This week, I journeyed into the upper bay, known to most of us as the Back Bay, to visit with Michelle Clemente, our city's marine protection and education supervisor.
Clemente's office is located in the Back Bay Science Center, sharing the same office structure with representatives from the California Coastal Commission, the Newport Bay Conservancy and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which changed its name two years ago from Fish and Game.
The science center rests on state land and is a partnership with California, Orange County, Newport Beach and UC Irvine. It is hidden on Shellmaker Island just off Back Bay Drive, next to the Newport Dunes and behind a rather large gate.
This gate can be rather intimidating, although it shouldn't be. At the scheduled meeting time, Clemente greeted me with a warm welcome and a big smile. She took me on a guided tour of the facility and reviewed its mission statement:
"The BBSC mission is to provide a hands-on facility where students and the public can study and enjoy the estuarine ecology of Newport Bay, and the marine ecology of the ocean, while promoting natural resource conservation and stewardship throughout the watershed." (View it at backbaysciencecenter.org.)
I was shown the county water-quality lab, the teaching lab and the high school students' lab. The teaching lab reminded me of our yacht club's junior programs, where kids between seventh grade and college are given a chance to learn about our coastal resources, highlighting the upper bay.
We then walked into the high school lab, where I learned about watershed, ocean acidification and a mysterious disease that is killing off sea stars up and down our coast. I found all three topics extremely interesting because they all affect the estuary, the harbor and our ocean.
Just outside the high school lab is a tide pool touch tank where visitors can get their hands wet. I asked if representatives of any of the yacht clubs' junior programs ever came by boat to check out the tide pool tanks and the estuary. "We do get the kids from the Newport Aquatic Center and the Sea Scout base, but the yacht clubs have not found us yet," Clemente said.
Clemente is one of the kindest people I have ever met, and I could instantly feel her passion for the estuary, harbor and ocean. We talked about eelgrass and ways to manage it better in our harbor. She also reviewed with me all the different programs that are run out of the science center, such as Shark Camp, MSA Summer Camp, Newport Seabase Camp, Marine Life Inventory, Shellmaker Discovery Tour, Community Days, Coastal Clean Up days and the OC Natural History Lecture Series. Information on all of these programs can be found on the center's website.
Another topic Clemente is passionate about is watershed and how to continually remind people about all the different pollutants that are washed down the sewers and make their way through the estuary, harbor and ocean.
Time again for one of my silly ideas. What if, as a city, we asked or required all of our large charter boats, Duffy rentals, SUP rentals, kayak and harbor tour companies and yacht clubs to pass out to their customers and members printed short reminders reviewing all the damage pollution can do to our estuary, harbor and ocean from watershed? The reminder could also be posted on a website used for registering for an event.
I will be racing in South Shore Yacht Club's Two Around Catalina this weekend aboard the J 109 Linstar. The Governor's Cup has been going on all week at the Balboa Yacht Club, and it's looking like another close battle. Make sure you check out the results at balboayachtclub.com.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.