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The Shores of San Diego Act as Magnet

August 20, 1986|BILL MANSON

SAN DIEGO — How important is the ocean to San Diego? Here are some statistics (gathered from such sources as the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Coast Guard and Scripps Institution of Oceanography) that may give you a clue:

- 9,921,000 sunbathers sprawled on San Diego beaches last year. (That was down 4 million from 1981. Cheaper gas may have sent more San Diegans out of town.)

- There are 823 trash barrels between La Jolla and Mission Bay. And 480 fire rings.

- 125.6 tons of trash were taken out of the barrels last month; 71.4 tons of refuse from the fire rings.

- Tourism is worth more than $2 billion to San Diego annually. It's the third-biggest moneymaker after manufacturing and the military.

- All but 163 of the city's 6,536 pleasure-boat berths are filled.

- Mission Bay Park is the largest aquatic park in the world. What were once mud flats are now 4,600 acres of islands, lagoons and waterways.

- San Diego has one-fifth of all U.S. Navy personnel and one-seventh of all Navy facilities in the United States.

- 120,900 active-duty Navy and Marine Corps recruits in San Diego earned $1.7 billion in 1984.

- Nearly seven square miles of giant kelp in San Diego County waters is harvested so it can be used, among other things, to stabilize beer foam.

- The area of the main plants in Point Loma's kelp forest decreased from 1,482 acres to less than 100 acres after the El Nino winter storms of 1983.

- An estimated 328,000 anglers caught 5 million fish in San Diego County in 1983. They spent an estimated $148 million in preparation for the moment, and then, presumably, celebrating it.

- Marine recreational fishing contributes between $250 million and $500 million to San Diego's economy.

- Last month, San Diego city parks employees sifted 3,864,000 square feet of beach sand with a motorized sand-sifter known as "the screen." They found thousands of nails, soda cans, contact lenses and car keys. No doubloons.

- About 15,000 California gray whales sailed past Point Loma bound for sex, serenity and babies in the Baja breeding grounds this year. An unknown number stayed behind in Alaska. Cows breed just once every two years.

- One whale and 80 seals have washed up dead on San Diego beaches this year. They have all been taken to the city dump. Workers were provided with nose plugs.

- There were three thunderstorms over San Diego last year, the annual average; 37 rainy days; 21 foggy days, and 7 fog horns blasting out warnings. They could be heard from a quarter mile to three miles distant. Coronado, with its 66 retired admirals, may be the most foghorn-surrounded community in San Diego.

- One of the worst areas for rip currents in the San Diego area is between lifeguard towers 4 and 5 at Ocean Beach. (Other bad ones are the Pacific Beach jetty and Mission Beach by tower 11 and Seal Rock and Windansea Beach in La Jolla. Rip tides also move up and down Coronado when the surf's up.)

- Thirteen people drowned last year in the San Diego area. (Sixteen so far this year.)

- 2,471 people were rescued from the water last year (more than 4,000 so far this year).

- 1,071,060 tons of albacore tuna were landed off San Diego last year. But 1 million tons of fish also landed in the mouths of California's 400,000 elephant seals. And upwards of 300,000 tons were consumed by the state's 70,000 sea lions. Fishermen are not happy.

- Landings of fish and shellfish in San Diego have come down from 1980's 800-million-pound high to 1985's 300 million pounds.

- If you walked into the water at Point Loma and started swimming due west at two miles an hour, you would make your first landfall Jan. 6 near the town of Tosashimizu on the southern tip of Japan's Shikoku Island (taking into account the International Date Line, tides, typhoons, tiredness and tiger sharks).

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