Heal the Bay Blog

Author: Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay’s annual River Report Card Rates 28 Freshwater Recreation Sites in Los Angeles River, San Gabriel River, and Malibu Creek Watersheds

2020 so far has been the year of making the best of it. When it comes to freshwater resources in L.A. County, we don’t have many, but we do love our rivers and swimming holes. And many of us will be looking to explore more local freshwater recreation options this summer, whether it’s because we had to cancel our long-distance vacation plans or reconsider a trip to the beach due to Safer at Home measures.

But no trip to the river is worth getting sick. And unfortunately, many freshwater recreation sites in L.A. County do have levels of bacterial pollution that represent a significant health risk. Developed areas tend to be more polluted than those in the mountains and upper watersheds.

Our annual River Report Card is the most comprehensive report on freshwater bacterial water quality and health risks in L.A County. The report grades each freshwater recreation site with a Red, Yellow, or Green rating.

  • Green : Zero parameters exceeded; low risk of illness when there is water contact.
  • Yellow : One to half of the parameters exceeded; moderate risk of illness when there is water contact.
  • Red : More than half of the parameters exceeded; high risk of illness when there is water contact.

In addition to the annual report, which summarizes the data collected in 2019, we also have an interactive map at, which is updated weekly, so you can check the latest water quality observation before choosing a place to go this summer.

A Note About Swimming in the Time of COVID-19

While we have a pandemic going on, it’s especially important to be safe any time you leave the house, including outdoor recreation. That means wearing a mask and keeping a safe physical distance from others.

Our water quality tests do not detect the presence of the COVID-19 virus in the water, but they do detect fecal indicator bacteria (FIB). The COVID-19 virus has been detected in sewage, indicating that fecal matter from infected individuals can contain the virus. We do not know how long the virus survives in sewage or in water, and we do not know if someone can contract the COVID-19 disease from coming into contact with water. Experts have stated that the transmission risk in water is likely very low because the virus mainly spreads through person-to-person contact. Since COVID-19 and FIB both enter our waterways through sewage, measuring FIB concentrations can help keep people safe from both.

Be sure to check for closures and specific restrictions at freshwater sites, trails, and open space before you head out. And, as always when you visit the river, make sure to pack out what you pack in. Be a water steward and keep plastics and trash out of the environment.

Be safe, have fun, and enjoy your local waters.

Download the annual River Report Card

See the annual River Report Card Media Release 

Check out the Weekly Updated River Report Card Interactive Map

Donate to Support This Work

Our 30th Anniversary of the annual Beach Report Card:

Thirty years ago people were getting sick from going in the ocean, and there was no way for them to know when or where they were at risk. Heal the Bay introduced the Beach Report Card in 1990-1991, a tool to help keep the public safe at the beach. It is also a powerful resource used to advocate for water quality policies and improvement projects.

Thirty years later, Heal the Bay is stoked to release the 30th annual Beach Report Card, because a day at the beach shouldn’t make anyone sick. This report assigns A-to-F letter grades for more than 500 California beaches, based on levels of bacterial pollution in the ocean.

So, what did our staff scientists find? Here are our major takeaways:

  • California beach water quality improved in 2019-2020, driven in large part by decreased rainfall. Rainfall across coastal counties in California was 12 percentage points lower than the historical average. Less rain means fewer pollutants, including bacteria, were flushed through storm drains and rivers into the ocean. Because of this pollutant flushing, only 65% of CA beaches received good or excellent grades during wet weather.
  • The notorious Beach Bummer list—a ranking of the ten most polluted beaches in the state—includes six bacteria-impaired beaches within San Mateo County. This is an unusually high number of beach bummers for a single county. The remaining four beach bummers are located in Southern California and are frequent pollution offenders. (View the Beach Bummers of 2020.)
  • While scientists remain deeply concerned about water quality issues, there is some good news for beachgoers. 92% of the 500 California beaches monitored by Heal the Bay received an A or B grade for the summer season. During dry weather in the winter season, 91% of beaches received an A or B grade, which was slightly better than average. (Go to pages 5-6 of the report for the full Executive Summary.)
  • Overall, 42 out of more than 500 monitored California beaches made it on Heal the Bay’s coveted Honor Roll this year, which is higher than last year (33) and the year before (37) likely due to lower than average rainfall. To make it on the Honor Roll the beach must be monitored year-round and score perfect A+ water quality grades each week in all seasons and weather conditions. Most beaches on the Honor Roll are in Southern California because many counties in Central California and Northern California do not sample frequently enough during the winter months. (For the full Honor Roll list, see pages 14-15 of the report.)
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has upended daily life around the world and has devastated households and communities. We must continue to practice physical distancing and other health and safety procedures, and to keep in mind that a large percentage of people can spread the virus without showing symptoms. The closure of beaches in many locations due to COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of beaches in our lives as open spaces for recreation, relaxation, exploration, and places to gather. But, COVID-19 has also exposed major systemic failures; open spaces, including beaches, are not equally accessible to all people and the public health impacts of health crises as well as poor water and air quality are not shared equally across communities. Low-income communities of color tend to be the most burdened and vulnerable communities, bearing the brunt of environmental and economic impacts. As we plan for the future post-COVID-19, we can and must do better to protect everyone. (Learn more on page 49.)
  • Heal the Bay is expanding the Beach Report Card to include three beaches in Tijuana, Mexico: El Faro, El Vigia, and Playa Blanca. These popular beaches in Mexico, along with Imperial Beach in California, US, are impacted by millions of gallons of raw sewage that flow into the ocean through the Tijuana River. As a result, the public is at a greater risk for getting ill and local beaches are often closed for months on end. Heal the Bay is partnering with Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación Ambiental to help spread awareness about water quality in Tijuana. Margarita Diaz, Director of Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación Ambiental, says “Showing the integration of what is happening on both the US and Mexican portion of our watershed is a long overdue requirement for understanding environmental health issues—particularly as they relate to water quality in our shared watershed—given that they are intrinsically connected.” (Learn more on page 50.)

Tips for staying safe at the beach:

  • Check for latest water quality grades (available on iOS & Android)
  • Avoid shallow, enclosed beaches with poor water circulation
  • Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains, creeks, and piers
  • Stay out of the water for at least 72-hours after a rain event
  • Wear a mask when not in the water and remain at least 6 -feet away from people not from your household at all times
  • Follow all local health and safety regulations, and check in with the lifeguard on duty for more information about the best places to swim

In analyzing the last thirty years of water quality data, one major finding we uncovered in California was the number of beach and coastal access days the public lost out on due to bacterial-pollution risks.

There have been 66,605 bacterial-pollution exceedance events at California beaches in the last 30 years (Summer Dry, Winter Dry, Wet Weather combined). That’s an average of 2,220 exceedance events per year in California. We estimate the bacterial pollution issue has resulted in 132,130 to 396,390 beach advisory days where the public has not been allowed to access the beach. See pages 22-27 to view an outline of the major policies that the Beach Report Card has influenced over the years as well as whether or not water quality has improved over time.

Download the Report

Download the Executive Summary En Español

Download the Press Release

Donate To Support This Work

About the Beach Report Card with NowCast

The annual Beach Report Card includes an analysis of water quality for three time periods: summer dry season (April through October 2019), winter dry weather (November 2019 through March 2020) and year-round wet weather conditions. The grading methodology is endorsed by the State Water Resources Control Board. All county health departments in California are required to test beach water quality samples for fecal indicator bacteria at least once a week during the summer season. Many counties also monitor heavily used beaches year-round. Heal the Bay compiles the complex shoreline data, analyzes it, and assigns an easy-to-understand letter grade.

In addition to providing weekly water quality grades for 500 beaches statewide, Heal the Bay scientists continue to expand NowCast, a daily water quality predictive service at 20 popular beaches in California. Using sophisticated machine learning, environmental science data, modeling, and past bacteria samples, Heal the Bay accurately predicts when beaches should post warning signs because of potential bacterial pollution. This new approach enhances public health protections by providing more advanced water quality information to public health officials and beachgoers.

Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is made possible through the generous support from SIMA Environmental Fund, Swain Barber Foundation, and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

For a detailed look at beach results by location, why some beach types are more vulnerable to higher levels of pollution, and detailed report methodology, please refer to our complete report. A PDF version of the 2019-20 annual Beach Report Card is available to download at


Heal the Bay hosted a live conference on June 30 at Noon to reveal this year’s annual Beach Report Card findings. Speakers included: Dr. Shelley Luce, President and CEO at Heal the Bay, Luke Ginger, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay, Frankie Orrala, Angler Outreach Program Manager at Heal the Bay, and Laurie Silvan, Director of the Board for Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación Ambiental (PFEA). View recording:

Every year, Heal the Bay staff scientists assign A-to-F letter grades to beaches all along the California coast. These grades are based on bacteria pollution and help inform public health. This year, 92% of 500 California beaches received an A or B grade for the busy summer season. However, several beaches are on our list of no-goes.

We’re announcing our 2019-2020 Beach Bummers List, a ranking of the ten most polluted beaches in the state based on levels of harmful bacteria. This year, six of the ten Beach Bummers are from San Mateo County and the remaining four are in Southern California.

The Beach Bummers of 2020

  1. No. 1 – Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at San Vicente Creek Outlet (San Mateo County) Fitzgerald Marine Reserve has never appeared on the Beach Bummer list before. The beach generally has good summer water quality, but is impacted by dry weather runoff from San Vicente Creek. This beach is one of six San Mateo County Beach Bummers this year, which is unprecedented for one county.
  2. No. 2 – Poche Beach at Creek Outlet (Orange County) Poche Beach is no stranger to the Beach Bummer list, appearing on the list in 2018, 2013, 2012, and 2011. The beach is impacted by the Prima Deshecha Cañada storm drain (referred to as Poche Creek), which carries pollution into the ocean even during dry weather from the Dana Point area.
  3. No. 3 – Pillar Point Harbor at Capistrano Avenue (San Mateo County) Pillar Point Harbor at Capistrano Avenue is one of three Pillar Point Harbor Beach Bummers this year. There are several storm drains that carry pollutants into the harbor in dry weather, and the seawalls around the harbor prevent pollutants from getting flushed away.
  4. No. 4 – Foster City, Erckenbrack Park (San Mateo County) Erckenbrack Park is a first time Beach Bummer; however, this area of the San Francisco Bay has had a known record of poor water quality. This beach lies within an engineered patchwork of enclosed channels that are impacted by dry weather runoff from the surrounding residential and commercial developments.
  5. No. 5 – Topanga Beach at Creek Outlet (Los Angeles County) A 2014 study found Topanga Lagoon as the likely source of bacteria pollution at Topanga Beach. The lagoon sees high amounts of bird and dog fecal matter. When breached, the fecal matter flows into the ocean resulting in high bacteria concentrations. Planning for a lagoon restoration is underway and could mitigate poor water quality.
  6. No. 6 – Pillar Point Harbor Beach (San Mateo County) Pillar Point Harbor Beach is the second of three Beach Bummers contained within the Pillar Point Harbor. Unfortunately, it appears that the entire harbor was more polluted than normal this past year.
  7. No. 7 – Linda Mar Beach at San Pedro Creek (San Mateo County) Linda Mar Beach is making its third consecutive appearance on the Beach Bummer list this year, and is one of six San Mateo County Bummers. This beach is impacted by runoff during dry weather, which flows untreated into the ocean through San Pedro Creek.
  8. No. 8 – Mission Bay, Vacation Isle North Cove (San Diego County) Vacation Isle North Cove is an enclosed beach in Mission Bay that is impacted by dry weather runoff from the surrounding commercial and residential developments. Pollutants are not easily flushed away from this enclosed beach, which is located within a deep cove.
  9. No. 9 – San Clemente Pier (Orange County) San Clemente Pier is making its second consecutive appearance on the Beach Bummer list and is one of two Orange County Beach Bummers this year. This beach is impacted by untreated dry weather runoff that flows into the ocean through a storm drain.
  10. No. 10 – Pillar Point Harbor at Westpoint Avenue (San Mateo County) Rounding out the Beach Bummer list is Pillar Point Harbor at Westpoint Avenue, which is the third Pillar Point Harbor Beach Bummer and one of six San Mateo County Beach Bummers this year. Untreated dry weather runoff appears to be causing significant water quality problems in this enclosed harbor.

For a detailed look at beach results by location, why some beaches are more vulnerable to higher levels of pollution, and more information about the Beach Bummers (pages 16-18), refer to our complete annual Beach Report Card 2019-20

Polluted ocean waters are a significant health risk to beachgoers. We encourage all beachgoers to check the Beach Report Card when planning a trip to the ocean! Because a day at the beach shouldn’t make anyone sick.

Coming into contact with beach water that has a grade of C or lower greatly increases the risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and rashes. 

See more highlights from this year’s report.

Recent school closures mean many students are not getting the daily education they need. While we all should be practicing physical distancing at this time, we also need to put our brainpower and creative energy to good use and innovate to give students more opportunities to keep learning remotely.

Gotitas del Saber is Heal the Bay’s new interactive science education series, where our team of scientists, experts, and advocates explores the water world and offers fun lessons about the marine environment. Each session is about 1-hour long and includes a live presentation, Q&A, polls, and videos. Activities are generally geared for 3rd – 8th grade students, but all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend!


El reciente cierre de las escuelas significa que gran parte de los estudiantes no reciban la educación diaria necesaria. En estos momentos en los que todos debemos practicar el distanciamiento físico es necesario hacer buen uso de toda nuestra energía y capacidad cerebral e innovar para darle a nuestros estudiantes más oportunidades para seguir aprendiendo de manera remota.

Heal the Bay está respondiendo a esta situación con una nueva serie interactiva de educación científica llamada “Gotas de conocimiento” o Knowledge Drops por su nombre en inglés, donde nuestro grupo de científicos, expertos y defensores exploran el mundo acuático y ofrecen divertidas lecciones acerca del entorno marino. Cada lección tiene una duración aproximada de una hora e incluye una presentación en vivo, una sección de preguntas y respuestas, encuestas y videos. Nuestra nueva serie web está pensada para estudiantes del 3° al 8° grado pero ¡personas de todas las edades son bien recibidas y están invitadas a participar!


Click to visit our English language “Knowledge Drop” series.

See all recorded Knowledge Drops.

Gotitas del Saber:


5/20 – PLASTICOS 🥤
9/16 –

If you are a teacher with a topic suggestion, please contact us with your idea.

Resources and Videos/Recursos:

All previously-recorded Gotitas Del Saber webinar videos are posted here as an ongoing marine science education repository for you to access. (To view the webinar recordings please visit the ‘gotowebinar’ links below and enter in your contact information. We will only use your email address to update you about upcoming “Gotitas Del Saber” and you can opt out at any time.)

Todas las grabaciones anteriores de “Gotas de conocimiento” (Knowledge Drops) son publicadas aquí de manera continua para tu consulta a modo de archivo para la educación de las ciencias marinas. (Para ver las grabaciones en la página web por favor visita los enlaces “gotowebinar” ubicados más abajo e ingresa tu información. Usaremos tu dirección de correo electrónico para mantenerte informado de las nuevas “Gotas de conocimiento” (Knowledge Drops) y podrás salir cuando lo desees.)


Gotitas del SaberLa historia del Día de la Tierra

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Gotitas del SaberConoce el Flujo

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Gotitas del SaberDesagues Pluviales

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Gotitas del SaberPlasticos

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Gotitas del SaberPescados Contaminados

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Gotitas del SaberVirus y Calidad del Agua

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Gotitas del SaberAquatic Toxicity: Sources and Solutions

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Gotitas del SaberSitio Superfund

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Gotitas del SaberAquario y Limpieza Costera

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Gotitas del SaberÁreas Marinas Protegidas (MPAS)

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Gotitas del SaberCrustaceans

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Gotitas del SaberMicroSafari

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Gotitas del SaberToxicidad Acuática

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Gotitas del SaberLos Caballitos De Mar Y Garibaldi

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Gotitas del SaberTiburones y Mantarrayas 

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Gotitas del SaberMes de la Limpieza Costera: Arroyos de las Montañas de Santa Mónica

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Gotitas del SaberMes de la Limpieza Costera: Heal the Bay’s Calificaciones del Río

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Gotitas del Saber: Mes de la Limpieza Costera: Muelles de pesca visitados por el equipo de Angler Outreach Program de Heal the Bay

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Activity Guides

Nick Gabaldon Day, June 3, 2017 welcome and on-land paddle out ceremony. Participants surround a replica of a painting of Nick Gabaldon by Richard Wyatt. Photography by Elizabeth Espinoza, Martin Luther King Recreation Center, Los Angeles.
Adults pictured, standing, left to right: Eric Griffin, director of Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center; Albizeal Del Valle, field deputy for Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Michael Blum, author of the Malibu Historic District National Register Listing Nomination; Alison Rose Jefferson, historian and coordinator of Santa Monica Conservancy’s youth program; Effie Turnbull Sanders, California Coastal Commissioner; Shelley Luce, CEO of Heal the Bay; and Tom Ford, executive director of The Bay Foundation. Front row, kneeling: Meredith McCarthy, programming director, Heal the Bay, led the big hug for the bay.

Join the celebration to honor Nick Gabaldón and his legacy as the quintessential California surfer. 

Nick Gabaldón Day introduces communities across Los Angeles County to the magic of the coast through free surf and ocean safety lessons, beach ecology exploration, and a history lesson about an individual who followed his passion against all odds.

In 2013, with the help of African American historian Alison Rose Jefferson, Heal the Bay joined forces with the Black Surfers Collective to amplify and expand Nick Gabaldón Day. This year marks our organization’s 8th Annual Nick Gabaldón Day celebration!

As a result of the COVID-19 response, this year we partnered with World Surf League and the California Coastal Conservancy to create a virtual Nick Gabaldón Day with a series of online panels to dive deeper into past and current issues of justice, equity, and access on our coast.

Panels for Nick Gabaldón Day 2020

The “Nick Gabaldón Day Knowledge Drops Panel” features Alison Rose Jefferson (Historian and Author), Rhasaan Nichols (Filmmaker), and Inés Ware (Special Events Manager at Heal the Bay).

The “Women in Surf Panel” features Rhonda Harper (Founder and President of Black Girls Surf), Jeff Williams (Heal the Bay Board member & Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), and Marion Clark (President of Surf Bus Foundation).

The “Surf Sustainability Panel” features Ryan Harris (Co-Owner of Earth Technologies), Greg Rachal (Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), Jeff Williams (Heal the Bay Board member & Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), and Dr. Shelley Luce (Heal the Bay President & CEO).


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The “Community Connectedness Panel” features Greg Rachal (Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), Jeff Williams (Heal the Bay Board member & Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), Jamal Hill (Paralympic Swimmer), Giovanni Douresseau (President of Youth Mentoring), and Marion Clark (President of Surf Bus Foundation). Watch the full video on WSL >

The recent civil unrest has laid bare the desperate need to address racism and racial injustice across all sectors. Our coast is no exception. Let’s dive into some local history and why we honor Nick Gabaldón’s legacy as an early surfer of color in Los Angeles.

Who was Nick Gabaldón?

Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) was a pioneering surfer of African American and Mexican American descent. He was a Santa Monica local and the first documented surfer of color in the Santa Monica Bay. As an accomplished board rider, he smashed stereotypes surfing the Bay during the 1940s and 50s. Gabaldón would sometimes paddle 12 miles from Santa Monica to the fabled break at Malibu. The grueling trip showed true commitment and passion for ocean sports. Tragically, Gabaldón would lose his life during a huge swell at Surfrider Beach in 1951, crashing into the pilings as he tried to pull off a dangerous maneuver called “shooting the pier”.

Gabaldón reminds us of a time when beaches suffered from de facto segregation. The shoreline and waters at Bay Street Beach in Santa Monica were an active hub of African American beach life during the Jim Crow era. This beach was popular in the 1900s to early 1960s among African Americans, who sought to avoid hostile and racial discrimination they might experience at other southland beaches. Racial discrimination and restrictive covenants prevented African Americans from buying property throughout the Los Angeles region, but the community’s presence and agency sustained their oceanfront usage in Santa Monica.

Gabaldón overcame overt and tacit racism and became a role model for communities of color. Taking his rightful place in a lineup with such legends as Ricky Grigg and Matt Kivlin, Gabaldón helped integrate what largely was an all-white sport. In 2008 the City of Santa Monica officially recognized Bay Street and Nick Gabaldón with a landmark monument at Bay Street and the Oceanfront Walk. Today, Gabaldón is an enduring symbol that our beaches are recreational havens for all people.

nick gabaldon day 2013 poster

What is Nick Gabaldón Day?

To honor his pioneering spirit, Nick Gabaldón Day is celebrated during the first week of June with community partners, including Heal the Bay, the Black Surfers Collective, the Surf Bus Foundation, and the Santa Monica Conservancy.

In past years, we have hosted nearly 150 African American and Latinx youth from Pacoima to Compton for a day of ocean exploration and cultural reflection at Bay Street Beach. Many youth who particpate are learning to surf for the first time. Usually, we celebrate with a paddle out, free surf lessons, and free Heal the Bay Aquarium admission.

In 2020, World Surf League and the California Coastal Conservancy joined our efforts as well.

What was “The Ink Well”?

“The Ink Well” is a derogatory name that was used for a stretch of beachfront near Bay Street and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, which was a safe haven for African American beach-lovers during the Jim Crow era. This area became a sanctuary of sorts for Gabaldón. He learned to surf at the gentle beach break about a half mile south of the Santa Monica Pier.

In 2019, the Bay Street Beach Historic District became officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places. “[The addition of the] Bay Street Beach Historic District [to the National Register of Historic Places] increases the number of listings associated with communities of color, which [as of July 2019] is less than five percent of the total sites represented on the National Register,” according to Santa Monica Conservancy.

How can I support?

Please consider making a donation to these organizations creating opportunities to advance equity:

Save the Date: Nick Gabaldón Day 2021

The Black Surfers Collective, Heal the Bay, Surf Bus Foundation, Santa Monica Conservancy, and more organizations will be back for the next Nick Gabaldón Day on June 5, 2021. Together, our goal is to continue to reach families in underserved communities and help build personal and shared cultural, historical, and nature heritage as well as civic engagement, which makes up the foundation of stewardship for the next generation of leaders.



Photos from past #NickGabaldónDay events

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What an honor and awesome experience it was to paddle out for Nick Gabaldon today! . . . Nick Gabaldon, was the earliest recorded surfer of color who taught himself how to #surf. He would surf at Tower 20, in Santa Monica, California, and would even #paddle 12 miles north to #Malibu (He didn't own a car) often to surf better waves. The white Surfers of Malibu did not bother him at all, instead showed #respect, which was unheard of or rare at the time. He unfortunately passed away doing one of the most #dangerous tricks in surfing, #shooting the pier. Though he's no longer with us, he has been a #huge influence and #role model for both African and Mexican American surfers across the world! . . . Today, we #commemorate Nick with a paddle out, dedicated the time out at sea to any other losses in ones family (I did for my grandmother), threw our roses in, #splash some water, and caught a #wave in their names! ???? . . Then we taught #InnerCity youth how to surf!! Some of these kiddos have never been to the #beach, the ocean, or even have felt #sand!! It was awesome to #educate, #empower, and even have good old #fun with such stoked kiddos! ???????? . . It was wonderful to #serve alongside the Black Surfers Collective, Heal The Bay, Surf Rider, The Surf Bus Foundation, and many more! Thank you to everyone that were there, truly made my day, and I'm sure it changed lives for many others! . . #NickGabaldonDay #Honor #PaddleOut #ForThoseWatchingOver #SurfingCommunity #Unity #Serving #Influence #FunInTheSun #StayAwesome #SharingTheStoke #Grateful

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Life lessons. #nickgabaldon

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Take Action for Our Ocean

Our ocean needs our help—from fighting for environmental justice and urgently addressing the climate crisis that impacts People of Color and low-income communities at disproportionate levels, to blocking a new federal attack on Marine Protected Areas that dampens progress for wildlife biodiversity, to stopping fossil fuel development and single-use plastic manufacturing that pollute our water, air, soil, and bodies. There is so much work to do.

Together, we need to tune in to the waves to recognize how much our ocean provides for us and raise awareness about our individual and collective duties to protect safe and healthy water for all people and marine life.

Support Ballot Initiative Against Plastic Waste

We have a chance to bring a groundbreaking plastic pollution reduction act directly to voters on the 2022 ballot in California, but to get it there we need signatures from people like you.

The California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act is on track to qualify for the statewide 2022 ballot thanks to signatures from hundreds of thousands of Californians. This act would require a 25% source reduction of single-use plastics by 2030 AND hold Big Plastic financially accountable for their pollution.

Help us get this on the ballot and up for a vote: Print. Sign. Mail. Done.



Fight the Federal Rollback on a Marine Protected Area

Our nation is in crisis. Yet quietly, in the background and for the first time in history, the federal administration has rolled back protections on a National Marine Sanctuary. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument protects ocean biodiversity and is invaluable to marine resource protection.

Sign this petition and urge for the reintroduction of protections for this marine protected area.



In Solidarity

Heal the Bay stands in solidarity with the Black community demanding justice for ongoing tragedies caused by systemic racism as well as social and environmental injustices.⁣⁣⁣

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color need to be protected. Black lives matter. The fight for this protection starts in our hearts by examining our own privileges and roles in systemic racism.

Environmental and social justice issues are intertwined. And it must be acknowledged that the hard work to dismantle systemic environmental and social barriers should not be a burden that continues to fall on BIPOC and marginalized communities who are most impacted by these issues.⁣⁣ We, who have access to a clean and safe environment, must fight for access, equity, and safety for all.⁣⁣



Journey to Environmental Justice

In our latest two-part blog series, Heal the Bay Outreach Coordinator Danielle shares her environmental justice journey and what equality, equity, and justice can look like in the environmental movement.




Tune In to the Waves

Today’s Knowledge Drops webinar is all about the history of #WorldOceansDay and the Giant Sea Bass. Dive in with us to learn more about the ocean’s benefits, all the life it supports, and our duty to use its resources sustainably and equitably. Tune in at 1:30PM PDT.



Although we can’t be at the beach with friends and family at this time, the beaches are still there, along with all the marine life and memories we cherish – and Heal the Bay is still here protecting them.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to spread knowledge and share our passion for our waters. We launched a new virtual educational series, Knowledge Drops, for the million-plus children in Los Angeles who can no longer go to school. And we’re continuing to fight big plastic and EPA rollbacks as they attempt to exploit this global crisis and cut local environmental protections.

However, the temporary suspension of Heal the Bay’s public programs, the closure of our Heal the Bay Aquarium, and the cancellation of our Annual Gala has resulted in a loss in fundraising that we greatly rely on to fulfill our mission. Now more than ever, Heal the Bay needs your support.

We’re more powerful when we come together, so let’s come together for Heal the Bay. Please help us by making a donation to fund our crucial work and participating in our Bring the Beach Home campaign.

Take Part

How is the beach special to you? We invite you to share your meaningful beach photo and story on Instagram or Facebook and take us all on a trip down memory lane. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to see inspiring beach moments from our community.

  1. Share your beach memory using #BringtheBeachHome.
  2. Nominate 5 friends to share their favorite beach moments (Pro tip: add them to your post or use the Instagram Challenge Story Sticker).
  3. Tag @healthebay to have your post featured.

See Us Live

We miss you, but just because we are physically apart doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected. Join our weekly Heal the Bay live streams where we’ll introduce new Heal the Bay supporters, share favorite beach memories, and unearth helpful sustainability tips and topics. We look forward to having a fun and positive conversation with you each week.

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Stay Connected With Us

Text BringtheBeachHome to 243725.

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See Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO, do a beach cleanup with her family in between rainstorms on Monday, March 16, 2020.

Are you practicing physical distancing during the COVID-19 response? Yes? Good! If you are looking for something productive to do, to get out of the house while still protecting your wellbeing and the health of others, we recommend doing a cleanup. We believe it is healthy to be outside volunteering, just not together in large groups at this time. So get ready for a dose of fresh air, fill up your reusable water bottle, and follow these instructions on how to do a cleanup.

It’s important to do cleanups, especially now, because the much-needed #LArain we are experiencing has created a surge in runoff and pollution in our neighborhoods, parks and beaches. The majority of waste that ends up in the environment is plastic, which harms wildlife, natural habitats, and public health. The good news: we can all clean up this trash at any time!

Nearly 80 percent of pollution in our marine environment comes from the land. Runoff from more than 200,000 storm drains on L.A. streets flows out to the Pacific Ocean causing the majority of local ocean pollution. By removing tons of pollution from neighborhoods and parks, in addition to beaches and waterways, cleanup participants reduce blight, protect animals, and boost the regional economy.

Here are helpful instructions on how to do a cleanup AND contribute to Heal the Bay’s ever-growing database of over 4,000,000 pieces of trash and debris from the last couple of decades in Los Angeles County, California. We use this trashy data to help inform public policy decision-making and aid businesses and organizations in adopting best practices.

Cleanup Instructions

1. Watch our Cleanup Safety Video or read our Cleanup Safety Talk (we follow this brief outline of safety tips and related topics to give talks before our group cleanups, not all of it will apply to your individual cleanup). This required viewing will help you determine what to do if you find a sharp needle (Don’t pick it up! Report it) and if lightning strikes (head inside immediately!) or how to avoid sneaker waves if you’re doing your cleanup at the beach.

2. Download our Cleanup Data Card (print it and bring the Data Card with you to your cleanup along with a pencil) or track the trash you collect with either the Marine Debris Tracker App.

3. Grab a reusable bucket and a pair of gardening gloves (or at least one glove for the hand you use to pick up trash) and head outside. You can do a cleanup for 15 minutes or an hour – whatever your preference is, please always prioritize safety first!

4. Don’t forget to post your cleanup pics and results on social media using the hashtag #healthebay and tagging us @healthebay. We can’t wait to see your trashy finds and give you well-deserved kudos for volunteering to protect the outdoor places we all cherish.

Learning Resources

Now that you’ve done a cleanup, here are some resources to learn more about the pollution we commonly find at cleanups, and how to prevent it from winding up there.

To do our part in reducing the spread of COVID-19, Heal the Bay is following guidelines from the Los Angeles County Department of Health and suspending all public programs, including programming at Heal the Bay Aquarium effective immediately. Heal the Bay Aquarium is temporarily closed and all Heal the Bay public program activities are suspended until further notice to accommodate physical distancing and help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The health and safety of our supporters, partners, staff, and community-at-large are our top priority. We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will abide by any recommendations from our local health agencies and the CDC. We urge you to follow LA’s Safer At Home orders at this time to help #FlattenTheCurve and save lives.

Suspended public programs include: Speakers Bureau, Beach Cleanups (Nothin’ But Sand, Suits on the Sand & Adopt-A-Beach), Angler Outreach Program, Wednesday Volunteers, Marine Protected Area Watch as well as Heal the Bay Aquarium (Birthday Parties, Field Trips, public hours & special events).

We will provide updates as new information becomes available. Our Aquarium staff will remain working at our facility to provide care for the animals and conduct maintenance. Heal the Bay staff will work remotely and in the main office during this time.

For the health and well-being of all, please take proper precautions to limit the spread of illness. Please follow these guidelines:

  • Please stay home if you feel sick and/or have a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
  • Wear a fabric face mask or facial covering when you are out in public.
  • Practice physical distancing by staying at least 6-feet away from people who are not in your household.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. (If a tissue is unavailable, use your upper sleeve or inside your bent elbow.)
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Make frequent use of hand sanitizer if available.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Follow all directives and guidelines by your health care provider and local health officials.
  • Get a flu shot to prevent influenza if you have not done so this season.

For more information, visit Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and view the LA Mayor’s Directive about COVID-19 LA City Guidelines.

If you have any questions, please Contact Us. If you are looking for marine science education resources, check out Knowledge Drops.


Last updated: June 23, 2020


We’re tackling the biggest threats to the Bay by harnessing The Power of Water in 2020. The following three goals represent our key areas of focus this year:


Sound the Alarm for Climate Action

What we’re doing: Mitigating the life-altering impacts of climate change by empowering people to make smart choices now to create a sustainable and equitable future.

How we’re doing it: Water is where many will feel climate impacts first: water reliability in a changing climate is paramount. We are scrutinizing the City of LA’s plans for reusing wastewater as well as local projects to capture stormwater, to ensure they are equitable, effective and sustainable. At Heal the Bay Aquarium and events we are engaging the public to take daily actions — like extending Meatless Monday to One Meal a Day for the Ocean — to help mitigate the extremes of warming temperatures, ocean acidification and sea level rise.

Protect Public Health with Strong Science and Outreach

What we’re doing: Protecting people’s health through science-based education and outreach on contaminated water and fish at LA beaches and rivers.

How we’re doing it: We are expanding the reach and scientific rigor of our Beach Report Card, River Report Card and Angler Outreach programs to increase community and agency engagement on issues that directly affect public health. Our focus is on pollution, access, recreational use and fish consumption. We are also advocating for strong water quality protections and better public awareness tools to inform the most impacted communities.

Ban Single-Use Plastic for Good

What we’re doing: Eliminating harmful plastic waste from our beaches and waterways, and restoring the vibrancy of our ocean and watersheds.

How we’re doing it: A dramatic shift away from single-use plastics is needed because less than 10% of plastic waste is recycled and the rest winds up in landfills and the natural environment. Alongside a coalition of NGOs we are helping to establish “Reusable LA”, a new campaign to build a thriving culture of reuse and refill in LA County, encouraging people and businesses to go plastic-free and support new policies that ban disposable plastics in LA County and statewide.

Get Involved

Volunteer With Us

Take Part in a Beach Cleanup

Visit Our Aquarium


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