May 01, 2017 8

The Return of Harbor Porpoises to San Francisco Bay

By 1945 at the end of World War II, San Francisco Bay had become a dead body of water. Stringing a large, steel net across the Bay to trap Japanese and German

submarines also prevented large predators such as porpoises, dolphins, whales and

sharks from entering or leaving the Bay. The dumping of sewage and the tailings

from mines that flowed into the Bay killed much of the remaining sea life such as

anchovies and herring that had thrived in the Bay for thousands of years and

provided food for large marine predators.

But all this began to change in 1961 with the formation of the Save the Bay

Foundation. By reducing the pollutants that fouled the water and destroyed wildlife, one of the unexpected consequences was that cleaning the water promoted the return of predators to San Francisco Bay.

Five years ago Professor Jonathan Stern, a marine biologist at San Francisco State

University, discovered—to his amazement—that harbor porpoises were once again swimming under the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco Bay in large numbers.

Two years ago, Dr. Stern and I agreed to join forces and produce a film that would

tell the good news story about cleaning the environment. To date, we have shot about 15 hours of video and created the accompanying 10 minute video proposal.

The Bay has become healthier. And, this process can be replicated in other places

where people have given up on a habitat or said that the water is so polluted that

there will never be changes. The public needs to know about this story.