Claire Arre, the education and outreach coordinator for Laguna Ocean Foundation, offers an in-depth look at the nonprofit’s local marine efforts, which aim to optimize the health of underwater ecosystems through science, education and community involvement.
By Julia Clerk
The youngest of eight siblings in a family that relocated to Southern California from New England, Claire Arre was the sole family member born on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, a fact which might explain her lifelong obsession with the ocean.
Growing up on the peninsula, Arre already had her sights set on being a marine biologist. In middle school, she shadowed her mother as she volunteered at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro even though she was five years below the age limit to participate, becoming an official volunteer once she was old enough. Her love grew from there, with an education that includes an undergraduate degree in marine biology and communication from California State University, Long Beach and a master’s degree in biological oceanography from Cal Poly Pomona, with a focus on tropical rocky intertidal ecosystems.
In addition to her work for Laguna Ocean Foundation, where she now serves as education and outreach coordinator, Arre helps monitor the coastal environment between Santa Barbara and San Diego through the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe), has been deployed on rapid response teams for marine catastrophes, and is a scientific diver certified by the American Academy of Underwater Sciences. Away from the sea, she is also a level-one sommelier. Read on to learn about her efforts, her love for Laguna and more.
What are your first memories of Laguna Beach?
Claire Arre: I actually tide pooled here as a little kid with my grandparents. My grandmother was a spectacular watercolor artist, and they would take me down here for the day as she painted.
When did you start working in Laguna?
Careerwise, I came to Laguna when I got my open-water scuba certification and started diving here. Isn’t it funny how everyone that gets certified in and around Orange County dives here?
What are your responsibilities at Laguna Ocean Foundation?
We mainly educate about our Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs. The entire coast … [next to] the city of Laguna Beach is in a Marine Protected Area, with Crystal Cove [State Park’s MPA] and Dana Point [State Marine Conservation Area] … on our borders. The more we get the message out, the more people will hopefully treat our coast like the beautiful wilderness it should be. How amazing is it to have a preserved piece of nature in your backyard?
What are some of the foundation’s main activities?
Laguna Ocean Foundation currently has two prominent programs—the education[al] programs and the Aliso Creek Estuary Restoration program—but we often go beyond these programs, such as our intertidal biodiversity surveys, our shorebird surveys [and] the successful effort to bring the Laguna coast into the California Coastal National Monument, as well as actively participating in developing local policies that protect ocean resources. KelpFest is our annual scientific outreach event held at Main Beach each year [and typically held in April, although it was canceled for 2020].
Our monitoring efforts give us biological history, [which is then] used to figure out how best to restore damaged areas. It was our teams who noticed when the sea stars started dying off in 2013 and spearheaded the recent listing of the endangered sunflower star. Monitoring, education and outreach are truly what I believe are going to protect our coastline for the long run.
Has the COVID-19 lockdown impacted our coastal areas in any way?
COVID-19 has been brutal to the Southern California coastline. People are taking beyond the legal limit of mussels, urchins, limpets and many other species. What bothers me the most is [that] this is more than sustenance. I’ve always supported our anglers, but to take two, three, 10 times as much as you can eat—that’s just wasteful and hurtful.
I’m thankful for the Marine Safety Department, [which] … is preventing this from happening to our city—and Laguna Beach residents are the ones that keep all the hidden little coves of Laguna Beach safe. So thank all of you for making our COVID issues decently manageable.
Are you working virtually?
Yes. I’m thankful to still be able to work, even if it is all virtual. I’m a field ecologist by choice, so I am definitely getting a little stir-crazy being inside so much, but my pets love it. … [The foundation] is working diligently to raise its [online] profile, since we are unable to be outside and making connections.
In between working, do you visit—or get takeout from—any favorite local restaurants?
I … love the chilaquiles from Lost Pier [Café]. And who can beat their patio? … For that morning to midday pick-me-up, I love Laguna Coffee Co., and they also supported our Coastal Cleanup Day beach cleanup.
As a sommelier, what are your go-to local wine cellars?
Wine Gallery obviously has to be said. They always have exactly what I’m looking for, even before I know it. I also can’t pass up … Montage [Laguna Beach], especially because two of our tide pool locations are right underneath them.
Are there any other issues you think Laguna Beach should tackle?
I would love for Laguna Beach to really spearhead the reusable, plastic-free utensil movement in Orange County. We banned Styrofoam, support the limited use of plastic straws, we even made smoking and, therefore, the litter of cigarette butts illegal—so why not keep going?
What would be your dream job?
If someone would pay me to take them snorkeling or diving and then cook them a meal with a perfectly paired wine, … I would do that job and live happily ever after.