Friday, November 16 , 2018, 12:58 am | Fair 48º


Captain’s Log: Taking Stock of the Storm’s Destruction to Plants, Ocean Life

We read the news accounts of the damage caused by the big storm last weekend. We saw the TV reports. We viewed the videos on the Internet. It was awe-inspiring and awful. But that ain’t the half of it!

All of those videos and reports focused primarily on damage to man-made structures. What happened to the natural order — the habitat, plants and critters — is even worse. Actually, far worse.

Kelp beds get uprooted and ripped out by monstrous storm surges and swells. Our coastal kelp beds serve as the home to more flora and fauna than most of us can dream of — everything from microscopic life forms to schools of large fish. Whole generations of plants and critters were wiped out or dislocated to places, perhaps without adequate habitat. Early season spawns were disrupted. Small fish were pounded mercilessly.

It was mass destruction out there. Huge waves crashing onto the beach dug trenches and moved massive amounts of sand off the beaches. Critters that live in that sand can only stand so much compression and scouring. The death toll, I believe, is staggering.

We didn’t lose any people (though one guy came mighty close to losing his life at Goleta Beach), but then, I tend to focus on critters. I’m saddened by the loss of life and habitat.

There is a bright side. The ocean is incredibly resilient. Large-scale destructive events also push spores and larvae into places they might not otherwise go; therefore, new and interesting dispersion of life begins. Kelp beds grow again from spores that reach good growing habitat. Where kelp grows, life follows.

Give that ocean some time and it will again be teeming with life. Meanwhile, larger fishes had the strength to get to deeper, safer water, lobsters and other crustaceans scurried to safety under rocks and in crevices and caves.

The effect on the critters we fish for and dive for is minimal, thank goodness, but the lower end of the near-shore food chain will take some time to rebuild.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit 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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