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Heal the Bay Blog

I’m hopeful that this summer finds you well and at the beach often. We are lucky to live in sunny Los Angeles where millions of tourists and locals converge along the lovely shores of the Santa Monica Bay to enjoy paradise. It’s a mixed bag on the beach, where hordes of visitors come to bathe and sun themselves. Why? Well, they know just how good we have it. Yep, they want a piece of the Angeleno culture, and the beach, and our Bay. If you haven’t been out to the beach yet, well may I suggest you hop on the Metro, or your bike, or drive down for a visit. You’re not going to regret it, especially since we have so much happening under water too.

On your next visit to the beach you may be lucky enough to encounter a local that most people miss altogether. Sharks are swimming along the shores of this Bay and they are swimming alongside you and those fine visitors that come to live the California dream. In fact, there are more than 20 different species of sharks1 that inhabit or visit these waters. One of my favorites sharks to see in the summertime is the leopard shark. An elegant fish, the leopard shark is gray with spots and saddle-bars, usually reaching a length of five feet or so. They like to school with their kin and other sharks like smooth greyhounds, eating small fish, octopus and crustaceans along the shallows.

A leopard shark swims through kelp.

Another favorite is the horn shark. You might see these sharks if you are snorkeling around the rocky shores of Point Dume or off of Palos Verdes. At three and a half feet long, this squat nosed fish has two pokey spines (not venomous) at each dorsal fin – an adaptation for protection. Since they hatch from an egg, measuring a mere six inches, those spiny horns protect this cute little shark from halibut and other marine predators. To be honest, they are so cute that sometimes when I see them diving, I cannot resist reaching out and giving them a kiss for good luck. Another local favorite is the swell shark, a small shark that protects itself by swallowing an enormous amount of water to protect itself from being swallowed – like a swimming watermelon! Their eggs are sometimes found washed on shore but if you want to get a close-up look, I invite you to visit Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. The Aquarium has several eggs on display where you can witness the tiny embryos growing into tiny shark pups.

A horn shark swims along the ocean floor. Photo by Scott Gietler.

One of my favorite sea animals to see is the white shark, lovingly known as “the Landlord.” I have been lucky enough to swim with and surf with a few small white sharks and it seems like each year we are seeing more and more of them. Why are there white sharks in SoCal and why so many? Well, we are probably witnessing something really special because the coast of southern California is like a nursery. These white sharks are here because food is available and they like to eat small fish, like stingrays. We have been working hard to protect white sharks and maybe this is the positive result of all of our conservation efforts. Let’s hope so because this fish is a very important indicator of how well our oceans are faring. As a top predator, we expect that their recovery is indicative of an improving food web and ecosystem. It is still early to be absolutely sure but I do hope that we continue to see improvements in their population and in the health of our fisheries.

I am proud to work for Heal the Bay because I know that the work we have done over the past three decades has improved the life of our local sharks and is helping to restore and protect our unique and fragile ecosystem. We started our work in the 1980s by improving water quality in our watersheds and our Bay. That work continues daily, and we have expanded healing efforts by supporting and ushering in a network of Marine Protect Areas (MPAs) all along our coast. MPAs function like underwater parks, where marine life can live free from fishing pressure, promoting more growth, reproduction and species diversity. We’ve worked alongside many of our colleagues and communities to pass a statewide ban on the possession and sale of shark fins. Shark finning is a cruel and destructive practice that is decimating shark populations worldwide. At our Aquarium, we teach tens of thousands of students and visitors about sharks, debunking the myths and providing the facts so that everyone can do their part to help sharks.

We still have a great deal of work to do. We need to keep eliminating plastics and other pollution from our ocean, we need to continue to educate our communities on how to be healthy in order to keep our seas and beaches healthy and we need to continue our love affair with nature. All this starts with you. Join us at Heal the Bay as a volunteer or a member, and join us in the fight to protect our environment.

You, your family and friends need a good day at the beach. If you’re lucky, maybe you will see a shark. Regardless, you live in paradise and it is right outside your door. I hope to see you out there. Even if you can’t make it into the water, you can still celebrate Shark Week with us at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium!


 
 
 
1http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=kt938nb3cq&&doc.view=entire_text



The Strawless Summer - Heal the Bay

We’re zeroing in on plastic straw pollution in L.A. County this summer and plan to announce something big in the coming weeks.

LA doesn’t have to suck.

The relentless traffic, all the annoying wannabes, and the really, really long lines for literally everything. (Seriously, I just wanted a cold brew & cronut!) Okay, fine. These things do suck! But, they don’t define us.

Diverse communities, vibrant businesses and a beautiful environment – this is what makes greater L.A. so desirable to call home. From the San Gabriel mountains to the Bay, we are a cultural and economic hub built on creativity, innovation and resilience. But escape from the hustle-and-bustle of undercover celebrities, hashtag fads and trendy avocado toast is only a short trip away. Whether it be to hike on nature trails, shred down mountains, swim in the sea or explore the desert, we are blessed with natural and urban settings that are uniquely intertwined.

Yet, our everyday lifestyle choices are having a negative impact that we can no longer ignore.


(Photo by: Henrique Vicente, Flickr. January 2017.)

Plastic pollution is everywhere.

The consequences of low-cost convenience related to food and beverage consumption are surfacing in our ocean, rivers, creeks and streams. It’s now estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean by mass than fish1.

Plastic drink-related litter is one of the top items we find at our volunteer cleanups in beach and watershed areas across greater Los Angeles. Single-use lids, cups, bottles, sleeves, stirrers, six-pack rings, and straws. You name it, we find it. Our region isn’t the only one that needs to consider rethinking the drink. Some 40% of all debris found in the environment is beverage-related2.

Heal the Bay Strawless Summer

And all this trash isn’t just gross. It’s dangerous. Marine mammals, fish and birds often ingest plastic items, mistaking them for food. After accumulating our trash in their gullet, the animals can’t digest food properly and often die.

Just keep sippin’.

Greater L.A. can lead the way and help shift America away from single-use plastic items. We took a giant step when Heal the Bay helped pass the statewide plastic bag ban in 2014 and California voters upheld the policy last year.

But this summer, we’re zeroing in on plastic straws because they totally suck.

Strawless Summer - Heal the Bay

Plastic straws of all shapes, sizes and colors are popping up everywhere from juice boxes to cocktails to unasked-for glasses of water. Collectively, Americans use roughly 500 million plastic straws daily – enough to fill up 125 school buses each day3 and wrap around our entire planet 2.5 times. Most plastic straws end up in landfills. The rest wind up polluting the environment and posing a threat to aquatic life.

So, here’s what we are asking you to do. It’s simple and it works:

The Strawless Summer

It is starting to heat up this summer, so now is the perfect time to cool off and skip the straw.

This is only the beginning of #StrawlessSummer. Stay tuned for a big announcement from Heal the Bay in the coming weeks…and remember, just keep sipping.


1. The New Plastics Economy Rethinking the future of plastics. January 2016. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf
2. Plastics BAN List. Publication. 5 Gyres, Clean Production Action, Surfrider Foundation, USTREAM. 2016. http://d3583ivmhhw2le.cloudfront.net/images/uploads/publications/PlasticsBANList2016.pdf
3. “The Be Straw Free Campaign”. National Park Service Commercial Services. (Last update 11/26/2013) https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm



Snapshot CalCoast 2017
Ever wanted to be a scientist? Now is your chance! The California Academy of Sciences is teaming up with the Marine Protected Area Collaborative Network for Snapshot CalCoast 2017!

From June 23rd-July 2nd, teams across California will head to tide pools in marine protected areas (MPAs) to discover, photograph, and identify intertidal marine species. Put your smartphone to good use, download the iNaturalist app, and become not only a citizen scientist, but a conservation superhero today!

Why Care About Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is at the heart of ecosystem balance. By better understanding and protecting biodiversity, we are taking action toward more effective conservation. Ecosystems that have a higher level of biodiversity are more robust, can more easily bounce back from environmental changes and are generally more sustainable. MPAs in particular have been identified to successfully increase biodiversity, which, in turn, boosts productivity, increases resilience and establishes overall healthier ecosystems.

What is a BioBlitz?
A Bioblitz is a community event in which many people come together to document biodiversity by observing and recording as many species as they can in one area at one time. Bioblitzes are not only fantastic opportunities to get involved in the community, but also to connect you to both nature and science in a positive and rewarding way. Snapshot CalCoast uses the iNaturalist platform to bridge the gap between technology and outdoor nature, connecting social media to conservation and enabling you to share your discoveries through a fun, inspiring, and easy-to-use medium.

Get Involved!
For more information about Snapshot CalCoast and how you can get involved, visit here. See below for a list of bioblitzes happening in the Los Angeles area:

Heal the Bay
Wednesday, June 28
7:30am-9:30am
Point Dume State Park
RSVP here

LA Waterkeeper
Wednesday, June 28
10:00am-1:00pm
Paradise Cove

Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation
Sunday, June 25
6:30am-11:00am
Leo Carrillo State Park
RSVP to Eventbrite required. Spaces are limited.
For more information, please contact: kmelendez@wishtoyo.org, (805) 323-7023

Aquarium of the Pacific, Sea Grant, Terranea Resort
Friday, June 30
7:30am-10:30am
Pelican Cove
RSVP to Eventbrite required. Spaces are limited.

Natural History Museum – LAC
Sunday, June 25 and Monday, June 26
5:00am-8:00am
Point Fermin
RSVP here

Want your own adventure? Head out on your own, or with friends and family! Choose any coastal location between June 23rd and July 2nd, especially within Marine Protected Areas, and share your observations. Be sure to keep an eye out for the animals on the most wanted species list! All information collected will not only help improve knowledge of coastal biodiversity, but also be used by coastal managers to improve conservation efforts. Spread the word, invite your friends and family, and together, let’s make a positive impact and document our beautiful California coast! To learn more about how to use iNaturalist, click here and be sure to share! #SnapshotCalCoast @SnapshotCACoast.



This site is right in front of the luxurious five-star Ritz Carlton resort in Dana Point, but one-star water quality persists in the bird-ridden spot. Local agencies have argued that the meandering portion of Salt Creek has facilitated a greater bird population, and in turn increased the amount of bird feces at this location—ultimately leading to the poor water quality. A falconry program was implemented to reduce bird-related bacterial counts at the mouth of the creek. However, potential harm to federally threatened snowy plovers during their nesting season halted the program—a decision Heal the Bay supported. The City of Dana Point has also invested in an Ozone Treatment Facility to treat dry weather runoff. Moms may think this enclosed and wave-less beach is super safe, but don’t let the name fool you. As with most enclosed waterbodies, lack of circulation leads to high levels of bacterial pollution. Unfortunately, the projects to improve water quality at Mother’s Beach have not fully resolved the water quality issues. (Such projects include a circulation device to improve water flow, bird deterrent wires, and signage to discourage the public from feeding birds or bringing their dogs to the beach.) Luffenholtz Beach is a new addition this year, making the list at the No. 8 spot. Private septic systems in Trinidad are to blame for the recent bacterial issues. Capitola has jumped on and off the Beach Bummer list repeatedly over the history of the Beach Report Card, and has returned after a three-year hiatus. This beach sits at the mouth of Soquel Creek, south of the Capitola wharf. Beaches at the mouth of storm drains, creeks or rivers pose a public health threat to the beach-going public when flowing because of bacteria exposure, even during dry weather. Despite many projects to improve beach water quality, the Santa Monica Pier continues to be a mainstay on the Beach Bummer list. Moist conditions under the pier, flocks of birds and stormdrain runoff are the likely culprits. Soon, the city will start construction on a massive underground stormwater storage tank that will capture wet weather runoff that drains to the Santa Monica Pier storm drain. The stored runoff will supply water to the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) during dry weather, which should greatly reduce the amount of stormwater that enters Santa Monica Bay from city streets and therefore improve water quality at the pier. San Diego’s La Jolla Cove is a new addition to the Bummer list this year. It is likely that the cove-like conditions (limited water circulation) exacerbate poor water quality. Agency staff who monitor water quality in the area also noted an increase in seal and sea lion activity. But whether these pinnipeds are a contributing factor to the high bacterial counts is unconfirmed. Marina Lagoon returns to the Beach Bummer list this year after a brief reprieve in the 2015 summer season, when it earned a C grade. Like many enclosed beaches, poor water circulation is an issue for the Marina Lagoon where Lakeshore Park is located. For the last eight years, Cowell Beach has been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 on the Beach Bummer list (staying at the No. 1 spot for the last three years). Steel bird fencing was installed under the pier during the 2016 summer season to prevent bird roosting, but exceedances were still an issue. This site will be included in the 2017 NowCast program, where it will receive daily predictions of water quality. Shark sightings have intermittently closed stretches of this beach recently, but swimmers might be more worried about high bacteria levels. The County has conducted testing for canine and human sources, but have found none to date. Additional studies for the San Clemente Pier are being planned for the upcoming year. This is Clam Beach County Park’s fourth consecutive appearance on the Beach Bummer list, this year moving up and claiming the dubious No. 1 spot. Fed by Patricia Creek and Strawberry Creek, potential bacteria sources include private septic systems found upstream. The Humboldt Public Health lab is developing Bacteroides testing to help pinpoint the source.
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This site is right in front of the luxurious five-star Ritz Carlton resort in Dana Point, but one-star water quality persists in the bird-ridden spot. Local agencies have argued that the meandering portion of Salt Creek has facilitated a greater bird population, and in turn increased the amount of bird feces at this location—ultimately leading to the poor water quality. A falconry program was implemented to reduce bird-related bacterial counts at the mouth of the creek. However, potential harm to federally threatened snowy plovers during their nesting season halted the program—a decision Heal the Bay supported. The City of Dana Point has also invested in an Ozone Treatment Facility to treat dry weather runoff.

Heal the Bay analysts assigned A-to-F letter grades to 416 beaches along the California coast for three reporting periods in 2016-2017, based on levels of weekly bacterial pollution. Some 96% of beaches received A or B grades during the summer.

But pockets of fecal bacteria still trouble our waters and threaten the health of millions of beachgoers. Here’s our look at the 10 most polluted beaches in the state – our annual Beach Bummer List.

To avoid illness, ocean-goers can check the latest water quality grades at their favorite beaches, based on the latest samples, each week at beachreportcard.org (or download the Beach Report Card app for Apple or Android). For more information, check out our Beach Report Card blog post or read the full report here.



In honor of dads and grads and in celebration of the male seahorse’s unique role in childbirth, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium’s seahorses are available for aquadoption.

Fostering a seahorse through the Aquarium’s Aquadoption program is a special way to connect with an animal; leave the actual daily care to Aquarium staff while you can feel proud of your important contribution to this unique creature’s well being.

Growing up to 12 inches in height, the Pacific seahorse, Hippocampus ingens, is among the largest of the world’s seahorses and the only one to be found along the California coast. In the seahorse family, the males do all the heavy lifting, carrying an amazing number of eggs in their brood pouch, deposited there by the female. The male can give birth to hundreds of babies – known as fry – at one time.

A yearlong aquadoption of a seahorse comes with a personalized packet with an adoption certificate, photo, fact sheet and a full year’s membership to Heal the Bay – which includes free family admission to the Aquarium for the year.



Much-needed winter storms may have relieved California’s historic drought, but all that rain came at some cost – poor beach water quality.

Bacterial pollution at some of California’s most popular beaches spiked dramatically in 2016-17, according to Heal the Bay’s 27th annual Beach Report Card, which the nonprofit released today.

Heal the Bay analysts assigned A-to-F letter grades to 416 beaches along the California coast for three reporting periods in 2016-2017, based on levels of weekly bacterial pollution. Some 96% of beaches received A or B grades during the high-traffic summer season (April-October 2015), slightly above the statewide five-year average.

Wet weather was a different story, however. Record rainfall created billions of gallons of polluted runoff, which poured into storm drains and out to the ocean. Nearly 48% of California’s beaches received C to F grades, about 12% more than the statewide five-year average.

La Jolla Cove, a popular swim spot.

Polluted ocean waters pose a significant health risk to the tens of thousands of year-round ocean users in California. Those failing grades indicate a significant health risk to the tens of thousands of year-round ocean users in Southern California, who can contract a respiratory or gastrointestinal illness from one morning swim or surf session in polluted waters.

Beach Bummers

Heal the Bay’s infamous Beach Bummers List, which ranks the 10 most polluted beaches in the state, was split between Northern and Southern California. San Clemente Pier and La Jolla Cove are both making their first ever appearance on the Beach Bummer’s List. Clam Beach County Park, Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey and Santa Monica Pier have each been Bummers for the past four years. Check out our Beach Bummers Slideshow, which has more details about each of the Bummers.

  1. Clam Beach County Park, McKinleyville (Humboldt County)
  2. San Clemente Pier, San Clemente (Orange County)
  3. Cowell Beach, West of Wharf, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz County)
  4. Lakeshore Park, Marina Lagoon, San Mateo (San Mateo County)
  5. La Jolla Cove, La Jolla (San Diego County)
  6. Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica (Los Angeles County)
  7. Capitola Beach, Capitola (Santa Cruz County)
  8. Luffenholtz Beach, Trinidad (Humboldt County)
  9. Mother’s Beach, Marina del Rey (Los Angeles County)
  10. Monarch Beach, North of Salt Creek, Dana Point (Orange County)

Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey, a repeat Beach Bummer.

On a more positive note, 32 beaches in the state were named to Heal the Bay’s Honor Roll, meaning they were monitored year-round and received perfect A+ grades weekly, regardless of rain or dry conditions. Orange County boasted the most beaches on the Honor Roll, with 14 sites earning top marks.

Staying Safe at the Beach

“We want people catching waves, not bugs, when they head to the beach,” said Sarah Sikich, Heal the Bay’s vice president and longtime ocean policy advocate. “The reassuring news is that if you swim at an open-ocean beach in the summer away from storm drains and creek mouths you statistically have very little risk of getting ill.”

Swimming or surfing at a beach with a water quality grade of C or lower greatly increases the risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and rashes.

Here’s how you can make sure that you stay safe at the beach:

  • Check BeachReportCard.org for the latest water quality grades.
  • Avoid closed beaches
  • Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains and piers.
  • Wait at least three days after rainfall before entering the ocean.

Baker Beach, San Francisco.

How to Stem the Tide of Bacterial Pollution

California often swings from extended dry periods to shorter periods of intense, wet weather. Our region needs to do a better job of capturing runoff before it hits shorelines. Heal the Bay advocates for reusing that water directly for non-potable purposes or sinking that water back into our aquifers rather than letting it flow uselessly to the sea.

If Southern California cities had the infrastructure in place, then they could have captured and reused a bulk of the 100 billion gallons of stormwater that drenched our region last winter. That’s enough water to meet the needs of 2.5 million people each year – about a quarter of L.A. County’s population.

In response, Heal the Bay’s policy staff is advocating for public funding measures to build nature-based projects that capture, cleanse and reuse runoff rather than dumping it uselessly into the sea. The Our WaterLA coalition is working with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to place a funding measure on the ballot for innovative multi-benefit projects that will capture runoff and create public green spaces countywide. Look for the measure on the county ballot next year.

Heal the Bay to Forecast Water Quality

This summer Heal the Bay, Stanford University and UCLA are expanding their predictive beach water quality forecasting program. Using sophisticated statistical models, environmental data and past bacteria samples, the scientific team can accurately predict each morning when beaches should be posted with warning or open signs.

Promising results from the past two summers (at Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Monica Pier Beach and Doheny Beach) demonstrated that agencies can post a warning notice immediately at pollution impacted beaches based on predictions rather than waiting days for test results. These new models will protect public health by providing more advanced water quality information to public health officials. This summer, Heal the Bay will run models for 10 beaches, from San Diego to Santa Cruz counties.



Join us for the 5th annual Nick Gabaldon Day on Saturday, June 3 to celebrate a local who broke racial barriers with style and grace.

Who was Nick Gabaldon?

A Santa Monica native, Nick Gabaldon was Southern California’s first documented surfer of African-American and Latino heritage. An accomplished board rider, he smashed stereotypes surfing the Bay during the 1940s and 50s. Because he didn’t own a car, Gabaldon would frequently paddle 12 miles from Santa Monica to the fabled break at Malibu. The grueling trip showed true commitment. Tragically, Gabaldon would lose his life during a huge swell at Surfrider in 1951, crashing into the pilings as he tried to pull off a dangerous maneuver called “shooting the pier.”

Why does Heal the Bay honor him?

Gabaldon reminds us of a time when Southland beaches suffered from de facto segregation. With a smile on his face and a board on his back, he 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, Gabaldon helped integrate what largely was an all-white sport. Today, Gabaldon is an enduring symbol that our beaches are recreational havens for all Angelenos – regardless of race or socio-economic background.

What was “The Ink Well”?

A stretch of beachfront near Bay Street and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica became a safe haven for racial minority beach-lovers during the Jim Crow era. Also known as “Negro Beach” and other derogatory names, this roped-off area became a sanctuary of sorts for Gabaldon. He learned to surf at the gentle beach break about a half mile south of the Santa Monica Pier. (You can read more about the legacy of this spot in historian Alison Rose Jefferson’s excellent essay.)

Who will be celebrating his legacy?

To honor his pioneering spirit, Heal the Bay organizes Nick Gabldon Day each June around the anniversary of his untimely death. Working with our community partners the Black Surfers Collective the Surf Bus Foundation and the Santa Monica Conservancy, we host nearly 150 African-American and Latino youth from Paicoma to Compton for a day of ocean exploration and cultural reflection at Bay Street. Many of these underserved youth have never seen the beach before.

What activities are planned this year on Nick Gabaldon Day?

At 9 a.m., local surfers will hop on boards for a tribute paddle out.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., trained volunteers will be conducting free surf lessons for visiting youth, followed by a brief history tour of “The Ink Well.”

From 12:30-6 p.m., our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium will be providing free admission to all visitors, thanks to our sponsors L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and the Bay Foundation.

UPDATE: Joel is unable to make it! Feel better, Joel! Singer Joel Harper will be doing children’s story time at 2 p.m., followed by screenings of various documentaries about the life and death of Gabaldon.

How can I get involved?

All local surfers are invited to join the Collective at Bay Street Beach for the memorial paddle-out, and volunteers are needed to assist with lessons.

If you don’t surf, we’d still love to see you at the beach to watch the paddle out, meet other ocean lovers, visit the Aquarium for free, and wave the flag for community, inclusiveness and diversity.

Find more details about Nick Gabaldon Day June 3, 2017.


See photos from past #NickGabaldonDay events

Congrats! The proud winner of the Nick Gabaldon day commemorative mini board from today's raffle

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Follow my day on #snapchat Ashleysjohnson6 #surfer #beach #santamonica #blacksurfercollective #nickgabaldonday

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Life lessons. #nickgabaldon

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Update: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has issued a reminder that White Sharks are a protected species under both state and federal fisheries laws and regulations.

An increase in shark sightings in Southern California – and even some beach closures – have raised long-standing concerns among many ocean users. Here staff scientist Dana Murray Roeber separates fact from fiction.

Why are we seeing reports of white sharks in the Bay?

Santa Monica Bay is home to dozens of species of sharks and rays. Many of them are small, like the swell shark and horn shark, and live in kelp forests and rocky reefs. Juvenile great white sharks are seasonal residents of Southern California’s coastal waters, likely congregating in Santa Monica Bay due to a combination of abundant prey and warm water as summer comes. White sharks are frequently spotted by boaters, pier-goers, surfers and paddlers – especially between the surf spot El Porto and the Manhattan Beach Pier. Juvenile white sharks, measuring up to 10 feet long, prey mostly on bottom fishes such as halibut, small rays and other smaller sharks. Progress to protect marine species has advanced over the past 50 years, including protections for marine mammals, an important food source for adult white sharks. These protections have likely led to a healthier and growing population of white sharks and marine mammals alike, which is a good sign for our oceans.

Is it a good or bad thing there are so many of them in the water?

Sharks are at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of every ocean. They keep populations of other fish healthy and ecosystems in balance. In addition, a number of scientific studies demonstrate that the depletion of sharks can result in the loss of commercially important fish and shellfish species further down the food chain, including key fisheries such as tuna.

Where are they coming from and where are they going?

White sharks usually migrate south in the winter when California’s coastal waters drop below 60 degrees. However, our local ocean waters stayed warmer in 2014-16 due to El Niño-like conditions and climate change. Again this winter, it is believed that most of the juvenile white sharks didn’t leave Southern California.

What are the popular spots from them in So Cal?

White sharks are congregating in shallow waters off Huntington Beach, San Onofre, Long Beach, Santa Monica Bay and Ventura.

What are the real dangers to humans?

There is always a risk when entering the habitat of a large predator – whether in the ocean, or the African savanna, or Kodiak Island. Poor water quality, powerful waves, strong currents and stingrays pose a greater threat to local ocean-goers than sharks.

How can I avoid sharks in the sea?

According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, there have only been 13 fatal white shark attacks in California since the 1920s. Eating a hot dog poses a greater danger to life and limb than any shark. If you’re still concerned, here are some quick tips to avoid run-ins with fins:

  1. Avoid waters with known effluents or sewage.
  2. Avoid areas used by recreational or commercial fishermen.
  3. Avoid areas that show signs of baitfish or fish feeding activity; diving seabirds are a good indicator of fish activity.
  4. Do not provoke or harass a shark if you see one!

What should you do and what shouldn’t you do if you think you see a shark?

First, assess the risk. If you see as small horn shark or thornback ray, it is safe to swim in the area. But keep your distance from the animal. If a larger shark is spotted, it is best to evacuate the water calmly, trying to keep an eye on the animal. Do not provoke or harass the shark. Report your shark sighting, with as much detail possible, to local lifeguards. If you or a companion are one of the very, very few people each year bitten by a shark, experts advise a proactive response. Hitting a shark on the nose, ideally with an inanimate object, usually results in the shark temporarily curtailing its attack.

Why are many species of sharks protected?

Despite popular perceptions of sharks being invincible, shark populations around the world are declining due to overfishing, habitat destruction and other human activities. It is estimated that over 100 million sharks are killed worldwide each year. Of the 350 or so species of sharks, 79 are imperiled according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. There are several important spots for Northeastern Pacific white sharks in California, yet they are vulnerable to ongoing threats, such as incidental catch, pollution and other issues along our coast. White shark numbers in the Northeastern Pacific are unknown but are thought to be low, ranging from hundreds to thousands of individuals. They’re protected in many places where they live, including California, Australia and South Africa. It is illegal to hunt, pursue, catch or kill a great white shark in California, with anyone caught causing harm liable to criminal prosecution.

Can I fish for white sharks in California?

Federal regulations implemented in 2004 prohibit white shark retention in California, requiring their immediate release if caught. Additionally, in 1994, white sharks received special protected status in California State law, which prohibits take of white sharks except by special permit and some commercial incidental take allowances. State of California regulations also protect white sharks from recreational fishing. Under these protections, it is illegal to fish for or pursue white sharks, and they must be released immediately if caught inadvertently while fishing for other species.



More than 700 walked the planks at our annual awards gala … and lived to tell the tale, reports Communications Director Matthew King.

“And remember: Mermaids smoke seaweed!”

With that offbeat reminder, actress and honoree Sharon Lawrence brought Heal the Bay’s 26th annual “Bring Back the Beach” gala last night to a funny, fitting close.

Single-use plastic items were incorporated throughout the gala decor (Photo by Nicola Buck)

Over 700 guests joined us on the wonderfully funky deck of the historic Santa Monica Pier for a night of celebration and renewed commitment to the ongoing fight for clean oceans and inland watersheds.

Entertainers and artists featured plastic pollution that ends up in our ocean (Photo by Nicola Buck)

While a carnival atmosphere prevailed (stilt walkers, jugglers, popcorn, spinning Ferris wheel), the true spirit of the evening was one of resolve. Dr. Shelley Luce, our new president and CEO, earned rousing applause for vowing to thwart the new federal administration’s plan to downsize the EPA and weaken the Clean Water Act.

Shelley Luce (Photo by David Young-Wolff)

Sharon Lawrence, a longtime board member and public ambassador for our work, received the Dorothy Green Award, named after Heal the Bay’s late, founding president. Gracious as ever, Lawrence recognized by name the long lineage of female water warriors – including mermaids! – involved in our work. Her mother and father, who had driven across the country to see Lawrence receive the award, beamed with pride. A very sweet scene.

Sharon Lawrence and Ed Begley Jr. (Photo by David Young-Wolff)

Local broadcast station KTLA 5 earned the night’s “Walk the Talk” award for its decades-long connection to Heal the Bay. Led by surfer and media honcho Don Corsini, KTLA has made space on its airwaves to promote our events and highlight ocean-related environmental issues. Anchor Courtney Friel accepted the award on the station’s behalf.

Courtney Friel and Stephanie Medina (Photo by David Young-Wolff)

In between speeches and presentations, a lively mix of surfers, politicos, water policy wonks, engineers, business owners and everyday ocean lovers mingled and schmoozed as the sun set over a calm sea. Event planners earned well-deserved praise for an innovative menu (roasted beet salad and Aussie handpies) and ocean-themed cocktails (blue margaritas and Golden Road’s kelp forest canned Heal the Bay IPA!).

Good times for a good cause at @healthebay Bring Back the Beach gala last night #lacarguy #healthebay

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Mike Sullivan, LAcarGUY owner and longtime boardmember, won the best-dressed award in a vibrant Wonka-like suit-jacket and matching Technicolor shorts. But even he was upstaged by a bevy of guest models sashaying down the catwalk in astonishing and truly beautiful dresses fashioned out of plastic trash commonly found on our shorelines. Kudos to designer Marina DeBris for raising awareness in such a creative way! View our Facebook Live video of the “Beach Couture: Haute Mess” fashion show.

TEST Hayden Begley is wearing "Siren." She is sounding the siren with a top made of broken car reflectors from accidents and gloves fisherman leave behind.  (Photo by David Young-Wolff) This guest model is wearing "A Captive Audience," a dress made from netting found floating in the Pacific Garbage Patch by Captain Charles Moore. Beach toys are held captive and have nowhere to go. (Photo by Nicola Buck) This guest model is wearing "Bag Lady." We hope Los Angeles' ban on plastic bags puts an end to this overwhelming pollution issue. (Photo by David Young-Wolff) This guest model is wearing "Washed Up Saleman." Men's briefs, board shorts, hats and clothing tags are a frequent find on any beach. Not to mention the single-use plastic bottles on the inside of the jacket. (Photo by David Young-Wolff)  This guest model has been "Rescued" by chewed up tennis balls and unused doggie bags that have drifted away.  (Photo by David Young-Wolff) This guest model has a flair of her own in "Cuidado!" She is a cautionary tale for all the construction materials that never "go away." (Photo by David Young-Wolff) This guest model is wearing “white trash” made from the most commonly found single-use objects: plastic straws, plastic utensils, bottle caps and cigarette lighters. (Photo by David Young-Wolff) This guest model is wearing "Crustacea." These plastic bags were pulled out of an underwater pipe by divers during beach clean up at Dockweiller Beach. (Photo by David Young-Wolff) This guest model is wearing "Old Glory," constructed from the American flag and fireworks found on our beaches and streets. (Photo by David Young-Wolff)
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This guest model is wearing "Washed Up Saleman." Men's briefs, board shorts, hats and clothing tags are a frequent find on any beach. Not to mention the single-use plastic bottles on the inside of the jacket. (Photo by David Young-Wolff)

The gala is designed as a gathering of the tribe, but it also serves as a critical fundraiser for us. Attendees dug deep this year, breaking our all-time records for our live and silent auctions.

Sarah Sikich, Meredith McCarthy and Matthew King (Photo by Nicola Buck)

Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer won a stand-up paddleboard and then realized he had no way to get it home. (He didn’t take our suggestion to paddle by sea back to his Ocean Park home.)

Funds raised from the evening directly support a number of our education and advocacy programs, from sponsored field trips to our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium to cleanups and water quality monitoring at local beaches and streams.

Amy Smart, Carter Oosterhouse, Sharon Lawrence, Sasha Alexander (Photo by David Young-Wolff)

Among the other guests bidding and bubbling: actress, board member and new mom Amy Smart, getting a rare, free night-out with husband Carter Oosterhouse; Smart’s BFF and Heal the Bay ambassador Ali Larter; Oscar-nominated actress and new-to-us Marianne Jean-Baptiste; “Roxy Girl” and Heal the Bay activist Bruna Schmitz with husband and pro surfer Dane Zaun; KROQ brass dancing away to SoulCirque (Heal the Bay is longtime beneficiary of the station’s annual “Weenie Roast” benefit concerts); legislative environmental leaders Assemblymember Richard Bloom and former Senator Fran Pavley; skateboard legend Natas Kaupis; and kid celeb Heal the Bay ambassadors Chloe Noelle and Jax Malcolm, along with actors Carolyn Hennesy, Sasha Alexander, Gregory Harrison and Ed Begley Jr.

(Photo by Alvin Lam)


View photos from the 2017 Gala at Santa Monica Pier and the Blue Carpet.

Also, thanks to our sponsors The Energy Coalition, The John and Nancy Edwards Family Foundation, LAcarGUY, KROQ, and KTLA 5 as well as our brilliant volunteer photographers Nicola Buck and David Young-Wolff for making it a very memorable evening.


#BringBackTheBeach Instagram & Twitter

Just a couple of chicks trying to #healthebay @smarthouse26 #bringbackthebeach xx

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We're healing the bay tonight ✌🏼🌎🌞 @healthebay #healthebay #bringbackthebeach #gala #sm #smpier #wavemaker

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#healthebay #healthebaygala2017 #savetheoceans #votesyesonsb705

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Beautiful day supporting @healthebay #BringBackTheBeach fundraiser gala. ☀️

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Heal The Bay…rock on! #healthebay #conservation

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On the Santa Monica Pier #healthebay #bringbackthebeach

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Our 2017 #BringBackTheBeach Annual Awards Gala is groovin' and shakin' at #SantaMonicaPier!

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Heal the Bay welcomed Dr. Shelley Luce as its new president and CEO this week. Shelley joins us from the influential Environment Now Foundation, where she led several statewide campaigns to improve water quality and protect forest lands. But she began her advocacy career at Heal the Bay, and was promoted to science and policy director in 2004. (You can read more about her background here.)

With a Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Shelley can talk the acronym talk as well as walk the walk. But she’s as humble, funny and down-to-earth as they come. She’s also a working mom, raising two daughters with her husband in Baldwin Hills.

In a recent conversation with Communications Director Matthew King, Shelley shared her vision for Heal the Bay – and what’s on heavy rotation on her iPod.

What is your favorite memory of the sea or the beach?

Sitting on my surfboard and being startled, and then thrilled, and then mesmerized by a whale surfacing just a few feet away from me in Santa Monica Bay.

What’s a common misconception about scientists?

That we are not emotional. I think most people don’t know that scientists are full of wonder, and overcome by our admiration for this huge planet in all its beauty. Just because I like to learn the scientific names of those sea creatures doesn’t mean I don’t also marvel at them.

You were born in Canada. What’s unique about the Canadian sensibility?

I am proud of the values I learned growing up in Canada. Canadians seem to appreciate the global community, and that we need to take care of the water and air that we all share. There is a sense that it’s okay to give a bit more than you get sometimes, if it means that everyone can be better off. I like that.

What do you think the biggest threat to the Bay is right now?

I am concerned about the federal administration undermining the work of Heal the Bay and others by rolling back the laws that protect our clean water. We need a strong EPA to ensure the health of our kids and future generations. Heal the Bay will never stop fighting for that, but it will get harder if this administration stays on the track it has started on.

What is the most important thing that the average person can do to combat it?

We all need to get informed, at least a little bit. Join a group like Heal the Bay and learn where our water comes from and where it goes. Explore our beaches and rivers and remember why we fight to protect them. Then call our elected officials and demand they vote the right way and stand up to anyone who threatens the things we love. And support environmental groups who are fighting this fight for all of us, every day.

What does Heal the Bay mean to greater L.A.? What’s our role?

Heal the Bay is a symbol, an inspiration, a source of hope and a leader of movements. People trust us to fight for them, because we stand up for what’s right and we won’t back down.


Shelley Luce relaxing with the Stream Team in the Santa Monica Mountains, circa 2004

Heal the Bay is more than 30 years old. Do we need to change? If so, how?

Yes, we all need to adapt and face new challenges. Heal the Bay is always evolving. We started with a laser focus on wastewater discharge to the Bay. We didn’t have an aquarium and we didn’t work all the way up in the watersheds. When I served as a staff scientist at Heal the Bay in the early 2000s, we enacted the first trash policy for the LA. River. So we have taken on new challenges many times. Now, we face climate change, rising sea levels, an urgent need to change how we capture and use water, and a federal government that is hostile to environmental protection. We have to rise to meet these new challenges.

What would you tell a 20-year-old who is pessimistic about society’s ability to make meaningful change?

Hey, meaningful change is happening every single day, all around you. We stopped discharging dirty wastewater, we restored coastal wetlands that were former dumping sites, we banned plastic bags, TWICE. People are protesting the federal government’s appointments, their cuts to the EPA, and their threats to roll back environmental laws. People are coming together to ban Styrofoam, save endangered species, restore the L.A. River. You have to join the movement. That’s the only way it happens.

After your first year on the job, what would success look like to you? What’s top of your agenda?

One year in, I’d like to see Heal the Bay partnering with more communities to create greener, safer neighborhoods, and partnering with other organizations to support funding for green infrastructure, and ensuring everyone benefits from clean water in LA. I’d also like to be charting a path for Heal the Bay’s outstanding Santa Monica Pier Aquarium that takes it to the next level of engaging people’s hearts and minds with the ocean.

Why did taking this job appeal to you?

I’ve always worked for clean water, for our natural environment, and for people who rely on it. When I see something that’s not right I want to change it. I know Heal the Bay fights for what’s right and I want to be part of that fight.

What’s your biggest pet peeve about nonprofits?

Sometimes nonprofits succumb to competing rather than collaborating. It’s natural because of the funding world we live in, but it’s so unfortunate. All these smart, hardworking people should be free to put their heads together and combine their power and multiply their impact. I know we can do better at that.

What book is on your nightstand table? What’s your #1 most played song on your iPod?

Bossypants” by Tina Fey is on my nightstand, along with something about how to be a better parent I’m sure. The #1 song on my player right now is something from Beyonce’s latest album, I can’t stop playing it. And coming in a close second is “Snacktime” by the Barenaked Ladies, because my kids and I love to sing along to that one.

Are you a lover or a fighter?

I am a very loving fighter.