At El Matador, Giant coreopsis (above), bladderpod, and California encelia were in bloom. Cormorants sunned themselves on the rocks, and brown pelicans took a few exciting turns over our heads.
We also saw quite a few anemones, but they had contracted their tentacles, blending in with the rocks.
If you visit intertidal ecosystems, do so very carefully. People I observed on this visit seemed unaware of the camouflaged anemones and likely stepped on some.
A few years ago, I interviewed UCLA ecologist Rich Ambrose about intertidal habitats in L.A. County. He told me people are collecting or stepping on just about every kind of animal in and around tidepools.
He pointed to a fluid, deep purple sea slug: "This is an animal that’s really heavily impacted by visitors because as you can see it’s very soft bodied. People don’t see them and step on them and they squish."
People are also taking starfish home as souvenirs. And they’re illegally snagging crabs, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and other animals for their own dinner tables, or to sell to restaurants and aquarium stores. Ambrose’s research has found that about six percent of visitors collect something. That doesn't sound like a lot, but consider about 30,000 to 50,000 people a year will visit a single site.
Ambrose has tried to educate people, but he says some just don't care:
When I’ve tried to talk to them they’re not interested in hearing it’s not legal. They’ll collect big crabs that are uncommon. At one point we saw somebody drive down a pick up truck and was just filling up the back of the pickup truck with sea urchins.