CNN Environment

Treading softly on beaches

September 25, 1995
Web posted at: 7:10 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Rusty Dornin

Crowds on the Beach

MOSS BEACH, California (CNN) -- A love affair for all ages is proving to be a killer crush. More than 135,000 yearly visitors to Moss Beach, California, are taking their toll by trampling the tide pools. "The things that are most affected are the soft-bodied animals that are most easily crushed by footfall -- snails, crabs, brittle stars and chitons," said Bob Breen, a naturalist.

Starfish

Moss Beach has one of the most bio-diverse tide-pool regions on the West Coast. Established as a marine reserve in 1969, more than a million people have since poked, prodded and sometimes poached its marine life. Now a five-year study to assess the impact of humans is closing off part of the beach to its loving fans. Under the plan, large areas are being declared off limits for a few years, "rotating those just like a farmer might rotate his fields from fallow to crops, so that fields are more productive," Breen said.

Little Girl

Visitors come to Moss Beach from far and wide, hoping to grab a glimpse of whatever they can. Many are happy to step lightly, mindful of what can result from too many footfalls. "This whole system is amazing for its diversity, but I wouldn't want to be a part of destroying it," said one visitor. A conservationist view may often be heard on this beach -- CNN heard comments such as, "If (my child) couldn't come out here, all he'd have are the aquariums in San Francisco. It's not the same"; and, "Here you can see the full spectrum of animal life on the planet, vertebrates as well as invertebrates. It's important to save a place like this for public education and for classroom education."

Roped Off Area

The study may provide clues as to how to protect tidal zones from the crowds of admirers. Researchers say there already is new life in some roped-off areas, assuring that the joy of discovery will continue into the next millennium.



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