Act on Plastic: SoCal Pier 360

Latest update September 2, 2019 Started on January 18, 2019

An intimate look under Southern California's landmark piers. KOLOSSAL an ocean non-profit is working to explore these urban ocean biodiversity hotspots and taking action on legislation to reduce plastic pollution that harms these habitats.

January 18, 2019
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In The Field

KOLOSSAL and Stoked Ember Productions teamed up this summer to create “Act on Plastic,” a short documentary that demonstrates the threat of plastic to our ocean. It is part of KOLOSSAL's rapid action conservation campaign centered around the effects of single-use plastics on Los Angeles coastline and waterways. Our goal is to combine information and positivity to summarize the impact of this pervasive threat, highlight an existing proposed solution (SB54/AB1080 - the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act), and push for a call to action (submit prepared comments to elected officials). We were fortunate to be able to utilize footage from both above & below the sea (including images captured by our Trident) along with a handful of interviews with various stakeholders, including: State Senator Ben Allen (author of SB 54), Lisa Boyle from the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Karin Ingwersen from Surfrider Los Angeles, Angela Sun (director of the documentary Plastic Paradise), and our own team member and leader Matthew Mulrennan.

A special thank you to the Open Explorer program! This would not have been possible without the amazing images secured by the Trident during our pier expeditions.

Some things you can do today to support this campaign and reduce plastic in our waterways:

🌊 Watch our mini-documentary “Act on Plastic”

🌊 Sign our petition in support of SB54/AB1080 - the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. Find it on our website

🌊 Reach our to your representative to let them know how much the elimination of single-use plastic means to you

🌊 Share our video and our petition with everyone you know

🌊 Act quickly because this bill is up for a vote before September 13th


kolossal #kolossaloceans #CAMustLead #Yeson54 #Yeson1080 #ocean #natgeo #openROV #saynotoplastic #endplasticpollution #endsingleuseplastics #saynotostraws #oceanconservation #staysalty #exploration #protectwhatyoulove #conservation #oceans #girlgetoutside #diving #scubadiving #nonprofit #saveouroceans #saltlife #passportocean #oceanlover #savethemermaids #savetheanimals #getoutthereandlearn #saveourseas

After some repairs to the horizontal thrusters on the Trident OpenROV we are back in the water! We have completed three dives off the Malibu Pier and Venice Pier as part of our SoCal pier expedition. We have been amazed at an abundance of marine life right under people's feet - sea stars, sand dollars, kelp, kelp bass, top smelt, anemones, nudibranch, tube worms, and mussels. The amount of schooling fish is pretty wild considering all the fishing lines, and sometimes it looks like you could be on a tropical coral reef. We have encountered our share of challenges including strong currents and waves, entanglements on the mussels/pylons, glare on the controller screen, a busted thruster, filming permits, and lots of people asking what we are up to, or trying to photobomb an interview. Unfortunately we have also witnessed pollution - plastic bags, wrappers, and fishing line. This underwater footage will be used in our upcoming mini-documentary via KOLOSSAL called "Act on Plastic" to petition and advocate for the “California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act” a statewide bill that will help drastically reduce plastic pollution and hopefully spark more action in the U.S. and globally. As part of this documentary we interviewed conservation experts in LA and policy makers including State Senator Ben Allen who introduced the legislation. We were also interviewed by a local TV news station in Los Angeles. Although some long days were involved, it's been a lot of fun. Stay tuned for the final cut of the documentary in the coming weeks, including ways that you can get involved.


Malibu Pier Scouting:

Thanks for following our KOLOSSAL expedition to explore under the piers of Southern California. We are going to investigate what marine life (and possibly pollution) lies underneath these popular tourist locations and landmarks. To start, we need to pier hop, and investigate the best places to safely and effectively deploy our underwater robotics and cameras with the best chances to encounter wildlife. What will we find under some of the most popular ocean-based tourist spots. Spiny lobsters? Sea lions? Engagement rings? Stay tuned to find out.

Over the next four posts we are heading north to south to scout locations and do the field prep at each location – Malibu Pier, Santa Monica Pier, Venice Pier, and Manhattan Pier. We need to assess the best times and specific locations at each place to explore, while not disturbing restaurants, boat launches, breaking pier rules, disrupting a photo shoot, or getting entangled with fishing lines. These are not your normal ocean expedition sights, and we kind of like that.

Our first stop was the Malibu Pier – and this one is part posh and part rugged. It’s old, gnarled and uneven wood feels like it has stories to tell of huge waves and storms. The scene is like something dreamed out of an Ernest Hemingway novel. Wearing my board shorts, a hoodie, and my ‘Vote the Ocean’ trucker hat, I was remarkably under-dressed for the Malibu Pier during the fancy Sunday brunch crowd. Dodging pop-up jewelers, organic/local produce shops, boat launches, and upscale restaurants, I think we finally found the best spot for deployment of the technology where the fishing spots intersect with the wider end of the pier near the bait shop. This gives us access to the deeper hidden parts where no fishing occurs, and it seems like a fantastic place for cryptic forms of marine life to hide out.

It opens to the public at 6:30 AM, so that should be our best time to avoid a crowd and catch any animals in view getting active for a morning bite. I have heard from a fishermen that he once caught a 5 ft. thresher shark off the Malibu Pier, so we know there is interesting life to observe down there. From searching around on social media and the internet we found what other people have caught while fishing off the Malibu Pier: white seabass, guitarfish, leopard sharks, halibut, bat rays, and octopus. There is even a report of a hammerhead head shark being hooked twice in 2015 by the same fishermen.

We are hoping to encounter some amazing marine wildlife during our expedition, and our intent is to inspire people with what’s down there under their feet, and to highlight that these piers don't just provide a beautiful view, they are important biodiversity hotspots that attract some of California’s most interesting wildlife. We seek to support policies that help protect these marine habitats from pollution, which we unfortunately also predict will be a common observation.

Malibu Pier Factoids –

-780ft. long, first created in 1905, destroyed by storms multiple times.

-During World War II, the end of the pier served as a U.S. Coast Guard daylight lookout station until an intense storm in the winter of 1943-1944.

-In 1960, an artificial reef was constructed in the ocean about one mile southeast of the pier in an attempt to protect it from ocean damage. The reef was composed of concrete pilings, derelict streetcars and other heavy materials.

-Next door Surfrider Beach is one of the most iconic and important surf spots in the world with its three-point classic right break and long rides. People live in vans all along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) just to surf here. In 2010 it was designated as a World Surfing Reserve.

-Surfrider Beach was also the location for a group of surfers and residents banning together in a local fight over poor water quality that was getting surfers and swimmers sick. This campaign led to the formation of the global ocean non-profit Surfrider Foundation which continues to fight for a healthy ocean and clean local beaches.

-Laird Hamilton, famous big wave surfer and a local to Malibu, once shot the pier (meaning surfed right through the pier pylons) while riding a paddle-board. Epic videos of this are on YouTube under 'Laird Shoots Malibu Pier'.

Thanks again for following along, we look forward to exploring under the Malibu Pier. Next stop is scouting the bustling amusement park that is the Santa Monica Pier – there will be churros.

For the ocean,

Matt Mulrennan CEO KOLOSSAL

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Expedition Background

Let's go explore what cool creatures are hiding under the piers of Southern California. I am a marine scientist and the CEO of KOLOSSAL, an ocean exploration and conservation non-profit based in Venice, California. As I have been deploying deep-sea cameras off the California coast, and planning ocean expeditions out in remote ocean locations, I wanted to take a look around for marine life in my own backyard - exploring the Venice Pier, Santa Monica Pier, Malibu Pier, and Manhattan Pier. Using the Trident underwater drone, we are documenting abundant marine life, but also pollution. These piers have become habitats that attract a diversity of marine life, that often goes overlooked. Let's take a look underneath the piers of Southern California - perhaps we will film bat rays, guitarfish, sea lions, mussels, seahorses, eels, and maybe even some gentle leopard sharks. Unfortunately, we also expect to document pollution, possibly cell phones, beach toys, plastic straws and forks from local vendors. So let's see how we can draw attention to local efforts in California to stop plastic pollution, and protect these important underwater habitats and popular tourist landmarks.


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