My name is Tekuru, and I spent most of my childhood at Avila Beach, on the coast of my hometown, San Luis Obispo, California. During the summer, I was a junior lifeguard, and we would do beach cleanups every Monday from debris left over from the weekend. This was my first exposure to how pollution harms the environment.
Even though we picked up every last piece of trash each week, I grew up watching the wildlife become more and more distressed because of toxic acidic algae blooms due to the pollutants. Some days we weren’t allowed in the water because the quality was so bad, or because there were seals that had been poisoned by the algae blooms and could become dangerous.
Current rates of overfishing, deep-sea mining and ocean pollution are already threatening the ability for the next generation to have the incredible experiences I did growing up on the beach. Deep sea mining causes habitat destruction and stirs up manganese, copper, zinc and cobalt sediment from the seafloor onto our shores. Preserving our oceans is a necessity for the future of not only the children to come, but also our economy, the livelihood of fishermen and the well-being of California’s marine ecosystem.
Marine scientists have done intensive work to show that the best way to preserve ocean biodiversity and recover fisheries is to set aside untouched areas for the sake of repopulation — like national parks under the water.
Currently, only 9% of California’s coasts are fully protected. Gov. Newsom has already signed an executive order committing to the 30×30 goal, which would increase California’s protected open spaces in both the ocean and on land to 30%. However, powerful commercial industries are lobbying for him to redact this action in the upcoming decadal review this spring. This March, state officials will be voting on the protective measures that will be in place for the next ten years — so it’s really act now or never!
As a lifelong Californian, a beach lifeguard and junior lifeguards instructor, I am horrified by the prospect of leaving our oceans without any protections from overfishing and other destructive practices. I want to see my community and my future children enjoy the coastline and reap the rich benefits of living in a beautiful coastal state.
We all benefit from the oceans — from the food and oxygen it produces, along with all of the amazing experiences that are possible, such as snorkeling, surfing, sailing and scuba diving . We must remember, however, to be grateful for the ocean we have and the extensive diversity that still remains, and remember that the ocean is a privilege, not a right.
That is why I am calling upon Gov. Newsom and the California legislature to save our oceans from overuse, before it’s too late.