By land and by sea


The problems of our oceans, and particularly pollution in Santa Monica Bay, were a principle focus and cause for alarm for many of the participants at the “Land and Sea” Oceans’ Conference, held this weekend in Ojai and Malibu.

“Each generation becomes the keeper of the California coast,” said Richard Charter, a marine conservation advocate with the Environmental Defense Fund, at Saturday’s Malibu conference. Scientists, attorneys and others who have been the keepers of the coastline spoke to concerned citizens at the gathering sponsored by Save Our Coast and held at Malibu City Hall. Mary Frampton, executive director of Save Our Coast, organized the conferences. “Mary is the eternal flame for protection of the ocean,” said City Councilman Walt Keller

“People inland don’t realize the ocean affects them,” said Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl in her opening remarks. Kuehl noted the work done in Malibu had been successful in influencing the state.

The conference focused on issues on land that affect the water quality of the ocean, for humans and marine wildlife.

Several disturbing trends were mentioned by keynote speaker, Dr. Jay Grimes, a marine microbiologist and director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi. Seafood-borne human diseases have reached a high, and diseases of the ocean are on the rise, according to Grimes. Many solutions were offered, including new legislation and continued education.

Charter celebrated the fact that offshore oil drilling leases have been stopped by a rider one year at a time, but he pointed out that no executive order had been issued by either Presidents Bush or Clinton. “What will really determine our fate is who the next president is,” said Charter. Currently, only the three areas deemed marine sanctuaries in California offer permanent protection from offshore drilling. Charter also celebrated Gov. Gray Davis’ recent signing of legislation that is the foundation for a network of marine reserves.

Calling himself the “controversial” member of the panel, Steve Fleischli, executive director of the environmental organization Santa Monica BayKeeper, cited several problems contributing to poor water quality, including runoff from the Tapia Water Reclamation Plant, runoff from other urban areas, leaky sewer lines, mystery drains, septic tanks and Pepperdine University’s discharge into Marie Canyon. Fleischli is currently involved in establishing treatment standards for urban runoff from new developments.

He has begun to look at the impact of Malibu’s septic systems on the bay’s pollution. On the issue of septics Frampton said, “The city should lead the way to upgrading all our septic systems. I know that’s not a popular position, but there is good scientific evidence that they don’t work well, particularly on some of our sandy beaches.” Others at the conference, including Dr. Dan Hillman of Malibu, disagreed that septic tanks were causing the problem.

Panel members discussed actions Malibu citizens can take to protect the ocean. “Walk around your business or home, and see if there’s an illegal connection,” said Fleischli. “If you own a restaurant, don’t wash placemats out into the storm drain. Every action has a huge impact. Pick up after pets, don’t dump in the street.”

Dr. John Sibert, former Cal Tech professor, also advised education of elementary age children as a solution. “Get the kids behind it,” he said. “They’ll nag their parents and create the change.”

Other suggestions included electing officials who will stop projects harmful to the ocean and carrying the message to others to do the same.

“We’re planting the seeds that generate one thousand blooms,” said actor Edward Albert, Jr. “Don’t give up. It’s not only a valuable fight, it’s the only fight.”