Marine Protected Area Watch Training with the San Ysidro Girl Scouts

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In the beginning of 2014, WILDCOAST and the Girl Scouts of San Ysidro, developed the first Junior Marine Protected Area (MPA) Watch program in California. The program is designed to gather data on how people are using the MPA network and help guide future management decisions. The Junior MPA Watch program is engaging younger audiences in citizen science and greatly contributing to the statewide project. Today, over 100 youth in San Diego County have participated in the program, many from Girl Scout troop 5912 in San Ysidro, one of the county’s most park-poor communities.

Although the Girl Scouts love to play and learn in their closest MPA, the Tijuana River Mouth SMCA, they are also spending their free time helping WILDCOAST protect it. On June 15, 2015 two girl scouts from 5912 took on a new role in the program and trained eight of their group members to conduct the MPA Watch surveys.  Maite and Ileana, both have been very active in the program and other efforts to improve the MPA and nearby estuary. They have carried out beach cleanups, done storm drain stenciling in their community and have even visited local elected officials to ask for further open space and MPA protection. With their help, now even more local youth are stewarding one of the county’s underwater parks and helping to guide an effective future for our MPAs.

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Thankful for the Ocean.

What we are thankful for:

This holiday season, we are thankful for people’s commitment to leave the world a better place. We are also thankful for having a beautiful environment like the ocean nearby. The ocean is an important resource that supports life, and we have many happy memories in it. So the ocean provides food for us but also happy times!

In the ocean we’ve found amazing things like kelp forest, fishes, seaweed and a beautiful ecosystem. The beach gives us a lot of fun, lovely days at the pier and we’ve found many activities to do there like looking at pods of dolphins swim by and enjoying our family and friends.

It makes us happy to collaborate with the Girl Scouts and WILDCOAST because we know we are contributing to help the Marine Protected Areas. The beach is part of our community, and as Girl Scouts but also as residents of San Ysidro, California, we want to work protecting the ocean so that other generations can enjoy it as we do.

Sofia Valles y Lucia Valles. Girl Scout Troop 5912

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Volunteers removed 5,740 pounds of trash from the Tijuana River Valley!

On Saturday, Oct. 4th, the weather was hitting 85 degrees that morning, but 165 volunteers showed up and removed 5,740 pounds of trash from the Tijuana River Valley!

THANK YOU to all the wonderful volunteers that helped remove items like: plastic bags and bottles, toys, tires, items of clothing, even car bumpers!

We couldn’t have done it with out the work of all our amazing team of volunteers.  There are a couple more events left in the Tijuana River Action Month so please visit http://www.tjriveraction.net/ for more information on all upcoming events.

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Alpine Girl Scouts Get Excited About Their Marine Protected Areas.

This past Saturday I spent the morning with an amazing group of  105 girls, the Girl Scout Troop #6323 from Alpine, California.  The girls invited me to talk about the importance of “not littering” and keeping our streets clean, but I decided to add one thing to the talk: our ocean!  Though the community of Alpine is not “close” to the ocean, the girls learned how trash and other pollutants left in streets, near creeks or rivers, can affect our oceans and our Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).  It is important for us to see the BIG picture, just because we don’t see the trash doesn’t mean it’s gone.

The girls learned about San Diego’s new MPAs, which was a new concept for them, and all the different marine wildlife they can encounter in those areas. Like one girl said “so they are better than aquariums?” YES! You can see animals in their natural habitats, but you have to be very careful because they are protected by law so future generations can also enjoy them. The girls were so excited they could’t wait to tell their parents that they could go kayaking or snorkeling in these areas.

After we talked about MPAs, we dove in to how to keep them clean and healthy. We discussed different ways to make sure trash or any other pollutants don’t end up in the ocean were animals and humans can get hurt by them.

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Surfing Dolphins in the Tijuana River Mouth MPA

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Two weekends ago, I spent my Sunday morning with the San Ysidro Girl Scouts at the Tijuana River Mouth State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA). The girls had a long weekend filled with activities and a trip to Los Angeles.

We had planned a beach cleanup, lunch and to then start our new Junior MPA Watch training. When I got to the site, their Girl Scout leader, Irene Barajas, informed me that the girls were really tired and would like to skip lunch and do the cleanup and the training, that way they could finish early.

It was a nice and breezy morning, the water was calm, and few people were out at the beach. We started the cleanup; the girls were very active, picking up cigarette butts, trash bags, plastic bottles and candy wrappers.  After an hour we started the training, I talked to them about why this Marine Protected Area (MPA) is biologically important  and all the different marine wildlife that inhabit the area.  As we were starting the training you could see they were tired, but these girls are tough and were ready to start learning.  I started explaining how to conduct the surveys and what to write on the data sheets when I pointed to the ocean and asked “What do you see?” Suddenly a pod of about three dolphins were swimming in the MPA. The girls got really excited, their eyes lit-up quickly and started talking to each other about how cool it was. Just when we thought it could not get any better, dolphins started jumping up, and putting on a show. We stopped the training for a few minutes and waited until the dolphins headed south.  One girl said, “This is better than Sea World, it’s natural!”

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