water column.

The whale shark is listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The most significant threat to whale sharks is human activity particularly hunting.

Whale sharks are found in the open waters of tropical oceans and prefer water temperatures above 72°F.  They spend a majority of their time swimming at the ocean’s surface, make them vulnerable to poor fishing practices, boat-strikes and greater susceptibility to plastics ingestion.

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Exploring San Diego MPAs!

By WILDCOAST MPA Intern Maria Esther Diaz.

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying WILDCOAST on two of its #ExploretheCoast programs. WILDCOAST coordinated with San Diego’s Outdoor Outreach to bring groups of middle and high school students to the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. As is common amongst people in San Diego, the students did not know what Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were or that they even existed. At the start of our days together student knowledge was evaluated and some were not aware that MPAs are open for public use. The main objective of these trips is to educate students from all over San Diego on MPAs and provide them the opportunity to interact and engage with local MPAs on a personal scale.

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WILDCOAST and the Philippines’ Collaborate for Ocean Conservation

One of over 7,000 islands in the Philippines.

Last week I departed on a two-week journey to the Philippines to help facilitate an intensive training with the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and United States Agency for International Development to enhance the Philippines marine protected area network. Based on WILDCOAST’s experience in California, Mexico and Cuba, I was asked to be a facilitator, with a group of local mentors, to train over 60 MPA managers from across the Philippine archipelago.

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Get to know your neighbors: Bat rays!

I am a relative of the shark, look like a bat, and swim like a bird flies. I am the myliobatis californica, commonly known as the bat ray. I like to live a life of solitude, hidden in muddy, coastal bottoms or enjoying the bustling life of kelp beds and rocky-bottomed shorelines, from as north as Oregon and as south as Baja California. Although I don’t have menacing teeth like my shark cousins, I prefer to feast on crunchy food such as mollusks, crustaceans, and small bony fish. I use my flat, plate-like teeth to crush my snacks, but don’t worry, I don’t eat the bones, just the meat. My friends tell me I’m special because my eyes are on top of my head but my mouth is on the underside of my body! Therefore to find my dinner I pay special attention to water currents as well as jets of water, and I can detect electrical signals! When I think I’ve found a snack I flap my wings as hard as I can and use my snout to get my food into my mouth.

One of my defining features is my self-defense armor: my stinger. I’ve had my stinger since birth, but it was wrapped in a protective covering. My mom told me that I looked like a rolled taco as a newborn because my wings were wrapped around my body in a fan favorite Mexican food fashion. But hours later I was flapping all over the place and the protective covering on my stinger had come off, so I had instant protection. This came in great handy because I had to go off to find my own food and become independent almost immediately, only depending on my mom for minimal protection for the first few years of my life.

Why should humans care about me?

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