Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 8:16 pm | Fair 59º


Captain’s Log: Environmental Justice Breach at Goleta Beach

Dumping mudslide debris at Goleta Beach has created more messes than the obvious one. The muddied waters and covered sand are obvious problems caused by the convoys of trucks dumping mud on the beach.

This mud dump creates losses of shoreline sealife measured in the hundreds of thousands and perhaps the millions.

It displaces some of our pretty shore birds. It ruins the intertidal zone for foraging fish and other critters. It raises bacteria levels that impact health throughout the food chain.

I care about critters and habitat.

There is another mess caused by the mud-dumping of a more sinister nature that goes against federal government programs.

The mud dumps drove away numerous subsistence anglers who utilize Goleta Pier regularly to augment meager family meals. Without such opportunities for a fresh fish, tonight’s meal will likely be a small bowl of rice or beans.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lives by an environmental justice rule that says acts of pollution that impact underprivileged and vulnerable communities are unacceptable.

Subsistence anglers who fish from Goleta Beach Pier come from throughout the tri-counties area and sometimes even farther, such as the Central Valley.

If they can catch a bucket of mackerel, jacksmelt, sardines, white croaker, rockfish or other fish, their families will eat much better for days.

These folks fit the definition of underprivileged and vulnerable. They have my respect because they strive to be self-sufficient and take their sustenance from nature as people have always done.

Our federal and state fisheries managers manage our fisheries for sustainability so we can go into nature and take our own fresh meat.

After all, not everyone can go to the grocery store, stick a debit card into the chip reader and get an “approved” result.

What makes Goleta Beach Pier such a special food resource for subsistence anglers is that they do not have to pay to park and they do not have to buy a fishing license to fish from a pier.

Subsistence anglers can come to fish for a day with only the cost of bait, providing they have access to some basic fishing gear. Goleta Bay is an abundant fishery and has a rock-covered pipeline holding hordes of fish adjacent to the pier.

Plans are in motion to enhance Goleta Bay with reef balls by Fish Reef Project (www.fishreef.org) to restore kelp and create even more abundant sealife populations.

For all of these reasons, Goleta Beach Pier area should not have suffered mud dumps. It was damaging to natural resources and displaced underprivileged and vulnerable subsistence anglers. That constitutes a breach of environmental justice.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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