Baykeeper's Monthly Column

Baykeeper publishes a monthly column on San Francisco Bay cultural, environmental, and maritime issues.
(March 2015) Recently, San Francisco Baykeeper responded to four separate oil spills into San Francisco Bay. In only one did the responsible party take action to help with the cleanup. First, over the course of several days in mid-January, a sticky toxic substance coated and killed hundreds of ducks and shorebirds along the East Bay shoreline. Scientists have now identified the “mystery goo” as a...
(February 2015) Major storms that have arrived in the Bay Area during the drought carried a huge load of trash into San Francisco Bay. The trash is a visible sign of lots of additional pollution. When rain falls on roads, parking lots, roofs and other impermeable surfaces, it picks up pollutants that include trash, oil, pesticides, fertilizers and household chemicals. In most Bay Area communities...
(January 2015) In 1989, no one was out on San Francisco Bay looking for pollution, and polluters were free to dump waste into the Bay. Alarmed by the Bay’s slow poisoning from thousands of sources, research scientist Dr. Michael Herz and a visionary group of volunteer board members founded San Francisco Baykeeper. Baykeeper soon began patrolling San Francisco Bay by boat. Bay Area residents...
(December 2014) For 40 years, the 57 decaying ships of the Ghost Fleet haunted the San Francisco Bay ecosystem. But before 2015 ends, all the ships will be gone. The Ghost Fleet was a collection of long-defunct military ships from World War II and the Korean War. They were originally stored in Suisun Bay, a large northern inlet of San Francisco Bay, with the idea that they could be reactivated...
(November 2014) Soaring and gliding gracefully over the water, pelicans are a familiar sight around San Francisco Bay. Two types of pelicans, the California brown pelican and the American white pelican, live here. They arrive and depart at different times of year, but both are here now. California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) are most common around the central and northern...
(October 2014) Long freight trains, with tank cars full of crude oil, chugging daily along San Francisco Bay’s shore? That’s the oil industry’s plan—to expand the shipment of crude oil into the Bay Area by train. Shipping lots more crude oil here by rail would create a huge risk of oil being spilled into the Bay and its tributaries. Oil spills from trains are alarmingly common; last year in the...
(September 2014) The proposed 35-mile tunnels to carry fresh water from the northern end of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to pumps on the southern end would harm San Francisco Bay. This $25 billion project would also devastate the Delta ecosystem and wipe out California’s salmon fishery. Two major rivers, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin, flow into the Delta. The Delta, in turn, provides a...
(August 2014) Slender, blue-gray birds up to five feet tall, great blue herons (Ardea herodias) live all around San Francisco Bay. With half its height in its long legs, this majestic bird wades in the Bay’s shallow tidal waters, often standing silent and unmoving. Then, with a sudden thrust of its sharp beak, the great blue heron stabs a fish and swallows it whole. Sometimes the fish is larger...
(July 2014) What happens when the engines of a large ship in San Francisco Bay suddenly lose power?  The pilot loses the ability to steer the ship or stop it from drifting. A dramatic rise in such incidents began in 2009, when a California law to help reduce global climate change went into effect. Ships are now required to use less-polluting diesel fuel when in state waters, including the Bay,...
(June 2014) In the late 1980s, San Francisco Bay’s health was in serious decline. Environmental laws were in place to protect the Bay from pollution, but they were not being enforced. Media reports warned that the Bay might even be dying.  In the face of these threats, Dr. Michael Herz, a researcher and scientist, was inspired to create San Francisco Baykeeper. Since 1989, Baykeeper has patrolled...

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