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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 11:41 pm | Fair 50º


Captain’s Log: What Does Mud Mean to Fish And Other Sealife?

Here on the coast, half of our population lives under the sea surface or under the sand along the beach. I’m referring to the flora and fauna of the sea.

The fire and mudslide had tremendous impacts on our sealife. Ashes rained down on the ocean for weeks. Then the rains came and more ashes and megatons of mud flowed into the sea.

Those impacts will continue and are exacerbated by truckloads of mud being dumped onto beaches at places including Goleta Beach. High tides and then more rains move that mud over the sand and into the water.

Sand crabs will be among the first of the sealife to suffer. These little guys, about the size of your upper thumb live just under the sand at the water’s edge and are designed to move through sand, not mud.

Untold thousands of sand crabs could die off from the mud. Countless shore birds that depend on sand crabs have trouble finding sufficient food.

Once in the water, invertebrates that cannot move quickly may become covered with mud and not be able to perform their bodily functions or feed naturally. Plants suffer, too, and die-offs will occur.

Fish of the surf zone and nearshore habitats will suffer because of poor visibility. Besides the visibility, most of the usual meals the fish are after have suffered themselves.

Fish can move fairly fast for at least some distance so they go in search of better conditions and good feed. But other fish are doing the same, and those spots can become overgrazed.

Marine mammals don’t much enjoy the mud either, because it tastes funny, and the poor visibility makes it really difficult to hunt. They, too, look for relatively clear areas where they can see to hunt.

That’s where they encounter the displaced fish and other critters, and the food chain becomes imbalanced.

Fire, wind, rain and mud have created nightmares for people and critters shore-side. They have created other nightmares for life in the sea.

Ultimately, the ocean will absorb our messes and manage to give sustenance to the flora and fauna again. But there will be tragic losses along the way.

— 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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