Two weekends ago, I spent my Sunday morning with the San Ysidro Girl Scouts at the Tijuana River Mouth State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA). The girls had a long weekend filled with activities and a trip to Los Angeles.
We had planned a beach cleanup, lunch and to then start our new Junior MPA Watch training. When I got to the site, their Girl Scout leader, Irene Barajas, informed me that the girls were really tired and would like to skip lunch and do the cleanup and the training, that way they could finish early.
It was a nice and breezy morning, the water was calm, and few people were out at the beach. We started the cleanup; the girls were very active, picking up cigarette butts, trash bags, plastic bottles and candy wrappers. After an hour we started the training, I talked to them about why this Marine Protected Area (MPA) is biologically important and all the different marine wildlife that inhabit the area. As we were starting the training you could see they were tired, but these girls are tough and were ready to start learning. I started explaining how to conduct the surveys and what to write on the data sheets when I pointed to the ocean and asked “What do you see?” Suddenly a pod of about three dolphins were swimming in the MPA. The girls got really excited, their eyes lit-up quickly and started talking to each other about how cool it was. Just when we thought it could not get any better, dolphins started jumping up, and putting on a show. We stopped the training for a few minutes and waited until the dolphins headed south. One girl said, “This is better than Sea World, it’s natural!”
This is a common experience at the Tijuana River Mouth MPA, on any given day you have the chance to see a pod of dolphins swimming or surfing the waves in this protected area. You don’t need to go to underwater theme parks to experience dolphins, they could be right in your backyard or even just a short drive away, and guess what? it’s free!
Diane Castaneda, Marine Coordinator
Images provided by Imperial Beach resident Winand Hess.