Otter Starz: Featuring Mark Lolik of Monterey Bay Photos

courtesy of Marine Photo Bank

When news of the struggling otter population hits, we get a lot of questions like, “what can people do?”

What an opportunity! Unfortunately, it’s a complicated question. The issues that face otters are big. But like all big issues, they originate from smaller choices and actions.

While we’re working on the checklist of all the things you could do, we’re going to feature some individuals who are actively working to help improve conditions for otters and local coastal ecosystems. I hope this inspires you to think about what changes you can make in your own life!

Today’s Otter Star is Mark Lolik, owner of Monterey Bay Photos, and a good friend of our program associate, Heather.

As a local business owner located on a windy street in Monterey, just blocks from the bay, Mark grew frustrated at all the trash he saw on his street. Instead of walking by it every day, he started picking it up. What started as an annoyance turned into an obsession, and pretty soon he had his whole staff going out daily to collect trash.

“I just can’t walk by the stuff and leave it there knowing that we’re right on the ocean,” Mark explained. He has good reason to be concerned; marine debris is a huge problem in Monterey and all along the California Coast. Seabirds are frequent victims of entanglement in trash, but otters are vulnerable too, as we saw a few months ago with this horrific blog post from, Save our Shores of an otter pup stuck in a plastic bag.

In addition to picking up trash himself, Mark pays his employees to go out and do so. Surprised at the sheer volume of trash they were collecting, the group started weighing their finds. “We were picking up 20 pounds of stuff in a day and no one would believe us,” Mark said. Mark and his staff reported a total of 500 pounds of trash collected in less than a month—and during the rainy season of January, when it’s being washed down to the bay even faster.

The never ending trash can be discouraging, Mark acknowledged. “People think, oh its not really my problem—I’m just going to walk by that. There’s so much of that that it never really ends,” he said.

In spite of this, his efforts to keep his neighborhood clean are expanding—block by block. In addition to picking up trash, Mark has been trying to organize local businesses to do the same. “If everyone can go out and do just that small amount, it could make a difference,” he said. His organizing efforts have turned into a campaign called Just One Block, and he is talking to local business associations about formalizing the participation of local businesses.

The response to his outreach has been varied, Mark reports. While some of his neighbors already try to keep their neighborhood clean, others were unaware of the extent of the problem. Others even cursed at him and asked him to leave their stores.

Still, his impact is clear. The news covered Mark’s efforts a few weeks ago, attracting attention to the problem of debris and litter. Check out the Just One Block story at KSBW.

Just One Block is working on a website, and can currently be found on facebook.

Nice to know there’s 500 pounds less trash out here than there would be—for us AND the otters.

About Allison

I am the new Executive Director of The Otter Project in Monterey, California! Originally from the Bay Area, I went to school in San Diego, and came back north to Monterey for graduate school, where I found my calling: saving sea otters! Working for The Otter Project combines my passion for environmental policy with my love of animals. When not advocating for sea otters, I enjoy yoga, volunteer wildlife rehab, reading, and spending time with my cat Alyssa, who, for the record, I did not name. I have been with The Otter Project since November of 2007.
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