On a clear Wednesday morning at the Arcata airport, we boarded a red and white Beechcraft 35-A33 Debonair and proceeded to receive flight instructions from our pilot, Mike Venturino.
Jennifer Savage, Northcoast Environmental Center’s Coastal Programs Director, and I were heading out on LightHawk flight to conduct a survey of fishing activity in the Del Norte/Humboldt area and the weather couldn’t be more perfect. After all the pre-flight checks were complete, we taxied down the runway and took off, banking north. Our flight plan included heading north to fly over all the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) up to the Oregon border, and then we would head south to capture any activity in the South Cape Mendocino MPA, before returning to Arcata. All along our path we would keep an eye out for vessels, get lower for a better view of offshore rocks or boats and keep track of what we observe. Despite the beautiful, sunny, wind-free conditions along our entire flight path, there were only 8 vessels that we encountered, none of which were within any MPA, but noted on the datasheets just the same.
LightHawk is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that utilizes the skill and generosity of over 200
volunteer pilots to benefit conservation projects, partners with conservation groups in the US, Canada, Central America and Mexico, and bolsters environmental protection efforts by making their services freely available to conservation groups.
Some are aware of Tr’uu-luu-k’wvt (Pyramid Point) MPA, which is accessible to the public, and possibly those off of Point St. George, however to actually see the MPAs, especially the offshore and more remote ones of South Cape Mendocino was truly spectacular. Viewing the coastline and offshore rocks, that were once only a colored square on a map to me, from an aerial perspective of 1000 feet has given me a completely beautiful picture of what the coast and MPA network encompasses. This was an amazing experience and I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it. Our Tribal Resources Technician, Jaytuk Steinruck, will also be participating in an aerial survey with Jennifer in early December.