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Heal the Bay Blog

In 2021, we’re tackling the biggest threats to coastal waters and watersheds in Greater LA. The following three goals represent our key areas of focus this year:

Take Urgent Climate Action

What we’re doing: Taking urgent climate action by empowering people, demanding systemic change, and advocating for multi-benefit solutions that build toward an equitable, sustainable, and climate-resilient future for all.  

How we’re doing it: The climate crisis must be slowed, or communities will be further impacted and much will be lost. Nationally, we need to quickly recover environmental policy rollbacks to regain ocean, river, and wetland protections, and protect water resources by upholding the Clean Water Act. Locally, we support nature-based solutions to protect communities from sea level rise, erosion, and storm surges; champion the cleanup of stormwater through multi-benefit green spaces; and demand an equitable transition to renewable energy. Heal the Bay Aquarium works directly with our community, engaging students and the public through climate action and education initiatives. 


Protect Public Health with Strong Science and Outreach

What we’re doing: Protecting people and ecosystem health through science-based education, outreach, and advocacy on contaminated water, fish, and sediment at our beaches, rivers, and offshore.

How we’re doing it: Clean water and safe, accessible green space are fundamental for public health. Heal the Bay pushes government leaders to protect people at freshwater recreation areas in LA with new public health legislation. Our Beach Report Card with NowCast and River Report Card are expanding in reach and scientific rigor. We hold corporate polluters and public agencies accountable for DDT dumping off our coast and raise awareness about dangerous water contamination across LA. Heal the Bay Aquarium empowers students and families with human health narratives in watershed education curriculum and operations.  


Ban Single-Use Plastics for Good

What we’re doing: Eliminating harmful plastic pollution from our ocean and watersheds in order to defend the vibrancy of our communities.  

How we’re doing it: The toxic legacy of plastic production and waste impacts our everyday life. Heal the Bay supports a ban on disposable products that harm neighborhoods and wildlife habitats. We advocate for legislation to reduce and ban disposable plastics in the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, and California. Our immediate goal is to pass Skip the Stuff Ordinances locally in LA in 2021. Longer term, we are laying the groundwork for statewide legislation and a 2022 ballot initiative: Plastics Free California. Heal the Bay Aquarium is inspiring advocacy by launching new exhibits on plastic pollution and educating about the connection to fossil fuels.  


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Spotlighting Belmont Pier in Long Beach, a busy fishing spot, and Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program.

Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier is located in Long Beach near the Belmont Shore neighborhood. The current pier opened in 1967 and is 1,800 feet long. At the end of the pier, there is a large hexagonal area with two “wings” extending 120 feet from each side, giving the pier an overall T-shape.  

Belmont Pier is popular for fishing and like other piers, a fishing license is not required to fish there. However, anglers must make sure to follow fishing regulations regarding size, limits, and seasons for certain species.  

Over the last 18 years, Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program (AOP) has been educating anglers at Belmont Pier (and 7 other piers) about fish contamination, which fish to avoid eating, and which fish are safe to eat. This program is part of the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC)which is managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a far-reaching public education and outreach program about the Palos Verdes Shelf superfund site.  

The Belmont Pier is located in the red zone, where levels of DDT and PCBs are high due to the nearby contaminated site. These toxins can travel through the food chain and accumulate in certain fish – fish caught in the red zone that should not be consumed are the white croaker, black croaker, barred sand bass,  topsmelt,  and barracuda.  

Our Angler Outreach Program is currently suspended due to COVID-19, but when we were able to have in-person outreach, Belmont Pier was regularly one of the top piers in terms of numbers of anglers we talked to. In 2018, we reached 9,801 anglers across 8 piers in the LA region. AOP team members visited all the piers for equal amounts of time, but talked to over 2,500 anglers at Belmont Pier alone (approximately 25%).


Belmont Pier on February 25, 2021

When we conduct outreach to anglers, we also collect data on the types of fish they are catching and each anglers’ zip code . We collect zip code data from new anglers,  and those we have not done outreach to before. In 2018, we collected zip codes from 1,165 anglers at Belmont Pier. The areas where the most anglers came from included Long Beach, as well as surrounding inland areas of Carson, Bellflower, Paramount, and Huntington Park. Collecting this data helps ensure that outreach is also conducted in the communities where anglers reside, through the community partners of the FCEC, along with piers.

In 2018, we documented that anglers at Belmont Pier caught 1,051 fish (over a total survey time of ~144 hours). Of those fish, the majority (85%) were mackerel. We did find that 61 (or 6%) of those fish were on the “do not consume” list, including white croaker, topsmelt, and barred sand bass. There is still a need to continue educating anglers about fish contamination and ensuring that they have the knowledge to protect themselves and their families.


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Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier está ubicado en Long Beach, cerca del vecindario Belmont Shore. El muelle actual se inauguró en 1967 y tiene 1.800 pies de largo. Al final del muelle, hay una gran área hexagonal con dos “alas” que se extienden 120 pies desde cada lado, lo que le da al muelle una forma de T general.

Belmont Pier es popular para pescar y, al igual que otros muelles, no se requiere una licencia de pesca para pescar allí. Sin embargo, los pescadores deben asegurarse de seguir las regulaciones de pesca con respecto al tamaño, límites y temporadas para ciertas especies.

Durante los últimos 18 años, el Programa Educacional Pequero de Heal the Bay (AOP, por sus siglas en inglés) ha estado educando a los pescadores en Belmont Pier (y otros 7 muelles) sobre la contaminación de peces, cuales evitar consumir y qué peces son seguros para el consumo. AOP es parte de Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC), que es administrado por la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de los EE. UU. (EPA) como parte de un programa de divulgación y educación pública de gran alcance sobre el sitio Superfund de Palos Verdes Shelf.

El muelle de Belmont está ubicado en la zona roja, donde los niveles de DDT y PCB son altos debido a la cercanía con el sitio contaminado. Estas toxinas pueden viajar a través de la cadena alimentacia y acumularse en ciertos peces. Los peces capturados en la zona roja que no deben consumirse son la corvineta blanca, corvineta negra, cabrilla, pejerrey y barracuda.

Nuestro Programa Educacional de Pesca está actualmente suspendido debido a COVID-19, pero cuando estuvimos presente, el muelle de Belmont fue regularmente uno de nuestros principales muelles en términos de cantidad de pescadores. En 2018, llegamos a 9.801 pescadores en 8 muelles en la región de Los Ángeles; Los miembros del equipo de AOP visitaron todos los muelles durante la misma cantidad de tiempo, pero hablaron con más de 2.500 pescadores solo en Belmont Pier (aproximadamente el 25%).

Cuando llevamos a cabo actividades de divulgación con los pescadores, también recopilamos datos sobre los tipos de peces que capturan y códigos postales de dónde residen. En el 2018, recopilamos códigos postales de 1,165 pescadores en Belmont Pier. Los códigos postales de donde provenían la mayoría de los pescadores incluían Long Beach, así como las áreas circundantes de Carson, Bellflower, Paramount y Huntington Park. La recopilación de estos datos ayudan a garantizar que la divulgación también se lleve a cabo en las comunidades donde viven los pescadores, a través de nuestros socios de FCEC.

En el 2018, documentamos que los pescadores en Belmont Pier capturaron 1,051 peces (durante un tiempo total de encuesta de aproximadamente 144 horas). De esos peces, la mayoría (85%) eran macarelas. Descubrimos también que 61 (o el 6%) de esos peces estaban en la lista de “no consumir”, incluida la corvineta blanca, pejerrey y cabrilla. Es necesario continuar educando a los pescadores sobre la contaminación de peces y asegurarse de que tengan los conocimientos necesarios para protegerse a sí mismos y a sus familias.


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The Big Beach Cleanup is a new book written by Charlotte Offsay. Heal the Bay asked the author about her process, discoveries, and single-use swaps at home in this Q&A.


Join Charlotte Offsay & Heal the Bay for a virtual book reading + live animal feeding on Saturday, March 6. 

Learn More


Q: How did you work with Heal the Bay on the book?

A: I first reached out to Heal the Bay in early 2019. I had written The Big Beach Cleanup and was looking to connect with experts regarding fact checking recycling and ocean cleanup facts. I live in Los Angeles and am familiar with the important work that Heal the Bay does to protect our oceans, so I decided to ask for their help. Nancy Shrodes, the Associate Director of Policy & Outreach, kindly agreed to review my manuscript and offer her feedback. Since then numerous staff members at Heal the Bay have continued to offer assistance, including providing input on additional educational materials for the book as well as generously offering to do a live animal feeding at The Big Beach Cleanup virtual launch event!

Q: What inspired you to write about a beach cleanup?

A: One day while walking with my children, I stopped to pick up a piece of trash that was in our way and toss it in a nearby trashcan. Throwing away that piece of trash sparked endless questions from my ever-curious children. They wanted to know where the trash had come from and how it got there in the first place. We ended up in big conversations around pollution and doing our part to protect the planet. It was on that walk that I decided to write an ocean advocacy story featuring little hands joining together to make big change. I went home that day and wrote the first draft of what would eventually become The Big Beach Cleanup!

Q: What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on this book?

A: Honestly the most interesting thing I found is how immune we can become to the things that are right in front of us. I have lived and walked around Los Angeles for a long time. I have also cared about the planet and my environmental footprint for a long time, but it wasn’t until I began working on this book that my eyes really opened to how prevalent our pollution problem is and how frequently it is right in front of me on a daily basis. There is no shortage of trash in Los Angeles, not only on our beaches but right on the streets in my very own neighborhood. On my regular walk with my kids we always find trash, even if we have been picking up trash on that same walk the day before. Things get dropped, trash bags aren’t tied properly and more and more we are finding discarded masks and disposable containers. We really need everyone to join together and make conscious changes in order to tackle this growing problem.

Q: Has the book inspired you to make any single-use plastic swaps at home?

A: Writing this book has encouraged my family to look around our home and evaluate our daily waste. We have been replacing individually wrapped items with bulk sizes and make an effort to use refillable containers whenever possible, we have tried to make choices that avoid plastic containers and to purchase less ‘stuff’ (toys, general excess) overall.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

A: My hope is that The Big Beach Cleanup shows readers that big changes begin with small steps. I hope that readers are inspired to think about the changes they want to see in the world, to know that they can make a difference, and are encouraged to join together with those around them to create those changes. I hope they walk away knowing that their hands matter and are needed.

Q: What is your favorite beach in California?

A: Every summer since my husband was little his family has spent time in Coronado. When I met my husband, I was warmly welcomed into this tradition and I look forward to spending time at the beach on Coronado island every year. Locally though we love to visit Will Rogers State Beach as it is close to where my inlaws live and they are often able to join us there!


CHARLOTTE OFFSAY was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. Through her work, Charlotte hopes to make children laugh, to inspire curiosity, and to create a magical world her readers can lose themselves in time and time again.

Charlotte’s debut picture book, The Big Beach Cleanup, illustrated by Kate Rewse will be published by Albert Whitman in Spring 2021, followed by How to Return a Monster, illustrated by Rea Zhai releasing Fall 2021 with Beaming Books. A Grandma’s Magic, illustrated by Asa Gilland will be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers in Spring 2022.

Learn more about Charlotte’s work at charlotteoffsay.com and follow her on Twitter at @COffsay and on Instagram at @picturebookrecommendations.



Elected officials in Los Angeles are taking legislative action to reduce takeout trash after a steep increase in single-use plastic consumption. But what does it mean to “Skip the Stuff”? And how does it help fight plastic pollution? Let’s dive in.

Skip the Stuff is the latest legislative push through Heal the Bay’s plastics work with the Reusable LA coalition. #SkipTheStuff would require takeout and delivery “extras” — like single-use utensils, straws, condiments, napkins, and more — to be provided only upon request. If you need them, you can get them. If you don’t, no need to waste.⁣

Add Your Name to the Petition

The use of single-use plastic has skyrocketed due to COVID-19, including here in Los Angeles, where our beloved local restaurants are forced to rely primarily on takeout and delivery. Consumption of single-use plastics has increased by 250% – 300% since the pandemic began, with a 30% increase in waste attributed in part to disposable foodware. Nationwide, billions of food accessories are thrown away each year, many of which aren’t even used once. (Many of us even keep them in that dreaded drawer of takeout “extras”, hoping that they’ll be used one day.)

The vast majority of these single-use items cannot be recycled. They add to the plastic pollution crisis, litter our neighborhoods, rivers, and ocean, and clog already overfilled landfills. Using fossil fuels to produce plastic items that aren’t even used is the last thing we need during a climate crisis. These impacts also present significant environmental justice issues, with frontline and fenceline communities bearing a disproportionate burden of the impacts from climate change, fossil fuel extraction, and incineration associated with single-use waste.
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Heal the Bay and Reusable LA are advocating for #SkipTheStuff legislation in both Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County. In January 2021, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian introduced a motion to draft city-wide legislation to #SkipTheStuff. It would require all foodware accessories to be available only upon request for takeout, delivery, and third-party delivery apps. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors followed suit in February 2021 and unanimously passed a similar motion after it was introduced by Boardmember Sheila Kuehl.

This legislation recognizes that community members may need single-use straws, utensils, and/or other foodware accessories. It is crucial that restaurants and third-party delivery apps readily promote and provide accommodations for all. This “on request” model is intentionally structured to meet all ADA requirements and accommodations to ensure equitable access to easily enjoy dine-in, takeout, or delivery from LA eateries. Under this ordinance, businesses may provide foodware accessories to customers who request them.

Restaurants and food delivery apps should default to no single-use accessories for orders, unless the customer requests them. Switching to foodware accessories “upon request” reduces unnecessary waste and saves restaurants money. Los Angeles has done this before with straws on request. At a time when local restaurants and small businesses are struggling to stay open, this is a simple solution to cut down on both excess costs and plastic pollution. We support these ordinances as a win-win for our LA communities, businesses, and environment.⁣⁣
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We’re counting on your support to get this ordinance passed, so take action below and stay tuned for updates on how you can #SkipTheStuff.

Take Action!

Sign the Petition

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Happy #WorldWetlandsDay!

The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve has the potential to be the most special wildlife area in Los Angeles – a rare remnant of the vast plain of marshes that once covered much of the LA basin. But the ecosystem is severely degraded, and getting worse. Much of the current Reserve is dried out and choked with non-native weeds. In fact, most of the almost 600-acre Ballona Wetlands Reserve doesn’t even qualify as a wetland anymore. Plus, only a tiny sliver of this ecological reserve is open to the public, even though it’s on state-owned land, right in the heart of LA’s westside, between Marina Del Rey and LAX.

Planning to restore the Wetlands and open them to the public has been underway for 17 years. Recently, that plan took a big step forward: after years of analysis, design, community meetings and environmental review, the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was certified by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in December 2020. Now this important project can move towards implementation.

Even better news – CDFW selected Alternative 1, the most robust of the possible restoration designs for Ballona. Alt 1 provides the most habitat for wildlife, the greatest amount of walking and biking trails, and the maximum climate resilience. It is a project truly worthy of this special and rare opportunity for urban wetland restoration in LA. 

Now the Army Corps of Engineers will prepare its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a process that should take about two years. This is a great opportunity for community input on project design. Heal the Bay will be reaching out for your thoughts and comments as the project proceeds. 

More Detail on the Project

Alt 1 will remove the concrete stream banks that separate the former wetlands from Ballona Creek. It will create a healthy, functioning estuary where fresh water from the creek mixes with salt water from the tides of the Pacific Ocean. It will create habitat for fish and migrating birds, educational opportunities for students, and many miles of trails for people to explore.

Heal the Bay and our partners have been involved in every step of the project, providing expert input on wetlands ecology and restoration principles, engaging the public, and advocating for restoration. The Steering Committee of the Wetlands Restoration Principles Coalition (WRP) supports Alt 1 for many reasons:

  • Alt 1 removes the most fill and concrete, and creates the most habitat, public access, and sea level rise resilience.
  • Alt 1 has more trails than any other alternative. It will create of 3.6 miles of walking + biking paths, as well as 5.5 miles of pedestrian-only trails and ADA-compliant elevated boardwalks. 
  • Alt 1 will be an asset to communities across LA County in support of public health and access to nature, and a prized jewel of the LA County coast.
  • Alt 1 provides parkland in Westchester, Playa del Rey, and the LAX neighborhoods. They are the most park-poor neighborhoods of the westside, with only 15% of the population within walking distance of a park (LA County Park Needs Assessment).
  • Alt 1 makes us more climate-resilient, by absorbing decades of sea level rise, restoring ecosystem function to capture Blue Carbon, and ensures safety of neighboring communities from flooding. Alt 1 maintains salt marsh and other habitats through 3.5 feet of sea level rise.
  • Alt 1 provides the greatest water quality and habitat benefits, by increasing tidal flushing and creating and restoring approximately 200 acres of marsh and salt pan habitat. 

The Ballona Wetlands Restoration is a generational opportunity to recover this unique Los Angeles ecological gem, and open it to the public for all to enjoy. Show your support for this project by adding your name to our coalition’s Ballona Wetlands Restoration Support Letter here: https://www.ballonafriends.org/support.

Sign Ballona Support Letter

Check back for updates, there’s more to come on Ballona! 

 

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Hermosa Beach Pier antes de la pandemia

El muelle de Hermosa Beach es uno de los muelles más tranquilos para pescar en la bahía de Santa Mónica. Está rodeado de hermosas playas, bares y restaurantes. Es un muelle muy sencillo sin vendedores ni restaurantes, poca gente caminando, pocos pescadores y una hermosa vista para ver el atardecer.

El muelle, construido en 1965 y renovado a principios de 2000, se extiende a 1,140 pies sobre el océano. Está abierto para todos los visitantes, así como para la pesca desde las 6:00 am hasta las 10:00 pm. Los pescadores deben asegurarse de seguir las regulaciones de pesca, asi como el tamaño de peces, límites y temporadas de ciertas especies que no se deben capturar. El lanzamiento de la caña de pesca por encima de cabeza de otras personas y el tirar basura en el muelle son actividades prohibidas.

Hermosa Beach Pier antes de la pandemia

La pesca es muy relajante en el muelle de Hermosa Beach. Los pescadores capturan con frecuencia macarelas, umbrina roncador, corbinas, sardinas, entre otros peces. También es común capturar la corvineta blanca, pero hay que evitarla porque es uno de los peces que están en la lista de “No consumir”. Esta lista contiene peces que no deben consumirse debido a los altos niveles de contaminación por DDT, PCB y mercuriotambién en esta lista se encuentran la corvineta blanca, cabrilla, corvineta negra, pejerrey y barracuda.

El Programa Educacional Pesquero de Heal the Bay educa a los pescadores de muelles y costa en los condados de Los Ángeles y Orange sobre los riesgos de consumir peces contaminado con toxinas como dicloro-difenil-tricloroetano (DDT) y bifenils policlorinados (PCBs). Actualmente estamos en pausa debido al COVID; pero estaremos reanudando nuestras actividades en los muelles cuando las autoridades de salud locales lo permitan, y los miembros de nuestro Equipo Educacional Pesquero continúen educando sobre estos peces que no se deben consumir.

No se requiere una licencia de pesca para pescar en el muelle de Hermosa Beach, pero si pesca en las playas alrededor del muelle, tendrá que comprar una licencia.

En todo el estado, el Departamento de Pesca y Vida Silvestre de California (CDFW, por sus siglas en inglés) ofrece dos días de pesca gratis cada año donde no se requiere una licencia para motivar a los nuevos pescadores a esta actividad. En el 2021, esas fechas son el 3 de julio y el 4 de septiembre. Pescar en un muelle o en un día de pesca gratis es una excelente manera de probar un nuevo pasatiempo o cenar para su familia. CDFW ofrece algunos videos instructivos para principiantes y el grupo de Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC) ofrece videos sobre cómo preparar peces de forma segura. ¡Feliz pesca!

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Hermosa Beach Pier before COVID-19 pandemic

The Hermosa Beach Pier is one of the quietest piers for fishing within the Santa Monica Bay. It is surrounded by beautiful beaches, bars, and restaurants. It is a very straightforward pier with no vendors or restaurants, few people walking, few anglers, and a beautiful view to see the sunset.

The pier, built in 1965 and renovated in early 2000, extends 1,140 feet over the ocean. It is open for all visitors as well as fishing from 6:00am until 10:00pm. Anglers must also make sure to follow fishing regulations such as size, limits, and seasons of certain species that not allowed to catch. Overhead casting and throwing bait or trash on the pier are prohibited activities.

Hermosa Beach Pier before COVID-19 pandemic

Fishing is very relaxing at Hermosa Beach Pier. Anglers frequently catch mackerels, yellowfin croaker, corbinas, and sardines, among other fish. It is also common to hook white croaker on this pier, but it must be avoided because it is one of the fish that are on the “Do not consume” list. This list contains fish that should not be eaten due to high levels of contamination from DDT, PCBs, and mercury – also on this list are white croaker, barred sand bass, black croaker, topsmelt and barracuda

Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program educates pier and shore anglers in Los Angeles and Orange County about the risks of consuming fish contaminated with toxins such as dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). We are currently on pause due to COVID-19 restrictions; we will resume our activities on the piers when the local health authorities allow it, and our Angler Outreach Team members will continue to educate about fish that should not be consumed.

A fishing license is not required to fish on Hermosa Beach Pier, but if you fish on the beaches around the pier, you will have to purchase a license.

Throughout the state, the CA Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) offers two days of free fishing every year where a license is not required in order to motivate new anglers to this activity. In 2021, those dates are July 3 and September 4. Fishing on a pier or on a free fishing day is a great way to try out a new hobby or catch dinner for your family. CDFW offers some instructional videos for beginners and the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC) offers videos on how to prepare fish safely. Happy fishing!

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Las playas son unos de los grandes tesoros de Los Angeles, y deberían ser accesibles para todos.

 

El Acuario de Heal the Bay dispone de sillas de ruedas para la playa de alquiler gratuito desde el 26 de Diciembre de 2020 en el muelle de Santa Mónica.

Estas sillas de ruedas manuales para la playa son de cortesía y están disponibles durante dos horas, durante las que se requiere un documento de identificación con fotografía como señal del alquiler. Las sillas están disponibles por orden de llegada durante el horario de apertura, los sábados y domingos.

 

Dónde:

1600 Ocean Front Walk
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Cuándo: 
Saturday – Sunday
9:30 AM – 2:30 PM

Más información: 
(310) 393-6149
aquarium@healthebay.org

 

Santa Mónica tiene varios senderos accesibles para llegar al agua. Los más cercanos al muelle de Santa Mónica son Santa Monica State Beach, Arizona Avenue, y Bay Street. Descargue este mapa de la Comisión de Discapacidad de la Ciudad de Santa Mónica: Mapa de accesibilidad de Santa Mónica

El alquiler de sillas de ruedas sigue disponible a pesar de que el acuario de Heal the Bay esté temporalmente cerrado para acomodar el distanciamiento social y ayudar a reducir la transmisión de COVID-19. La salud de nuestros seguidores, socios, trabajadores y resto de la comunidad sigue siendo nuestra prioridad más alta.

 


 

El programa de sillas de ruedas para la playa es posible gracias a la financiación por parte de The Coastal Conservancy.

The Coastal Conservancy es una agencia estatal de California, establecida en 1976, para proteger y mejorar el suelo natural y las vías de agua, ayudar a la gente a llegar hasta la naturaleza y el aire libre y disfrutarlos, y a mantener las economías locales a lo largo de la costa Californiana. Actúa junto a otros para proteger y restaurar, e incrementar el acceso público a la costa de California, al océano, a las cuencas costeras y la zona de la bahía de San Francisco. Su visión es la de una costa bella, restaurada, y accesible para las generaciones de californianos existentes y venideras.

Para seguirlos en redes sociales:



Failure is not defeat when we hold ourselves accountable, learn, improve, and move forward together. Our Science and Policy team highlights some environmental policy woes in Part 2 below, and in Part 1 we reflect on wins from the past year. 

In a year like 2020, it is worth the time to celebrate our environmental policy wins. But it may be even more important to recognize our woes, setbacks, and challenges. Failure is a part of life, and it may be painful at times, but it does not mean defeat. It is an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to find ways to improve our work moving forward. Let’s reflect on three of our 2020 environmental policy woes, and set some new goals for 2021. 

California Environmental Legislation

It was a challenging year in the CA legislature. With critical COVID-19 relief bills understandably taking priority, many environmental bills that were expected to pass this year did not make it through. One major loss was Senate Bill 54 and Assembly Bill 1080, twin bills also known as the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, which would have set a goal of reducing single-use plastic waste by 75% by 2030. Following heavy and expensive lobbying campaigns from the plastics industry, these bills narrowly missed passing on the final day of the legislative season in August. 

While this was a devastating blow, there were also wins in plastic pollution reduction policy this year. Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 793 into law, making California the first state in the country to set minimum levels for recycled content in beverage containers. California residents also got the Plastics Free California Initiative on the 2022 ballot. If it passes, this initiative would be the most comprehensive plastic pollution reduction policy in the nation. Heal the Bay is not giving up the fight and we are ready to push for strong plastics legislation in the coming year. Sign up to learn more on this from Reusable LA. 

Offshore DDT Dumping

The recent discovery (as reported by the LA Times) of a very large number of dumped barrels of DDT off the coast of Los Angeles was a shock to us and many others who have been working on issues surrounding DDT contamination for over 30 years. We knew about the other large site contaminated by DDT and PCBs on the Palos Verde Shelf, but this new discovery of a potentially similar sized underwater DDT dump was devastating, to say the least. The news left us with many questions. Who is responsible and how can we hold corporate polluters accountable? What is the impact to marine ecosystems and human health? Can this pollution be cleaned up? 

Heal the Bay is currently meeting with elected officials, government agencies, and partners to push for increased scientific understanding of the problem, increased education and outreach particularly to communities at risk from contaminated fish, and increased accountability and transparency. 

Stormwater Regulation with the MS4 Permit

The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit regulates stormwater pollution. The LA County MS4 Permit has been around since 1990, and yet stormwater is still the leading source of water pollution. The lack of accountability in the last MS4 Permit has allowed permittees to fall woefully behind schedule in reducing this pollution. Although renewal of this critical MS4 Permit is already 3 years behind schedule, adoption was again delayed until 2021. Unfortunately, permittees have dominated this process, demanding a weaker permit at the expense of our surface water quality, and so far the Los Angeles Regional Water Board has been receptive to their grumbles.

Heal the Bay’s Take LA by Storm campaign launched this year to provide support for new advocates to engage in this permit process, too. Voices from respected NGOs across LA County attended the Regional Board’s October MS4 Workshop; and in December, 34 NGOs and 19 individual community members weighed in through written comments. We are starting to shift the narrative as the Board hears from communities, but there is still a lot to do before permit adoption in summer 2021.

Heal the Bay will continue to advocate for a strong permit and provide better support to LA communities. Sign up to Take LA by Storm, and together we can hold permittees accountable and reduce stormwater pollution.