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Heal the Bay Blog

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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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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Beautiful day supporting @healthebay #BringBackTheBeach fundraiser gala. ☀️

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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.

 



Ex-chief of Environment Now Foundation to broaden our reach and impact.

Affirming its commitment to science-based advocacy, Heal the Bay today named Dr. Shelley Luce as its new president and CEO.

Luce joins us from the Environment Now Foundation, where she served as executive director and helped fund innovative clean water and forest protection programs throughout California. During her tenure, Luce became a widely respected voice throughout the state on how nonprofits must reshape themselves to meet the environmental challenges of the 21st century.

Before that, she held executive director positions at state agency the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and its nonprofit partner, The Bay Foundation. The work of those organizations dovetails closely with Heal the Bay’s traditional mission.

An extensive nationwide search culminated in the hiring of Luce, who has been tasked with re-envisioning the scope of our advocacy and education programs. While focused on the core mission of clean water and healthy watersheds, she will implement strategies to better engage Southern California in battling the broader, intertwined environmental risks facing our region.

Formed three decades ago as a grassroots all-volunteer organization, Heal the Bay successfully led the fight to keep Hyperion from dumping sewage into Santa Monica Bay, thereby reclaiming Southern California shorelines. But the region now faces much bigger threats, from global warming to an uncertain water supply.

“The environmental landscape in greater L.A. is changing dramatically, and so Heal the Bay must transform,” said Craig Perkins, board chairman. “As a trusted partner in the community, people are counting on us to provide leadership locally to help solve problems that are increasingly national and global in scope.”

Luce, who holds a Doctorate of Environmental Science and Engineering from UCLA and a B.S. in Biology from McGill University, began her advocacy career at Heal the Bay. She served as a staff scientist from 2001-05, spearheading the successful fight to implement the state’s first zero-trash policy in L.A. River.

“Heal the Bay is at the heart of clean water advocacy in Southern California. I’m so proud of our legacy of science-based activism and I am honored to lead Heal the Bay in the next phase of growth,” Luce said. “Protecting our water and our larger environment is more important – and challenging – than ever. And I’m confident we’ll find innovative ways to get the job done, bringing in new practices and new partners.”

The board has given Luce a mandate to re-examine policy priorities, form smart strategic alliances, and grow public participation across the entire swath of greater Los Angeles. In the coming months, we will extend our impact with these key initiatives:

Building a world-class aquarium: We’re now engaged in a visioning process to drastically expand the physical footprint and programmatic offerings at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. A re-imagined facility would be part of a long-gestating Pier construction and refurbishment project, which the city of Santa Monica will likely begin in 2020.

Fighting federal government backsliding: We’re mounting a spirited campaign to protect local safeguards historically provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has seen its proposed budget and staffing levels severely slashed by the new administration. Fundamental work related to climate-change research and enforcement of the Clean Water Act is now in jeopardy.

Replumbing L.A.: We’re playing a lead role in helping build a more resilient water future for greater L.A. Heal the Bay staff is helping to drive the newly formed Our Water L.A. Coalition, a consortium of influential nonprofits working to place a ballot measure before voters in L.A. County next year. The measure would fund increased recycling of treated wastewater and capturing of stormwater and other runoff for reuse, which will reduce water pollution and increase local water supplies.


Luce formally joins Heal the Bay on May 8, taking the leadership reins from Stephanie Medina, a longtime board member who has served as interim president and CEO since last July. Read more about Luce’s vision for Heal the Bay’s future in an exclusive sit-down interview with communications director Matthew King.



Heal the Bay has found a unique way to draw attention to the new administration’s attack on climate change science – a sea turtle with a ninja star.

The inspiring March for Science at cities around the nation has concluded, but the fight for rationality and reason lives on.

Many scientists and researchers working in the environmental field around the country feel as if they have a bulls-eye painted on their back – from the very government that has funded their important work for decades.

The new federal administration’s plan to curtail climate change research and to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency has stoked deep concerns in the nonprofit world.

But Heal the Bay isn’t sitting by quietly. We’re getting quite animated about the issue – literally.

Today, we launched a 60-second PSA to rally digital advocates across the country to petition their Congressional representatives to oppose proposed budget cuts to EPA programs and staff. Public dissent is critical to ensure that essential air- and water-quality safeguards and habitat protections are not abandoned by climate deniers sitting in positions of federal power.

Heal the Bay’s partners in the advertising and animation industries shaped the spot, dubbed “Nature’s Revolt,” as part of a new creative coalition called Our Next 4 Years. Ironically riffing on over-the-top TV cartoon violence, the video offers a humorous take on marine animals fighting fire with fire.

Sarah May Bates, a veteran creative director in the advertising agency world, served as writer and art director on the spot, working with Matthew King, Heal the Bay’s communications director. Scott Graham provided animation, storyboards and character designs. (Full credits are below.)

“Climate change is a huge downer, but the EPA plays an essential role in sustaining this planet in the face of it,” Bates said. “To make a dire message more palatable, we imagined a scenario in which nature could fight back. At the very least, a crab with a rocket launcher can make an important message more engaging.”

Heal the Bay asks “Nature’s Revolt” viewers to take action and add their name to the Change.org/ProtectOurOceans petition seeking continued funding for climate programs at the EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. To date, nearly 75,000 ocean-lovers have added their signatures to the Heal the Bay-sponsored petition, covering every state and major overseas territory in the United States.


 

 


Bates previously collaborated with Heal the Bay on “The Majestic Plastic Bag,” the BBC-style nature mockumentary that has been viewed more than 2.3 million times on YouTube, and featured in environmental conferences and classrooms around the world.

Our Next 4 Years is a collective of nearly 300 animation professionals (Emmy- and Oscar- nominees among them) who are donating their creative talents to produce animated PSAs for progressive causes that will be negatively impacted by policies put forth by the current administration.

“For each attempt to roll back hard fought social and economic gains won over the past 70 years, we will fight back with messages to help stem the regressive tide,” said Mike Blum, owner of boutique animation studio Pipsqueak Films. He is one of the co-founders of Our Next 4 Years, along with veteran animation producer Carolyn Bates.

Production teams are matched with other nonprofits to create virtual animation studios in order to tackle causes, including the environment, immigrant rights, affordable health-care, government reform and religious tolerance.

“So often, animated PSAs are out of reach of charities and community organizations, because we move fast and don’t have the long lead time that many animation houses insist on,” said Jayde Lovell, director of film and video for March for Science. “But working with Our Next 4 Years was incredible. They really brought our ideas to life in meaningful, funny and emotional pieces in a week’s time!”

The coalition has debuted eleven videos to date, including “Nature’s Revolt.” In just a few days, the four videos they released in time for Earth Day and March for Science have a combined reach of more than 600,000 people on Facebook. You can watch other videos here.

Full Credits: “Nature’s Revolt”

Animation, Storyboard & Character Designs:
Scott Graham, ScottGraham.carbonmade.com

Creative Director/Writer:
Sarah May Bates, SarahMayBates.com

Backgrounds:
Carolyn Arabascio

Animal Character Designs:
Regie Miller, MyNameIsRegie.com

Text Animation:
Daniela Fernandes Smith

Music:
Jeremy Simon, FurnivalMusic.com

Producer:
Carolyn Bates

Production:
Our Next 4 Years