Honoring the ocean was the message — and name — of a celebratory event held Saturday at Zuma Beach. In the first event of its kind, the Los Angeles Marine Protected Area (LA MPA) Collaborative brought a number of local environmental stewards together in what was described as a celebration of the “underwater parks” of Los Angeles. 

The festival, organized by the LA MPA Collaborative, partnered with the Wishtoyo Foundation, which shares and preserves Chumash life and culture. The event was held in an effort to not only educate and highlight the beauty of ocean life, but also honor the history of indigenous maritime people.

“Although we have a 13-15,000-year history in our relationship to the land, the water, the air and the migration of whales and our dolphin dances, we are practitioners of nature,” ceremonial elder and Wishtoyo Foundation Executive Director Mati Waiya said. “We have this connection of sustainability and how we coexisted, but now we use science and regulations to teach some people about how important it is to take care of the health and well-being of our world that is in a desperate and dire situation.”

Roughly 200 people stopped by for the colorful activity on the sand at the west end of Zuma for education on the ocean and local habitats, storytelling and traditions from local Chumash. Malibu Makos offered the free surfing lessons.

Waiya told The Malibu Times why MPAs are important. 

“The community, coming together for the awareness and importance of Marine Protected Areas — we look at it as tribal Marine Protected Areas — is the health of our ecosystem,” Waiya explained. 

“The fact is that we have to be concerned about the pollution in our waters and how important it is that we come together as a human family,” he added.

Wishtoyo Foundation joined Heal the Bay, LA Water Keeper, LA County Lifeguards, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the City of Malibu and the USC Sea Grant for the event. All provided information on marine education and activities. 

A rare tomol, a Chumash canoe, handmade of redwood, was on hand for the event and was supposed to be joined by a boat offshore provided by LA Waterkeeper. However, the tomol, named “Xax A’lul-koy” (Great Dolphin) was land locked due to choppy surf.

Dana Murray, a marine scientist, is a coastal policy manager with Heal the Bay and the co-chair of the LA MPA Collaborative. She explained that while MPAs are designed to protect and preserve marine life by sometimes limiting and restricting fishing, they are also intended to enhance recreation and educational value.

Malibu’s MPA extends from just north of El Matador Beach to Paradise Cove. 

“It gives a place for wildlife to thrive, recover and reproduce,” Murray explained. “California has 150 MPAs — it’s like a string of pearls along our coastline. It’s a nice balance of human use and conservation. 

“So not only are we celebrating LA’s underwater parks, but we’re celebrating this positive legacy that we’re leaving behind for future generations of Californians along the coast,” she said.

Waiya also elaborated on what he called “investing in a future we will never see.” 

He said that means thinking beyond this generation.

“We have to give our children and grandchildren the chance to have the world that they were promised. Their birthright is to have a healthy environment — not for us to be so greedy and selfish that we’re not thinking of their wellbeing,” Waiya said. “To come together like this — native and non-native — and to share a message and an insight, and to think about a people like the Chumash people — how we were living in a paradise when the waters were healthy and the air was clean and you could see millions of stars without pollution; we all have a responsibility.”

The ceremonial leader also added that Chumash people are the history, as well as the future, of Malibu.

“Our ancestors will always be buried here beneath the grounds of Humaliwoo — what they call Malibu — ‘where the waves crash loudly.’” Waiya said. “Even at City Hall, there’s not one mention of Chumash. That’s absurd. It’s about a human family and how we work together in preserving the environment.” 

Tom Corliss of Malibu Makos provided ocean safety tips and education about rip currents.

“Chumash are the original locals,” Corliss acknowledged. “Giving back and being part of something like this is awesome for me and I truly am blessed to work with Mati [Waiya]. He’s one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met. Anytime he needs something, I’m there for him.” 

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