In 1997, Captain Charles Moore was returning to Long Beach after a yacht race to Hawaii, at the helm of his oceanographic research vessel, Alguita. Veering off his usual return steerage, he happened into something that changed his life's course: "There were shampoo caps and soap bottles and plastic bags and fishing floats as far as I could see," he recalled. "Here I was in the middle of the ocean, and there was nowhere I could go to avoid the plastic." Moore, who founded Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF) in 1994, began dedicating himself to studying the ocean's load capacity for plastic debris. His pioneering research found that "plastic outweighs plankton by a factor of 2.5 in the surface waters of Southern California."
Our Synthetic Sea is AMRF's resulting documentary, exposing the "plastic menace" and how fish and birds are being poisoned by petroleum-based plastics that continually break down into smaller pieces and intermingle with zooplankton, their staple food source. The documentary underscores the Watershed Expo 2006's Ocean Revolution Film Fest, an afternoon of short films and videos that elucidate on mankind's prolific talent for turning seas into cesspools.
To mitigate the doomsaying medicine, these shorts also keep hope alive: Caguamas del Pacifico fronts the sea turtle plight in Baja California Sur, where loggerheads have been dying by the thousands, getting tangled in fishing nets or caught on longlines, until the innovating conservation efforts of biologist Dr. J. Nichols slowed the death toll by introducing turtle empathy, research participation and alt.-fishing practices to local fishermen. And Samurai Surfers profiles Angel Rodriguez, a.k.a. "El Doctor," coach of Puerto Rico's surf team and environmental superhero—complete with costume, la Mexico's masked crusader, Superbarrio, defender of the downtrodden—who takes on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after catching them dumping harbor dredge on his favorite surf spot on Puerto Rico's north shore. A bonus Oceana/Bob Talbot film (title undisclosed) is also on tap, narrated by vox icon Morgan Freeman.
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Ocean Revolution Film Festival at the Watershed Expo 2006, Hermosa Beach Community Center, 710 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach, (562) 598-4889; www.algalita.org. Sat., 2-5 p.m. Free.