By Sue Pascoe
There is a saying, “You are what you eat.” If you eat seafood, you may be plastic.
Two local youths, Max Marguleas and Reece Pascoe, made that discovery after a recent fishing trip along the shore of Will Rogers Beach at the base of Temescal Canyon Road.
The two Palisades High School seniors took a hobby and a love of the ocean, and last year started a fishing club at school. Ten members regularly fish from the beach, and generally all fish caught are cleaned and given to a homeless shelter.
After a recent trip, Pascoe brought home a 14-inch calico bass to cook. While fillet- ing it, he found a red plastic ring inside the fish’s gut.
“It was one of those things that make you sick to your stomach,” Pascoe said, after he pulled out what looked like part of a swim goggle.
“I was surprised when Reece showed me the red ring,” Marguleas said. “It made me realize how much of a danger trash is to marine wildlife.”
Although L.A. County beaches are cleaned regularly, Pacific Palisades streets and gutters are not. With any rainfall (yes, some day!), the debris washes into the bay and can be consumed by marine animals such as fish and seals, as well as shore birds. In his honors marine biology class, Marguleas learned from a California Ocean Protection Agency report that the debris most dangerous to wildlife includes bags (paper and plastic), balloons, caps, lids, clothing, shoes, food wrappers/containers, pull tabs, six-pack rings, straws, stirrers, cigarette filters/lighters and cigar tips. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that some debris, especially plastics, contains toxic substances that can cause death or reproductive failure in fish, shellfish or marine life.
For his AP Environmental class, Pascoe wrote about a Connecticut research team that believes certain chemicals leached from plastic may have contributed to the die-off of American lobster in western Long Island Sound. Most animals were contaminated with alkyphenols, chemicals commonly used in plastic and rubber manufacturing. In a laboratory setting, that chemical alters juvenile hormone activity, which is known to play a role in reproduction and development.
The Potomac Conservancy in Washington, D.C., is trying to determine what is causing male smallmouth bass to carry immature eggs in their testes. “We have not been able to identify one particular chemical or one particular source,” said Vicki Blazer, a fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “We are still trying to get a handle on what chemicals are important.”
Pacific Palisades prides itself on being environmentally sensitive, but a casual glance around the Village finds numerous cigarette butts and accumulated straws and plastic lids in gutters. Many of the homeless encampments contain mounds of garbage that eventually ends up in the ocean.
As far as the fishing club, members continue to fish, but Marguleas hopes to educate others about the plastic that goes into the ocean. “If the pollution problem in the ocean doesn’t get fixed, it could greatly impact fishing, for the worse,” he said. “It will also make fish unhealthy to eat and drastically hurt the fish population.”