Tide Pooling

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Giant Green Anemone

It’s no wonder why Southern California beaches are so popular in the summer, the expansive white sandy beaches and hot sunny weather are ideal for summer vacations and weekends. But when it’s too stormy for sun-bathing and the surf isn’t good is when tidepooling is the best.

Some of the best places to view tide pools in Los Angeles are Leo Carrillo State Park, El Matador Beach, and Abalone Cove Shoreline Park. Check the tide tables, grab an identification card or download the California Tidepools App and Swim Guide App before you go.

Winter months offer the lowest tides of the year and crowdless beaches make it the perfect time to walk around the craggly rocks at the ocean’s edge, which is exactly what I did on a recent misty February weekend while camping at Leo Carrillo State Park.

It’s clear that life in the intertidal zone is harsh. Tide pools exist where ocean meets land and resident creatures must cope with pounding waves and constant tidal changes that take them from high and dry to underwater. The tidepools I looked through were filled with marine life from barnacles and anemones to sea hares. These are incredible organisms specialized to adapt to the daily temperature, oxygen and salinity fluctuations of the tide pools.

One thing we were happy not to find, was evidence of sea star wasting disease, which was detected in the area in December. Sea star wasting disease causes the decay of tissue and eventual fragmentation and death of sea stars. The progression of wasting disease can be rapid and cause massive die offs. Fore more on sea star wasting disease.

Environmental challenges aren’t the only hazards of life on the edge. The intertidal zone endures a variety of negative human impacts, too. Even the most well-intentioned beach-goer can negatively impact tide pool habitat by simply walking over it. When visiting tide pools be extra careful not to trample organisms under your foot, even the algae. Tidepools serve important functions as breeding grounds for species like owl limpets and abalone, and many animals are sensitive to being handled or even just touched. To show good tide pool etiquette walk carefully around pools, do not pick up or move organisms from tide pools, don’t turn over rocks, and wet your hands in the water before gently touching.

Most of all, don’t forget about the marine creatures when you get back home. Urban runoff is the biggest threat to coastal marine habitats in Southern California. Urban runoff, also called stormwater pollution, is pollution that is washed by the rain, sprinklers and any running water from yards, streets, parking lots and other urban surfaces. Urban runoff eventually makes its way to the ocean through our storm drain system, but first passes right through the intertidal zone at its highest concentration before it disperses offshore. For more on tidepooling etiquette, click here.

-Lara Meeker, Watershed Program Manager

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