Southern California environment news and trends

California boater rescued after collision with whale

File this under close encounters of the aquatic kind. As reported by the Associated Press, a California man had to be rescued after a whale struck his 50-foot sailboat 40 miles off the shore of Mexico.

Max Young, 67, of Sacramento, was forced to activate an emergency beacon to alert the Coast Guard when the whale collision disabled his boat’s steering system and caused the vessel to take on water. He used a mattress to plug a hole caused by the crash and four bilge pumps to bail water while waiting to be rescued.

"He was steering the boat and trying to get it back on course," Young's wife Debra Young told the Associated Press about the initial moments of the ordeal. "It took him a while to realize he didn't have any steerage at all. It took him a bit longer to realize he was taking on water."

Read More...

California coast coughs up oil covered birds

Mercer 9133

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara coast.

According to a new AP report, more than 100 birds covered in oil from the ocean floor have been recovered along the California coastline over the past two months.

“We have never seen this many oil seep Murres at once,” said Jay Holcomb, the director emeritus of the International Bird Rescue center in Los Angeles. Murres are “pursuit diving” birds common to the central California coast. Due to a lack of budget for rounding up birds affected by natural seep, those numbers are gleaned solely from birds brought in by people along Santa Barbara beaches. “Some years we receive even more natural oil seep birds than we do birds from a human-caused oil spill with a responsible party to cover the cost of their care – and, unfortunately, these birds don’t come to us with health insurance.”

If you have an “oiled wildlife sighting,” the IBR asks that you please call (877) UCD-OWCN.

Read More...

Song of the Week: "Deck Shoes," for the US's largest sewage no-discharge zone

JonathanR/Flickr

Cowes Week is an enormous regatta on the Isle of Wight. A deck shoe boat is an enormous deck shoe.

Apologies for the absence last week of what is likely your favorite part of the week, Song of the Week. Family matters forced my overlords to unshackle me from the blogging desk. Been out of commission for several days.

However, on this shortened week, I returned in time to report that the EPA and California are finally on the same page, and cruise ships and cargo vessels no longer can drop even treated sewage in state waters.

As far as I'm concerned, David Foster Wallace wrote the only nonfiction essay about the cruise ship industry; "The Love Boat" is the only television show to get down on the gritty below-decks politics of what happens when Halston, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Geoffrey Beene all guest star with Colonel Henry Blake from M*A*S*H, stop being polite and start being real; and The Greyboy Allstars have written the only funky song about strolling around the Lido deck. Song of the Week is "Deck Shoes," for the EPA and the cruise ship industry.

Read More...

America's Cup draws Sailors for the Sea to California & the San Francisco Bay for ocean conservation

Yachting's America's Cup is displayed up

Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Yachting's America's Cup is displayed upon its arrival for a ceremony in San Diego, California on Febuary 21, 2010 to celebrate the team Oracle's victory in the 33rd America's Cup yacht race.

America's Cup World Series

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Oracle Racing 5 - Coutts competes in the Fleet Racing Championships during the America's Cup World Series, San Diego Match Racing Championship Fleet Race on November 20, 2011 at San Diego Bay in San Diego, California.


The 161-year old race for the Auld Mug is on its way to San Francisco. The America's Cup itself isn't till next year, but plenty of events happen along the way to the final series. For all of them, for some time, environmentalists have been concerned about the impact a huge sailing race will have on the San Francisco Bay and the ocean waters around it.

Those double-hulled racing yachts are sailing under wind power, right? Sure, but the event's a huge tourist draw. That's going to bring in cruise ships and other spectator boats. And air pollution and water pollution their engines will bring, too.

And there's all the temporary development on shore. Most recently, environmentalists shut down plans for a giant floating TV screen in Aquatic Park (the Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club threatened to swim around that area in protests). The Sierra Club pointed to "concerns about water pollution impacts and other criticisms of the project's final environmental impact report, which the state requires before construction can begin." Now that's sorted out; the San Francisco Chronicle reports that San Francisco Supervisors addressed those concerns in the last several days. 

Read More...

Animal Rights, Ethics, PETA, & Orcas

Civil War-Era Slave Auction Re-Enacted At St. Louis Courthouse

John Moore/Getty Images

St. Louis, MO had a slave-auction re-enactment earlier this year. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claims that orcas are being enslaved at Sea World. Sea World dismisses the whole thing as a stunt.

I wish I knew where Derek St. Pierre is. Derek was in my first year law school study group. He was and probably still is a guy who cares and knows about animal rights law. I wonder what he'd think of PETA's lawsuit news, that we reported yesterday. I would have liked to ask him, like in the old days, when we were having bomb threats at UC Hastings and going to vegan pizza restaurants in the Tenderloin.

So I didn't get to speak to Derek or any other legal expert about the merits of the orca suit claim I reported yesterday. But today I read this in the ABA journal:

Animal rights law professors contacted by AP didn’t give the suit much chance of success. Law professor David Favre of Michigan State University predicted an early dismissal. “The court will most likely not even get to the merits of the case, and find that the plaintiffs do not have standing to file the lawsuit at all," he wrote to the wire service in an email.

Read More...