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Heal the Bay Blog

What are some of the reasons you should visit Heal the Bay’s Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier this February?

REASON #1. Life is over-whale-ming.

Life can whale-y be crazy sometimes! So, give yourself the gift of time outside to decompress and connect with nature. We are so lucky to be able to do this during the winter in L.A. So, celebrate #WorldWhaleDay with us on Feb. 16 and make a special visit to our Aquarium for Whale of a Weekend. Aquarium naturalists will host a wildlife observation station at the west end of the Santa Monica Pier. Spy for migrating Pacific gray whales through binoculars and explore field guides to identify local birds and marine life. You’ll feel relaxed after staring out over the horizon for a bit—trust us!


REASON #2. The news is a bunch abalone

Sick of click bait? Come experience something real for a change. Featured in our newly reopened touch tank is a species of marine snail known as the Red Abalone (Hailotis rufescens). Red abalone are one of seven species found along the California coast. These animals are found in rocky areas with kelp, which serves as their most primary food source.

Unfortunately, due to overharvesting, disease, predation, and starvation, these marine snails have struggled to maintain high levels of population. As a result, the California Fish and Game Commission closed commercial abalone fishing in 1997 and have recently closed recreational fishing until 2021. Fortunately, there has been some success in the aquaculture of this species allowing for the outplanting of adults when they grow to maturity. Speak to our knowledgeable Aquarium staff to learn about abalone and how to protect them.


REASON #3. You have a case of the Mondays. 

This should help: Our Aquarium is now open on Mondays. Start your week by meeting some of the locals and exploring 100s of animal and wildlife species that call the California coast their home.

VISIT OUR AQUARIUM

 



Every year around Valentine’s Day, our Aquarium celebrates its love for whales – just in time to mark the annual migration of the Pacific gray whale.

Pacific gray whales undergo a gargantuan 10,000-mile roundtrip journey between the Arctic and Mexico each year. These gentle giants breed and give birth in the warm Baja waters in late fall/early winter before heading back north with their calves around February. The migration takes the whales through the Santa Monica Bay – sometimes close enough to be spotted from the West end of the Pier.

A photo posted by Dale Frink (@dalefrink) on

Make sure to stop by for Whale of a Weekend on February 16-17 at Heal the Bay’s Aquarium (and don’t forget to celebrate World Whale Day on Feb. 16). From baleen to blubber, you’ll leave with a ton of knowledge. Be sure to take a look through our binoculars from the observation deck; you might just spy a whale!

Our Top Ten Facts About Whales

  1. Whales only breathe through their blowholes – they can’t breathe through their mouths.
  2. There are two categories of cetaceans (whales): those with teeth and those without.
  3. Toothless whales, called baleen whales, include the Pacific gray whale, blue, humpback, fin, and right whales.
  4. Toothed whales include orcas, belugas, dolphins, narwhals, porpoises and sperm whales.
  5. Nearly 90% of all cetaceans are toothed whales.
  6. Baleen whales are the largest mammals on earth but they eat some of the smallest creatures in the ocean: tiny zooplankton.
  7. Baleen whales have two spout openings (like having two nostril openings).
  8. Toothed whales only have one spout opening.
  9. Narwhals actually only have two teeth. One of those teeth is the large spiral shaped ivory tusk that develops through their upper lip.
  10. When baleen whales blow air out of their spout, it creates a spray that sometimes comes out heart-shaped.



SINGLE-USE PLASTIC

It’s estimated that there will be more plastic by mass than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

What we’re doing: Advocating for a ban on polystyrene food and drink containers in the City and County of Los Angeles. Following the model that propelled the statewide plastic bag ban in 2014, we are fighting to rid our beaches and neighborhoods of polystyrene trash. Our volunteers have removed more than 500,000 bits of Styrofoam from beaches in L.A. County over the past decade!

What you can do: Encourage your favorite restaurants to go plastic-free voluntarily

CLIMATE CHANGE

L.A. County could lose more than half of its beaches by 2100 due to coastal erosion related to warming seas.

What we’re doing: Reducing our carbon footprint is a complicated endeavor involving multi-national agreements, but we’re committed to taking action locally. Our staff scientists are advocating for the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands and other natural buffers to climate change.  Our policy staff is advocating for infrastructure projects that capture and reuse treated wastewater, instead of piping water from up North at tremendous cost and energy use.

What you can do: If you own a car, take public transit once a week. If you aren’t a vegetarian, skip meat one day a week.

Credit: (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

POLLUTED WATER

There are roughly 175 impaired water bodies and 1,317 specific impairments* in greater L.A., meaning they exceed federal clean-water standards and require formal remediation plans.

What we’re doing: Heal the Bay holds polluters accountable by ensuring that cities adhere to their stormwater permits. These MS4 permits**, which will be renewed this year, allow dischargers to send runoff into the L.A. County stormdrain system as long as effluents do not exceed acceptable levels of metals, oils, harmful bacteria and trash. It’s a bit wonky, but watchdogging these permits is essential for maintaining safe and healthy water in our region.

What you can do: Pick up your pet waste … always. Patronize car washes that capture runoff. Reduce chemicals from reaching the sea by reducing your use of pesticides and fertilizers.


*A specific pollutant in a waterbody, measured at levels that exceed federal Water Quality Standards. Many waterbodies in the L.A. Region are impaired by multiple pollutants.

**Permits issued by the Water Quality Control Board that monitor and regulate pollution in stormwater runoff. 



Taking L.A. By Storm

We helped lead the charge to pass Measure W in the November election, securing funds for a lattice of stormwater-capture parks throughout L.A. County. Instead of flowing uselessly to pollute the sea, 100 billion gallons of runoff will be captured and reused each year.

California Doesn’t Suck

On the heels of our “Strawless Summer” campaign, Gov. Brown signed into law a measure that requires restaurants to provide straws on a request-only basis. The move will keep tons of plastic out of our beleaguered oceans and beaches.

A River Runs Through It

In response to our ground-breaking study of polluted spots in the L.A. River’s recreational zones, the City of Los Angeles established a new monitoring and notification protocol to protect public health on the revitalized waterway.

A Clean Break for Malibu

After years of steady pressure from Heal the Bay, the city of Malibu opened its Civic Wastewater Treatment Facility. Some of the state’s most iconic — and historically polluted — beaches will be a whole lot cleaner.

Youth Is Served

Our entire staff hosted 600 students from under-served elementary schools for our annual Education Day, a care-free morning of marine exploration at our Aquarium and on the sand.  Each year we inspire more than 15,000 students, many of whom have never been to the beach!



December is the Month of the Seahorse at our Aquarium!

From frosty, festive seahorse-themed winter holiday events all along the Santa Monica Pier, to our month-long seahorse feeding and crafts exhibit at the Aquarium, our Pacific Seahorses are the sparkling (sea) stars this season.

To learn what Pacific Seahorses eat and how they thrive, come participate in our special educational presentations every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 1PM. The Seahorse Celebration at both the Aquarium and Pier will end January 6. So swim on by soon and join in the festivities.

After the presentation, help us decorate the Merry-go-Round with a festive seahorse coloring page. Write a wish on the coloring page that will be strung along the Merry-go-round, and seen by all Pier visitors.

Feelin’ inspired by all this talk about seahorses? We encourage you to Aquadopt a Pacific Seahorse and provide for the care and feeding of the animal, plus much more!

Please note: The Aquarium will be closed during December 24 and 25, but will be opened special extended hours of 12:30 PM to 5 PM from Wednesday, December 26, to Sunday, December 30th. The Aquarium will be closed on Tuesday, January 1st to observe the New Year, but open on Wednesday, January 2 for regular hours.



honor the ocean 2018

We are blessed to live in a place where we are rich in history, diversity and ecology. And we should take every opportunity granted to us to celebrate this.

This past fall, the Los Angeles County Marine Protected Area (MPA) Collaborative Network hosted the 2nd annual Honor the Ocean event at Zuma Beach in the City of Malibu to acknowledge and celebrate Chumash maritime culture, stewardship and science efforts to preserve and protect the ocean. From seeing dolphins to hearing stories about dolphins, here are my top 4 moments from the event.

4: Enjoying the Bay

Surfers of all ages paddled out in the water. Seeing them get on their boards was thrilling because they were so excited to catch a wave. Like Phil Edwards once said, “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.” Edwards makes a great point. Even though surfing is a challenging sport, you simply can’t help but have fun. The more fun you have, the more you want to practice it. And with practice comes passion. This quote can apply to anything in life, really.

3. Celebrating the Chumash People

The Chumash and the Gabrielino-Tongva peoples were the First People of the Channel Islands and Santa Monica Mountains areas. I learned so much about their traditions and culture at the event. To kick off the event we all surrounded the tomol, which is redwood sewn-plank canoe. Pretty amazing!

There was a Ceremonial Chumash blessing that was led by Mati Waiya, Founder and Executive Director of the Wishtoyo Foundation. After the blessing, we had the opportunity to talk to one of the members of the Chumash Women’s Elders Council. She encouraged all the youth to carry forward the Chumash tradition of protecting the environment for future generations. Her words and wisdom were inspiring.

2. Story time!

No amount of technology can replace the beauty of live, spoken word storytelling. At the event, the Chumash people shared a beautiful story about dolphins and how singing a special blessing can bring dolphins closer to us on land. Just as the story came to a close, the crowd spotted dolphins leaping out of the ocean. Coincidence? I think not! It was pure joy. Which leads me to what’s next…

dolphin symbol on the tomol

1. Dolphins!!!

No doubt, dolphins are awesome. And it’s truly mind-blowing to think about how much humans have in common with them. We both feel sadness, pain, anger and happiness. We protect our young and we do our best to stay together as a family (pod). It was thrilling to see a small pod of dolphins swimming by during the Honor the Ocean event. Especially since dolphins were etched on the tomol and a centerpiece during story time. What a magical moment to have witnessed.

At the closing of a wonderful day, the Chumash leaders gave us a few heartfelt suggestions that I wanted to pass along to you:

  • Bless the day that we have been given to see.
  • Give thanks for the sun that rises in the distance.
  • Less screen time, more real time!

So what are you waiting for? Go out and discover something new.

Thanks to all the Honor the Ocean event partners for a great day: Wishtoyo Foundation, City of Malibu, Chumash Maritime Foundation, Los Angeles County Lifeguards, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, The Bay Foundation, California Conservation Association, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Santa Monica Mountains Restoration Conservation District, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and USC Sea Grant Program.


About the Author:

Lidia Grande-Ruiz is a Digital Advocacy Intern on Heal the Bay’s Communications team. She has also volunteered at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Lidia is currently a Film Production student at Santa Monica College. Aside from her love of the ocean, she’s also obsessed with Buffy, Bones, reading, writing and orcas! 😀



HTB chief Shelley Luce talks about her appointment and shares her philosophy about protecting our state’s most precious natural resource.

California is blessed with more than 1,100 miles of coastline. The ocean is a defining feature of our geography, our culture and our economy. We are proud of its beauty, and we depend on it for sustenance, for trade and tourism, and for our own recreation and relaxation.

I am now honored to help protect our coast by serving as an alternate to California Coastal Commission member Mark Vargas. Anthony Rendon, the Speaker of the California State Assembly, appointed me to the position earlier this month. Commissioners serve four-year terms.

As an alternate member, I will vote on matters at monthly Commission meetings any time Vargas cannot attend.

It’s long been a dream of mine to serve on the Coastal Commission because I understand how important the panel has been to preserving what makes California special. I’ve devoted my career to the coast, and I deeply understand the need to balance development, conservation, and public access on 1.5 million acres of land along California’s highly desirable coastline.

The California Coastal Act of 1976 created the Coastal Commission to “protect, conserve, restore, and enhance the environment of the California coastline.” The commission remains a powerful land-use authority that must approve changes to coastal land uses, or the local coastal plans that govern those changes. All development from single-family homes up to giant commercial or resort ventures must comply with the Coastal Act or be denied a permit to proceed.

The commission is charged with protecting coastal access and views for the public, as well as safeguarding Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas, including all wetlands.

The demand for new development in the coastal zone keeps the 12 volunteer commissioners and approximately 150 full time staff very busy, resolving complicated issues around rights of property owners and the general public.

The panel grapples with the legal, scientific, political and human complexities of how and where property owners can profit from our coastline, while protecting unique resources for the benefit of all Californians and visitors. The work is often contentious, with public hearings occasionally devolving into name-calling and accusations of backroom deal-making.

I will always listen with an open mind to all parties involved in a given matter. And I promise to always vote my conscience, placing the highest emphasis on the continued ecological health of our ocean and shorelines. I’m confident that my education and experience will guide me well when making tough decisions.

As a Ph.D. in environmental engineering, I know we must we rely on the best science to guide our decisions. As the leader of one of the state’s leading ocean protection groups, I know that education, transparency and public engagement are the best tools to build consensus around solving thorny issues.

Please email me at sluce@healthebay.org to share your thoughts about our coastline and how to best protect it.



Heal the Bay is partnering with HOVE Social Good to show how easy it is to make an impact simply by choosing goods intended to effect change.

We all want to get out there every day to help remove pollution spilling into our waters. Whether that means volunteering at a cleanup, taking water quality samples or building clean water wells and infrastructure, we all want to do good. But, let’s be honest, life gets in our way sometimes.

There is something you can do to push and advocate for change daily. You can shop smarter from socially conscious companies who give back to clean water initiatives.

That’s why we have partnered with Hove Social Good and their delightful Water Power Box featuring products that are making small yet significant changes toward cleaner and safer water for all. In the Water Power Box, you will be introduced to a plethora of eco-friendly items and their meaningful data stories, which show your personal social and environmental impact footprint.

Instead of just echoing the same dialogue about the daunting challenge of the global water crisis, the Water Power Box focuses on identifying the positive solutions taking place all around us.

The collective impacts harnessed in each Water Power Box, at minimum, give between 16-36 months of safe, clean water to someone in need; removes one pound of trash from our oceans; provides 450 sanitary hand-washes to students and restores part of our American rivers.

On top of that, $1 from every Water Power Box sold goes to support Heal the Bay’s L.A. River and Watershed water quality monitoring program. Think of it, one Water Power Box can fund one monitoring bottle to collect water samples and test for harmful bacteria in our recreational waters — this critically supports Heal the Bay staff and volunteers working to clean up watersheds, streams and beaches in Los Angeles County.

Every action, every effort counts and will move us toward improved water conditions. And right now, we need every person in every corner of the globe to work on turning the tide.

What’s in the Water Power Box & how do I get it?

The Clean Water Box is offered in LIMITED SUPPLY. Each box is filled with amazing goods from caring, thoughtful companies doing more, and valued up to $100. A single box is offered at $50. To see what’s included inside the Water Power Box, visit www.socialgoodboxes.com.

Who is behind the Water Power Box?

Hove Social Good’s CEO and founder, Cindy J Lin, previously worked for nearly 20 years at the US Environmental Protection Agency, and was engaged in international and national water protection projects and sweeping environmental policy changes. Currently, she and her team are working hard to harness people-power for good.

HOVE (short for hovering to connect with change) connects people to purchasing with purpose and supports a dynamic data platform to easily examine environmental, health and consumer behavior data together.

Stay tuned because the HOVE Social Good team is working on an app that’ll make it easier for consumers to find companies who are proactively creating programs for environmental and public health, dedicating a clear portion of funds to organizations working on the ground, or adopting a sustainable supply and process chain that minimizes, does no harm, or improves our planet’s condition.

The ultimate goal is to disrupt the current e-commerce landscape by changing people’s behavior in small ways — replacing everyday consumable goods with better choices made by socially responsible and Give Back companies.

Follow Hove Social Good on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


If this partnership inspires you and you’re interested in doing something similar with Heal the Bay. Please contact Logan on our Advancement team.



Thanks to NowCast, today is a good day for surfers who paddle out in Southern California’s prime wintertime waves and want to stay healthy.

For the first time, Heal the Bay staff scientists are running our NowCast water-quality predictions from December through March for a select few surf breaks.

NowCast predictions are the best water quality information available for beaches in California. They are made using machine-learning models, based on the most recent environmental conditions, and publicly available every single morning. By checking NowCast predictions before they go out, ocean users can reduce their risk of getting sick from polluted water.

NowCast predictions are now available each day by 7 a.m. for these very popular surf breaks:

  • Venice Breakwater
  • Manhattan Beach (near 28th Street)
  • Redondo Breakwater
  • Huntington Beach (near Beach Boulevard)
  • Santa Ana River Jetties

We want people to catch a wave, not the stomach flu. You can find NowCast predictions on our Beach Report Card website and mobile app.

We have been running NowCast successfully for beaches in the summer months since 2015, predicting water quality before swimmers hit the shore. Last summer, we provided daily forecasts of predicted water quality for 20 beaches.

If you aren’t familiar with our NowCast system, here’s an FAQ about how we are continuing to improve water quality monitoring at California beaches.

What is the NowCast system?

The NowCast system provides information similar to a daily weather forecast, but this tool predicts good or poor water quality for the day at select beaches across California. NowCast predictions are made by statistical computer models that are calibrated on years of environmental and bacteria data to accurately estimate fecal bacteria levels in the surf zone.

Fecal bacteria levels can be affected by many environmental factors such as rainfall, tide levels, solar radiation, wind, and wave action. Water quality can even be affected by human-made factors such a stormdrain flow and the presence of piers or jetties. Because the effects of these factors on water quality varies from beach to beach, site-specific NowCast models are developed for individual beaches.

Predictions are made each morning by running the models using up-to-date environmental information, and are released by 7 a.m. When a model estimates that bacteria levels at a beach comply with the health standards, the NowCast result is shown as “Good”; however, if a model estimates that bacteria levels exceed health standards, the NowCast result is shown as “Poor.”

Why is the NowCast system important?

Currently, local health agencies use laboratory analyses of water samples collected at the beach to determine if it is safe for recreational use. Unfortunately, there is a long delay in this approach: It typically takes 24-48 hours to collect the samples, transport them to the lab, and analyze them. Meanwhile, water quality can change with environmental conditions. Additionally, most California beaches are sampled on a weekly basis (although there are some beaches that are monitored more frequently). As a result, health agencies currently rely on data that is days-old to make health protection decisions.

Predictive models like those used in the NowCast system can quickly and accurately provide daily water quality information based on the most recent environmental conditions at the beach. Local health agencies and organizations like Heal the Bay can then make public notifications of poor water quality in the morning before most people arrive at the beach.

Who created the NowCast system?

The NowCast system was created through a collaboration among Heal the Bay, Stanford University, and UCLA. The project is funded by the State Water Resources Control Board, and is supported by local health agencies throughout California. For more in-depth information on the research that went into creating the NowCast system, click here.

Will there be more NowCast beaches in the future?

Most certainly. This is our first season releasing predictions during the winter season, and our plan is to keep growing our winter system each season to more and more locations. We already release predictions during the summer for 20 California beaches, from Humboldt County to San Diego County.

Are NowCast predictions available during rain events?

No. When it rains in California, water quality typically plummets. As a result, beach managers (which include local health agencies and lifeguards) issue rain advisories. These warnings last at least 72 hours, and may not be removed from the beach until after water quality samples show that conditions have returned to safe levels.

Because rain advisories are the most conservative form of public notification, we do not release NowCast predictions when they are active. For information about water quality and rain advisories (and for another spot to check NowCast predictions), check the Los Angeles and Orange County health agency websites.  

 



Heal the Bay is excited to announce its partnership with Coastal Co. and Pledgeling, which recently caught the attention of the NY Times.

As passionate surfers in the Southland, Coastal Co. founders Kevin Tighe II and Mark Healey often see plastic pollution in the water and on the beaches. This year, they decided to take action with their subscription-based, coastal lifestyle startup. As they developed a business plan and launched their new brand, the entrepreneurs made a commitment to a model that would not only promote the surfing culture that they live and breathe, but would also make a positive impact in the world by improving water quality in our oceans.

“Our mission as a company is to deliver the beach life to our members’ doorsteps every season. It’s imperative that we do our part to help protect our oceans and beaches, otherwise, we won’t have much of a beach life to deliver. To accomplish this, wanted to partner with a local non-profit who aligned with our mission and values. Heal the Bay was that perfect partner,” says Kevin Tighe.

A rewarding idea

Once a season, Coastal Co. curates the latest beach-inspired apparel, accessories and lifestyle products which it sends directly to its members’ doorsteps. The special at-home delivery takes a little bit of Cali sunshine a long way to benefit our coastline. Coastal Co. has boxes for both men and women. Each box costs $99 per season and contains over $200 of retail value inside. This Winter, female members will find items such as the limited edition “Sea La Vie” fleece from Alternative Apparel (made specifically for Coastal Co. members), a tropical scented candle from Maui Candle Company, an ethically made beanie from Krochet Kids International, a necklace from Salty Cali jewelry and more. Recent products that could be found in the men’s box include a Nixon Watch, a tee from Drifter Surf Shop in Bali, a flannel from Lira Clothing, a zip-up hoodie from Rhythm apparel and more.

Whenever anyone purchases a Coastal Co. box, proceeds fund Heal the Bay beach cleanups. The partnership funds a couple beach cleanups each month as well as other critical local ocean protection initiatives.

“8 Million tons of plastics are dumped into our oceans each year! If we all do a little, we can do a lot,” states Kevin. “That is why we’ve partnered with Heal the Bay and Pledgeling to help keep our fragile coasts pristine and clean.”

Coastal Co. is also taking steps to remove plastics from their seasonal deliveries while pushing manufacturers and suppliers to consider alternative options that are safer for the environment. In addition to curating non single-use products, the team recycles plastics they receive in the product supply chain before this waste reaches the consumer.

“If we all took one small step forward toward sustainability daily, we’d be much closer to solving our global plastic pollution problems,” says Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay chief. “Heal the Bay is excited to partner with Coastal Co. and Pledgeling because of their long-term commitment to protecting our coast.”

When businesses opt-in to major sustainability initiatives, local community collaboration is key to making an impact. Step in, Pledgeling, a Venice-based tech company that aligns brands with causes around the world to increase their business and achieve a sustainable impact.

“We are excited to bring together two great organizations – Coastal Co. and Heal the Bay – who are committed to truly making a difference. When we can link customers’ purchases to impact that they’re helping to make in the real world, people feel good about the transparency and are more inclined to trust brands that give back to causes they care about,” says James Citron, CEO of Pledgeling.

Heal the Bay Volunteer Giveaway: Win a Winter Box from Coastal Co.

To kick off our partnership, Coastal Co. is giving away a Winter Box (over $200 retail value) PLUS a $50 giftcard from Krochet Kids, a featured brand in the Winter Box! If you’d like to enter the giveaway, please make sure to comment below and follow @healthebay, @coastalcobox & @krochetkids on Instagram. It’s free to enter, but you have to be 18 or older. The winner will be selected on December 21.

View this post on Instagram

GIVEAWAY TIME for a December Aloha Friday! Today, we’re excited to introduce our new non-profit partner, @healthebay! Proceeds from Coastal Co. will fund monthly beach cleanups hosted and organized by Heal The Bay. Let’s work together to keep our coasts pristine and clean! 🏝 To celebrate the launch of our new partnership, we’re giving away a Winter Box (over $200 retail value) PLUS a $50 giftcard from @krochetkids, a featured brand in the Winter Box! If you’d like to enter the giveaway, please make sure to: • Follow @healthebay, @coastalcobox & @krochetkids • Tag three ocean lovers •The winner will be selected on December 21st! Good luck! 🌊💙 #beacheveryday #alohafridaygiveaway 📸: @richardpodjr

A post shared by Coastal Co. (@coastalcobox) on


If this partnership inspires you and you’re interested in doing something similar with Heal the Bay. Please contact Logan on our Advancement team.