Ocean Currents » scuba http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 30 Sep 2015 23:26:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 5 Questions with Photographer Marc Shargel on Wonders of the Sea http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/23/5-questions-with-photographer-marc-shargel-on-wonders-of-the-sea/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/23/5-questions-with-photographer-marc-shargel-on-wonders-of-the-sea/#comments Mon, 23 Jul 2012 15:00:06 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1202

The long arms of a blood star stretch across purple California hydrocoral. Credit: Marc Shargel.

Page through Marc Shargel’s three-book series “Wonders of the Sea” about California’s coast and you’ll be awed by both the human history and the natural history told through photographs and stories. An award-winning photographer, Shargel learned to scuba dive while studying marine biology at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove. He has been diving for more than 30 years, from lush kelp forests to isolated offshore pinnacles, and observed many changes. To celebrate California’s network of marine protected areas, Marc shares some of what he’s seen through his lens.

Catch the interview and more amazing photos after the jump.

1. Which marine plant or animal do you most like to photograph underwater, and why?

All of them! But one subject I photograph over and over is kelp. Even though I have hundreds of pictures of kelp, I’m always inspired to interpret it in new ways.

And there’s always a chance of finding one of the dozens of little critters that live in the kelp forest, like a snail we have here that is unbelievably gaudy – it’s got spiral bands of gold and purple. Frequently, I’ll seek out one of those and see if I can do a better job of lighting or framing it.

2. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve observed in the ocean over the past 34 years?

From black abalone to many kinds of fish, things are disappearing. I did my first scuba dive at the Monterey breakwater in 1978. I saw schools of blue rockfish swimming through the kelp. This is a spot where people can drop fishing hooks right over the dive site, and since my first visit 34 years ago, blue rock fish have become a very rare sight. All the fish there are small ones that haven’t had a chance to grow to full size.

In farther-away places with less boat traffic and less fishing, we still see big schools of small to medium-size blue rockfish. However, the really large ones can only be found in the most inaccessible locations—or in the marine reserve at Point Lobos where they are completely protected. The good news is, reserves work and we’ve added several recently.

3. Can you give an example of what inspires you to actively support marine protected areas?

Photographer Marc Shargel prepares to dive into his work day. Credit: Steven Greenwood

One poster-child species for marine protected areas is the extremely slow-growing yellow-eye rockfish—a strikingly beautiful fish. I was years into my diving career before I caught sight of one. I went out to Point Arena in Mendocino County where this incredible rock comes up from the ocean floor, put on my gear and started down the anchor line. Swimming up the line as if to greet me was my first yellow-eye.

I got to the bottom and it was chock-a-block with them. I’ve never seen a mature one anywhere else. When a suite of marine protected areas along the north central coast went into effect in 2010, that rock and all the life there was protected.

4. Why do marine protected areas around the world draw divers and photographers like you?

We love them, because marine reserves teem with ocean life.  Their robust communities of marine life are more resistant to human impacts and natural disasters. For instance, in the wake of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, coral reefs inside a marine protected area in Sri Lanka appear to have been more resilient than other areas where damage was much greater.

5. What kinds of experiences can families enjoy along the California coast?

I’ll tell you a story that took place in front of Cannery Row on Monterey Bay several years ago. I took my nephew out on a two-person kayak through the kelp. We had the good fortune to spot a small group of dolphins quite close to shore. He put on a wetsuit and mask, stuck his face in the water, and got an instant appreciation of the incredible density and diversity of the ecosystem.

The highlight came at the end of the day:  A sea otter. These animals were driven to the brink of extinction a hundred years ago and made a comeback. This one came right by and checked us out.  And then it climbed up onto the boat. For a couple of minutes, there were not two of us on the kayak, but three! That day inspired my nephew to spend the better part of his time in college studying marine biology. For me, he represents the generations to come, the people who will inherit the natural world we’re now stewards for.

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Five Ways to Enjoy California’s New Ocean Parks http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/03/five-ways-to-enjoy-californias-new-ocean-parks/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/03/five-ways-to-enjoy-californias-new-ocean-parks/#comments Thu, 03 May 2012 18:21:45 +0000 Jennifer Savage http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=340

A diver explores the kelp forests off Anacapa Island, part of the Channel Islands National Park. Credit: Heal The Bay flickr stream

Whatever one’s favorite ocean-touring activity, marine protected areas provide an enhanced experience. California is poised to be the first state to have an offshore network of reserves and conservation areas, places set aside with limited or no fishing, where habitat is protected and the creatures who live there can thrive. Here are five ways to get to know the ocean park near you – or help you make the most out of a vacation destination!

  1. Grab a Kayak and paddle out. Get some exercise while letting the mind relax, observe and savor the moment. My favorite part of kayaking is searching for shadows that lead to mysterious caves and crevices. Kayaking is also a great way to look out for whales in the distance – Grey whales migrate from December through May, and humpbacks can be seen in summer and fall.
  2. Tour by paddleboard. From your vantage point, you can see far out toward the horizon, but still get up close and personal with what’s right around you. Flashes of color reveal schools of fish. Sea otters float by in beds of kelp, cuteness personified. The steady rhythmic paddling always puts me in a more relaxed state of mind.
  3. Dive in! For the true adventurers, the lure of below the surface is irresistible. Civilization disappears – and with it, all the stress of modern living. The ocean is truly a magical place. No matter how many National Geographic specials you watch, seeing the wonder below the surface truly is a whole different world.
  4. Unpack the binoculars. In addition to protecting fish, California’s ocean parks provide safe haven for the thousands of seabirds who travel the Pacific flyway and make their homes on offshore rocks or along the coast. If you’re not already familiar with the antics of the Sooty Shearwater, Black-footed Albatross or Storm Petrels, these exotic creatures will soon become as familiar to you as the ever-present seagulls. The poorly named Common Murre remains one of my favorites, able to dive from great heights and swim over 100 feet underwater.
  5. Catch a wave. While my main focus during surfing is likely making sure I’m positioned to ride a wave and not get smashed underneath it, surfing also provides plenty of time to look around and marvel at the sea life. From soaring birds to barking sea lions to “bait balls” swirling beyond the breakers, an ocean park offers an abundance of life – and surfing a way to intermingle within it.

Ready to visit? Check out CalOceans.org to find a marine protected area near you.

Did we leave out your favorite way to enjoy underwater parks? Let us know in the comments below.


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