Unusual Boat Cruise Tours L.A.'s Urban Waterways


Not your typical cruise stop: hazy Long Beach Harbor. Photo by biofriendly via Flickr.

Though lucky participants might catch a glimpse of a bottlenose dolphin or two, smokestacks, sewage pipes, and shipping containers are the main attractions on the Urban Ocean Boat Cruise, a two-and-a-half-hour voyage along a part of the Los Angeles coastline not featured on Baywatch.Organized by the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, the trips -- which start daily as of Memorial Day weekend -- "ply Southern California's most compromised waters to show the environmental effects of trade, fishing, industry, and other human activities," the Los Angeles Times reported recently.

There's plenty of that to see along one of the country's most heavily used coastlines: power plants, bustling cargo ports, a wastewater treatment plant, oil "islands" covering underwater drilling rigs, even the prison that once housed Charles Manson and Al Capone. But amidst the grime, there is still evidence of nature surviving against the odds -- pods of dolphins swimming in the boat's wake, an island sanctuary for black-crowned night herons and other birds, sea lions and brown pelicans lingering near the shore.

'Toxic Tours' of Pollution, Poverty
"Marine life remains plentiful, but runoff, trash, and fertilizers sicken birds and marine mammals, [tour guide Dominique] Richardson explains. Some fish caught here are too toxic to eat," the Los Angeles Times writes. A breakwater built in the 1940s to protect the Long Beach port "traps urban runoff, making the city's water quality among the poorest in the state" and exhaust from the many vehicles operating, and idling, in the harbor area hangs over nearby communities.

The paper compares the aquarium's educational cruise to other "toxic tours" of polluted inner-city areas in New York's South Bronx; Oakland, California; and Chicago, as well as "reality tours" of slums in Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, and Johannesburg, which are increasingly popular among visitors seeking a glimpse of what lies behind the glossy photos in tourism brochures -- but also controversial for promoting what some call a voyeuristic approach to poverty.

The animal inhabitants of Southern California's harbor areas, however, are likely to be undisturbed by people seeing what their lives are like in this urbanized ocean. Via: "On your port side, a smokestack and a sewage pipe," Los Angeles Times
More about Southern California:
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Los Angeles as a Bike-Centric City
Alternative Builders Search for Solutions in Southern California
Port of Los Angeles to Install 1.16 Million Square Feet of Rooftop Solar Panels (10 MW) Over Next Five Years
Los Angeles Doubles Fines for Water Wasters
New Plan Aims Reduce Air Pollution From LA, Long Beach Ports
Southern California's Beaches, Fish are in Shoddy Condition

Tags: Cities | Los Angeles | Oceans | Pollution | Tourism

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