ENCINITAS — More than 80 North County residents gathered on Aug. 25 at the Encinitas Public Library for a public forum to discuss the health of the Pacific Ocean.
The forum’s panel consisted of candidates running for federal, state, county and city offices, as well as two representatives from First Nations.
The non-partisan event was sponsored by Oceana, Surfrider Foundation San Diego, The Coast News, Center for Biological Diversity and California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.
Panelists featured were Marggie Castellano, candidate for California State Senate, 36th District; Mike Levin, candidate for 49th Congressional District; Michelle Gomez, candidate for San Diego County Board of Supervisors, 5th District; Stanley Rodriguez, Kumeyaay Nation, Santa Ysabel Tribal Member; Juan Caro, lead representative American Independent Movement, Southern California; John Paul Elliott, candidate for mayor of Encinitas; and Michael Odegaard, candidate for Oceanside City Council.
A noticeably absent invitee was Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Vista. A placard bearing his name was clipped to the edge of the table in front of an empty next to the other panelists.
As people took their seats, Rodriguez welcomed everyone at the forum.
“This is the land of my people,” Rodriguez said. “This is our holy land. This is where the creator made the universe. This ocean is sacred to all of us. We can make changes that will affect the entire world.”
During the first 90 minutes, all seven panel members responded to questions from moderator and Coast News managing editor Jordan Ingram followed by additional questions from the audience.
Ingram asked the panel questions covering five topics, including offshore oil drilling, rising ocean temperatures, beach erosion, plastic pollution and cities and counties using state funds to mitigate environmental damage caused by climate change. All panel members stated their opposition to offshore drilling.
“We all play a part in that happening,” Gomez said in a response to a question about warming ocean temperatures. “A hammerhead shark was recently spotted in Oceanside harbor, that shouldn’t be. I’d like to see the supervisors take a more active role in dealing with warming seawater.”
Regarding beach access and development, Odegaard maintained that beach access is crucial for everyone and bemoaned the fact that development projects have hindered local beach access, adding that “exploitive local development” often means hotels or housing being built on public parking lots near the beach.
Both Levin and Gomez said they were in favor of sand replenishment as part of a response to deal with coastline erosion.
Levin also mentioned the dangers of the nuclear waste from the San Onofre power plant being buried on the beach 100 feet from the ocean.
In response to plastic pollution, Elliott took a broader view of the issue.
“We need to go after that island of plastic out in the ocean and recycle it,” Elliott said. “It’s going to cost money but it must be done.”
Caro added that he hoped more manufacturers would follow the lead of a company that makes edible six-pack rings, a product that sea life can actually eat and digest.
Levin agreed, seeking more acountability and innovation from manufacturers.
“The oil companies are behind the plastic industry, which is all the more reason to encourage other companies to work on developing bio-derived plastics,” Levin said.
Gomez suggested that the county create an ordinance banning Styrofoam and plastic utensils and straws. “Not enough cities have adopted such ordinances,” she said.
In his closing remarks, Rodriguez said: “People come to the ocean to get knowledge,” and he urged everyone to vote in November to protect this precious resource.