After many weeks of red tide in Monterey Bay, surfers, fishermen and especially birds will be glad to see its end. Large winter swells and rains will help flush new water into the bays and ocean, which will help dissipate the red tide.
Many surfers complained of sinus infections because of the red tide, and inshore fishing also suffered. Birds seem to have taken the heaviest toll that the naturally occurring event had to offer: A protein-based byproduct of the red tide penetrated birds’ feathers, and this saturation affected their ability to fly, forage and stay warm.
Suffering birds started showing up on Monterey Bay beaches in early November. To date, 530 birds have been collected, a combination of common murres, western gulls, brown pelicans, northern fulmars, rhinoceros auklets and red-throated loons. A good percentage of those birds have been washed and released, though some birds have died.
The Department of Fish and Game, Native Animal Rescue, and Monterey SPCA have responded to birds in need of rescue. Birds in need of rehabilitation are transported to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Cordelia. Beached birds should be reported to Wild Life Recovery Units at 212-7665. Individuals interested in supporting birds can find information at www.ibrrc.org.
On a positive note, the fishing area near San Francisco Bay that was closed Nov. 14 after the oil spill has reopened. The oil spill in the bay had closed recreational and commercial fishing in the bay and surrounding waters, and consumption of fish from the area was not recommended. But the departments of Fish and Game, Public Health and Environmental Health Hazards have concluded that the pursuit, take and consumption of fish and shellfish are now safe.
Mussels taken from Berkley Pier and Rodeo Beach in Marin County are still a concern, however, and people should refrain from eating them until further notice.
People should continue to follow consumption guidelines that were set in place before the oil spill that were focused on fish tainted with mercury and other contaminants in the bay. The best source of information for people who are concerned about consumption of fish is www.oehha.ca.gov.
Mike Baxter has fished in the Monterey Bay Area since he was a boy and has been a licensed charter boat captain for more than 15 years.