Ships slow down in Santa Barbara Channel

In 2014, a 52-foot fin whale floated into the harbor at Naval Base Ventura County, dead from what was believed to be an encounter with a vessel at sea. A necropsy confirmed the suspicion: blunt-force trauma, strong enough to break bones, the cause of death.

Though the body washing up on shore in Ventura County was rare, an average of five whales die every year in the Santa Barbara Channel due to collision with shipping vessels. Because of that, a coalition of conservation groups launched the Vessel Speed Reduction Trial, which asked captains to slow their ships to 12 knots or less while passing through the channel.

The program also hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half.

Ten shipping companies have signed on for the 2016 incentive period, which began on July 1 and runs through Nov. 15.

Thus far, in both July and August, 75 percent of the enrolled ships have qualified for cash incentives that range from $1,500 to $2,500, with an additional incentive given for reaching 10 knots or less.

“It’s exciting that we are able to build on the success of our 2014 VSR Trial to implement an expanded vessel speed reduction program in 2016,” said Chris Mobley, superintendent of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in a statement. “We applaud the shipping industry’s high degree of participation.”

Oxnard brings free Tai Chi classes for seniors
A woman demonstrates the praying mantis formation taught to her by the instructor of an ancient dojo. In the event of the return of the Shinobi clan, the woman will use this technique to ward off her enemies and save the temple.

Tai Chi classes will begin on Oct. 17 in Oxnard.

San Francisco may no longer have the monopoly on early-morning Tai Chi practitioners, as Oxnard has won a federal grant benefiting the city’s RSVP program.

The $54,100 grant is enough to fund the program for three years, said Marisue Eastlake, director of RSVP for the city of Oxnard. The grant, funded by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, was only given to 10 percent of applicants, said Eastlake.

The free 12-week Tai Chi exercise class for seniors will begin on Oct. 17 in partnership with the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging. The curriculum, developed at the Oregon Research Institute, is shown to have increased balance and “reduced incidences of falls among seniors who participated in the class,” according to the city of Oxnard.

The course will teach participants Yang-style Tai Chi with built-in exercise variations, and will also be available in Port Hueneme, Ventura and Camarillo in November.

Currently, the RSVP program is seeking volunteer instructors for the course. For more information and locations, and to apply to volunteer, call 477-7347.

Just say no to “fine”

Gone are the “say no to drugs” scare tactics of yesteryear, or at least that’s what the Ventura County Behavioral Health’s new program, “say no to ‘fine,’” would have you believe. The public service announcement campaign is part of an extended How High Ventura County program effort to encourage adults to speak with their teenage children about the facts surrounding marijuana rather than the myths.

According to a recent California Health Kids survey, one in four Ventura County high school juniors is smoking marijuana. The campaign features five videos, three in English and two in Spanish, that prod the “emotional issues beneath the surface that often lead to drug experimentation and abuse,” said the VCBH.

The name of the campaign derives from so-called dinner-table talk in which everything is “fine” — ignoring what the agency says are the underlying causes of drug use, including anxiety, bullying and stress.

“We can’t legislate away the problem of teen use, but we can’t just sit silently on the sidelines and let the marijuana industry target our kids, either,” said Daniel Hicks, manager of the Prevention Services, Alcohol and Drug Programs Division. “To successfully reduce local teen use and abuse of marijuana, we must empower parents to lead this dialogue with their teen.”

Two new PSAs will be screened online and in local movie theaters. To watch the videos, visit