News / USA

    Underwater Parks Preserve Pristine California Coastline

    Protected marine sanctuaries lure divers, scientists

    Point Lobos State Reserve is a sanctuary for thousands of sea and shorebirds.
    Point Lobos State Reserve is a sanctuary for thousands of sea and shorebirds.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    The nation's oldest underwater reserve is one of nine protected marine areas along the California coast.

    While Point Lobos Underwater Reserve is off-limits to fishermen, recreational divers enjoy the park's pristine conditions while scientists take advantage of the untouched eco-system to measure change over time to the environment.

    Pristine conditions

    Brandon Smith kneels down on the Point Lobos beach to double-check his SCUBA gear before he goes in the water. "You have to do everything a specific way every single time," he explains. "You don't want to make mistakes, because the worst time to find out that something's not working is, like, when you're [18 meters] under water."

    Brandon Smith and his friends get ready for a dive at Point Lobos.
    Brandon Smith and his friends get ready for a dive at Point Lobos.

    Smith and his two companions are training to be on the Monterey County Sheriff's dive team, a law enforcement group that recovers criminal evidence from the water. Smith, a recreational diver and police officer, joined the group partly because he has always been fascinated with the ocean.

    He says the expansive waters of Point Lobos have appealed to him for years. "It's just beautiful, but just specifically in Point Lobos, it just seems like everything's a little bigger. I never knew that starfish could ever get as big as they get. I mean to see one that's like [60 centimeters] in diameter and it's just cruising along the bottom, it's just kind of like, 'Whoa! Oh my god!' But it's a lot of fun."

    He says a dive here is an eye-opening experience.

    Luring scientists

    The protected conditions at Point Lobos provide a base line to which researchers can compare data to measure environmental change.

    "Without that base line, it's hard for us to try and ascertain if any of the differences or changes that we see long-term can be attributed, things like environmental change or human-mediated impact," says Dr. Corey Garza, an assistant professor in the division of Science and Environmental Policy at California State University-Monterey Bay.

    Point Lobos Underwater Reserve is one of nine protected marine areas along the California coast.
    Point Lobos Underwater Reserve is one of nine protected marine areas along the California coast.

    He notes that the biggest threat to these protected underwater areas is people: poachers, boaters who spill oil, even visitors who disrupt the ecosystems by taking home souvenirs. Native Americans, Chinese fishermen and Japanese abalone harvesters have all called this area home at one point or another so, Garza says, the story of the park is also one of the human experience.

    "We've changed our use of the environment over time and that's kind of one of the great historic things that marine reserves can do for us, just give us an estimate of how we've sort of changed some of these ecosystems, both through our use of it and in terms of what we're taking out of it." 

    Educating visitors protects park

    Park rangers like Chuck Bancroft help maintain these protected marine areas by enforcing the park's rules, doing a little bit of everything related to the upkeep of the Reserve, and teaching the public about life underwater. Bancroft has worked at Point Lobos for close to 30 years, and loves talking to students about the marine life here and the history of Point Lobos. "To me, the thrill is being able to see things here and then pass it on to another generation," he says.

    Ranger Chuck Bancroft's job includes enforcing the park's rules and sharing its wonders with visitors.
    Ranger Chuck Bancroft's job includes enforcing the park's rules and sharing its wonders with visitors.

    School groups come here from all around California, and other visitors come from even farther away. "We actually have handouts in 20 different languages to welcome people from around the world that come to visit here," Bancroft says.

    "I remember one evening, I was closing up and a little car comes up and a gentlemen gets out and it turns out he's from Italy. And the only things he can say in English are 'Point Lobos' and 'Edward Weston'." Weston, an American photographer, created some of the magnificent photos of Point Lobos in the 1930s which still attract visitors today.

    Preservation

    California State University's Corey Garza says visitors like these, and divers like Brandon Smith, help make scientific research in the area is possible. "You can't have research and you can't have conservation unless you have a public that's actually invested in conserving that," he points out. "And so those parks actually provide for this educational aspect, as well helping people understand what the marine environment is, what's in there, and why is what you find in there important to them? So that's what I think the real big value of parks are."

    Not only has this research added to our understanding of the ocean, it's helped shape government policies. Studies conducted by different institutes around Point Lobos provided the scientific basis for laws which created protected marine areas, including Point Lobos itself, which became a reserve in 1960.

    As a diver, Brandon Smith understands the importance of protecting these areas, both for the creatures that live here and the people who enjoy it. "If you're going to learn about the ocean," he says, "there's no better way of learning it than seeing it first-hand."

    Conservationists hope that scientists, and respectful visitors, will keep that possible at Point Lobos for years to come.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora