June 24, 2012

I Get By With A Little Kelp From My Friends

Good morning and greetings, summer solstice fans. Last Thursday, the change of seasons, much like my transformation from boyhood to a bloghood, came about quietly, and in a blink of a thigh, we sprang from spring into Donna summer.

And what an opening day it was. Torrential rains produced record flooding in parts of Minnesota, while in northeast, the thermometer spiraled into the high-90′s, which combined with unbearable humidity made folks from Washington D.C., to Maine feel like broasted chickens. I don’t want to say it was hot, but even the sun was looking for shade. As we locals say, “Lucky we live Santa Cruz.”

As I mentioned in a rambling, I’ll be heading to the Garden Isle at the end of a July, a thought I don’t think about more than ten billion times a day. Last week, after parking my car in the lot at Natural Bridges, I surveyed the kelp-filled beach and commented to my wife, who is also my soul mate and main beneficiary that “This is not what the beach is going to look like in Kauai.” We may have to step around some coral, but the only weed we’re going to see on the beach will be going up in smoke.

So when I saw this story written by Pete Fimrite in the San Francisco Chronicle, I knew I had it was my civic duty and moral responsibility to bring it to my cyber audience in Monterey Bay.

A highly invasive form of brown kelp native to Japan has spread throughout the San Francisco waterfront like garlic fries since it was discovered three years ago. Researchers say it could threaten native species and ecosystems if money, resources and more ketchup aren’t put into stopping its spread.

The seaweed, commonly known as Wakame, multiplies faster than the Octomom, and has driven out native kelp and drastically altered entire ecosystems in other places, including Argentina, New Zealand, parts of Europe, the Jersey shore and a Club Med in Jamaica.

This clever kelp, which is a common ingredient in miso soup and General Tso’s chicken, is known in scientific circles as Undaria pinnatifida or Inthegodadavita. It can attach itself to almost anything – pilings, boats, docks, nurses, chains, riprap and old girlfriends. Like a young Manute Bol, this algae can grow an inch a day, with individuals sometimes stretching 9 feet. And as they say in the hoops world, “You can’t teach nine feet.”

This seaweed, along with people who talk on their cell phones in restaurants, are recognized globally as two of the world’s top 100 invasive species. This Japanese import made its debut in California about 12 years ago, probably by a ship or Sony executive that moored in the Long Beach area.

It was discovered in Monterey in 2001 and later spotted having some clam chowder in a bread bowl at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing in 2002. These slimy blooms have since spread northward along the coast, most likely by hitching rides on boats, planes, trains and automobiles. In the classic words of Steve Martin, “Those aren’t pillows!”

Last year, researchers with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center found it clinging like peaches to piers and docks in several
more places along the San Francisco waterfront. According to Chela Zabin, a biologist for the Maryland-based research center and UC Davis. “In San Francisco Bay, it is now widespread enough, and on so many pier pilings that we can’t get to, that I don’t think we can remove it by hand. It’s a potentially very serious problem. And don’t even get me started on the Warriors.”

The removal effort faces several obstacles, not the least of which is that there is no money available for research or to pay for an
eradication effort, making it an all-volunteer affair. Even if there were enough workers and funding, total elimination would be a tricky proposition. The species shoots out thousands of microscopic spores that, like many members of Congress, can remain dormant for up to two years.

Zabin says if the spread of this foreign agent is not checked, it could eventually outcompete the native seaweeds, including giant kelp, the majestic floating seaweed species common to Monterey Bay whose limbs can reach 200 feet below the surface. Many fish and other aquatic animals depend on the giant kelp for food, shelter to lay eggs on, to escape from predators and hide from the IRS. These functions cannot be replaced by Undaria pinnatifida, which like my medulla oblongata, is more like a giant banana leaf that sinks below the surface and attaches itself to things in a co-dependent way.

In summation, although it’s not a major problem in Monterey Bay now, this seaweed has the potential to be more disruptive than the Tea Party. And that, my marine life-loving friends, is almost as scary as the Republicans taking over the White House in November.

Moving along, last Saturday night, while trying to connect with my higher self and TiVo guide, I glanced down and noticed that my foot was glowing red. I turned around and saw that the sky was lit up like it was the first night of Shavous. What a glorious sight for all the visitors who were in town for the UCSC graduations while taking in the gray essence that is the morning coastal fog.

So to make up for missing out on this menagerie of color and to remove the guilt and shame from my photogtraphic palate, I went back into the archives to see if there were any sunsets I had shot from past Junes.

Colorful displays in the sky in June occur about as often as I go on Facebook. My research revealed just one from the previous seven years. And just my Andrew luck, I had never featured this set of photos before. I took them from a little park above the arroyo near my house. It wasn’t McArthur Park, and although it wasn’t melting in the dark, I know I’ll never have that recipe for that sunset again. Oh, no!

On to some late night humor. “Last night on the premiere of a new reality show, Bristol Palin confronted a man in a bar and demanded to know why he hates her mother. In response, John McCain said ‘Leave me alone, I’m having a drink.’” –Conan O’Brien “For the first time in history, the number of Asian immigrants coming into America is larger than the number of Hispanic immigrants. Now even our immigrants are being made in China.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“President Obama is going to a fundraiser at Sarah Jessica Parker’s house. It will be a formal, sit-down dinner for 200 in her shoe closet.” –Conan O’Brien “Mitt Romney said Obama is ignoring the real issues with illegals, which is that they keep blowing the grass clippings into his pool.” –Bill Maher

“Guantanamo Bay is getting millions and millions of dollars of upgrades and renovations. In fact, they’re not even calling it a detention camp anymore. It’s now a gated community.” –Jay Leno “Happy Flag Day. Flag Day is the day in which we honor the symbol of our nation and the 8-year-old Chinese kids who make them for us for a nickel apiece.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our last gasp for June 2012. Happy anniversary wishes today go out to my mother and father, who celebrate their 162nd, er 62nd wedding anniversary. Unbelievable! As a wise guy once said, “Marriage is when a man and woman become as one; the trouble starts when they try to decide which one.”

And congratulations go out to their grandson, Jason, who was named as one of the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s All-County Athletes of the Year. If you can find one of those dictionaries the pioneers used and look up “scholar athlete”, you’ll see Jason’s picture.

We’ll catch you showing the entire planet why you’re the best player in the world. Aloha, mahalo and later, LeBron James fans.

1 Comment »

  1. Your plans sound very nice on paper, but if you actually ‘see weed’, I’d look the other way so that you can maintain kelpable deniability.

    Comment by Miso Horney — June 25, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

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