california

ScubaChef: Savory Grilled Seabass

The California white seabass isn’t actually a seabass at all, but is a member of the croaker family. It is also known as the king croaker, weakfish and seatrout, and is prized by commercial and recreational fishermen because of its mild flavor and flaky texture. Thanks to ongoing conservation efforts the California white seabass has received a “Best Choice” rating by the Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch. Seafood in this category is said to be abundant, well managed and harvested using environmentally friendly methods. Remember “Always […]

The Scuba Chef: The Magical Flavor of Fresh Sea Urchin

When I was 13 my father took me camping at Rosarito Beach on the Pacific side of Mexico’s Baja peninsula. We set up our tent right on the beach. The next day a local fisherman took us on his small wooden boat to a shallow reef just a half-mile off the coast. It is a day I’ll never forget — it was the day I discovered the magical flavor of sea urchin fresh from the ocean. The bright orange roe was firm and possessed a […]

Aggregating Anemones: Gangsters of the Sea?

Imagine what Hollywood would do with a film about anemones. Take aggregating anemones for example. They are relatively small, but these carnivores are well armed and can be surprisingly aggressive toward their neighbors, so you might imagine they’d be cast in a gangster movie — with lots of special effects like fiery explosions and crash scenes. Their tentacles can fire venomous miniature harpoons that repel potential predators including anemones unlike themselves. Mother Nature is perfect for the “good cop” role of peace negotiator. In real […]

Dive Boat: Spectre

For more than 26 years the dive boat Spectre has consistently offered excellent service to the divers of Southern California. Their loyal following of customers provides irrefutable evidence regarding their longstanding commitment to excellence.  The Spectre hails from Ventura Harbor Village dock and caters to divers on trips to Anacapa Island and the east end of Santa Cruz Island in the Northern Channel Islands. These destinations are stunning both above and below the water, and are part of the Channel Islands National Park. Almost all […]

Giant Sea Bass: Are They Really Back From the Brink?

My first giant sea bass encounter occurred off San Nicolas Island in the 1970s. I sensed something overhead and looked up. A gigantic Goodyear blimp hovered over me.  A cartoon I‘d seen recently popped into my head. Two large fish were face to face. A scuba diver’s legs and fin-clad feet protruded from the puckered mouth of one wearing a sour expression. The other fish was saying, “I told you to peel them first.” I was a new diver and didn’t know if giant sea […]

Swell Sharks

What can I say? I am a sucker for cute and interesting faces underwater (other than divers, of course). And fortunately, for California underwater photographers we have many. But for me, I am especially drawn to our bottom dwelling sharks, specifically horn sharks and swell sharks. What fascinating faces! Of these two sharks I find the swell sharks to have the most interesting faces. Especially striking is the metallic golden colored eyes. Their flat heads spread out their funny “smiles” underneath. “Nostrils” just above the […]

Bat Rays

One fine summer day years ago, a friend and I took a small boat to a shallow cove off Anacapa, hoping to photograph the large number of bat rays that had gathered there. To avoid spooking the rays, my friend advised me to “slither” into the water as silently as possible. He slipped in first and I followed.  Perhaps our technique needed work. First one, then another, then all of the rays — and there were a lot of them — rose from the bottom […]

Nudis and Branchers

Ever see pictures of a critter that seems to have evolved from that box where all the holiday decorations are stored? Chances are you’re looking at a nudibranch.  Nudibranchs (sometimes affectionately called “nudis”) are members of the opisthobranchs, also known as sea slugs. The name nudibranch literally means “naked gill.” Their body shape ranges from oval to long and tapered. All have some form of rhinophores; think rabbit ears, on their front end. Projections of varying heights may be present on the back.  A group […]

Tell the Preservation Success Stories

While I think we should always be presented with the bad news so that we can act to reverse the negative, we must also accentuate the success stories, places where we have done right by nature.  In my nearly 40 years of diving I have seen the California seas do some pretty wild oscillations within marine life populations, unfortunately, many of them downward. But here I want to emphasize the success stories because they reinforce what we can do (or not do) to improve the […]

Thornback Rays

I couldn’t believe my luck. I had just reached the bottom at 20 feet and was cruising toward the kelp forest in deeper water when I saw a prehistoric looking creature lounging on the sand. It was light brown, with a distinctive flat, heart shaped head and a long tail. There were three rows of spines on its back. The animal, which reminded me of an armored vehicle, was a thornback.  The creature tolerated having its photo taken for several minutes before moving on. (Yes, […]

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