Monday, June 26, 2006 | Okay, I don’t really hate Wyland. But his murals feed the idea that the marvels of the marine environment don’t exist here in San Diego.

The gorgeous painting adorning that new building at the Del Mar fair is a perfect example. It shows whales frolicking above some kelp stringers with a few seals and garibaldi scattered about, to give it a local flavor. Inside the building are paintings of beautiful tropical fish and impressive sculptures including a representation of a manta ray.

Where are the bat rays? Where are the kelp bass? Where are the eels, the lobster, the horn sharks, the yellowtail, the octopus, the black sea bass, the threshers, and the angel sharks? Where are all the marvelous creatures that abound in San Diego waters?

Our local waters aren’t just waypoints for migrating whales; it’s every bit as engaging as any other spot on the planet, yet nobody seems to know it but a few local fishermen. I’ve seen more than fifty species of fish along local beaches and bays, but in Wyland’s latest mural our kelp forest looks like a desert.

The result?

I stood on a walkway over Mission Bay, watching a bat ray chasing a butterfly ray across the shallows. A kid standing next to me asked, “Who put those in there?” His dad didn’t know, and mumbled that they must have escaped from Sea World.

The problem is that school-age children don’t know about local marine life, so they don’t care. They are more interested in an African desert, or a Central American rainforest. Do the kids in your neighborhood know about the raccoons, opossums, and maybe even deer living in the canyon a few blocks from their homes?

These kids grow up disconnected from the plants and animals in their own back yards. Is it any wonder that, as adults, they know or care very little about environmental issues like growth, solid waste disposal, and clean water?

I’d love to see a Wyland mural teeming with local fish, not just a token garibaldi or two.

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