Heal the Bay Blog

Category: About Us

November’s Nothin’ But Sand broke Heal the Bay’s record for the most participants at one of our monthly volunteer cleanups. What a way to end 2013!

Some 1,111 participants picked up 210 pounds of ocean-bound trash at Will Rogers State Beach on Nov. 16.

Whether volunteers were lured to the beach that sunny morning to fulfill their community service or their own Karma hours, they can enjoy the holidays with an extra glow knowing they did their part to keep our local beaches safe, healthy and clean.

It’s not easy work! But it’s worthwhile, as the debris removed has now been categorized and catalogued, and used to help better inform our ongoing policy work to curb coastal pollution.

And the cleanups really make a difference, as Heal the Bay volunteers have collected and recorded more than 2 million pounds of debris over the past 20 years. That’s nearly the weight of two fully loaded 747 jumbo jets.

We started as an all-volunteer organization, and we still rely heavily on ocean-lovers who generously donate their time, as individuals or as part of their church, scout troop or even workplace.

While November’s Nothin’ But Sand represented our final cleanup of 2013, we’ll be back on the beach come January. Start 2014 off right and join us!

You might also consider becoming a member of Heal the Bay. It’s the easiest way to have the maximum impact on protecting our local beaches. The ocean belongs to all of us, so it’s up to all of us to care for it.

nothin but sand cleanup More than 1,000 cleanup volunteers canvassed Will Rogers State Beach — a Nothin But Sand record!

Heal the Bay CEO Ruskin Hartley recently sat down with Saul Gonzalez from KCRW to share his vision for our organization and the unfinished business of cleaning up Santa Monica Bay.

Ruskin details how Heal the Bay is well-positioned to play a significant role in developing innovative solutions to our 21st century challenges: Water pollution and water conservation. If you haven’t had the chance to meet Ruskin yet, the interview is a great way to get to know him a bit better.

Listen to the full interview.

Sarah Sikich, Heal the Bay’s Director of Coastal Resources, heads to France to share the good news about our state’s blossoming Marine Protected Areas.

If you’ve been lucky enough to go for a dive, surf, or kayak at the Channel Islands, it’s hard not to be captivated by the cathedral kelp forests, large fish cruising the reef, and the occasional harbor seal’s shy game of peek-a-boo.

Sea Lion checking out diver in Santa Barbara Island's Marine Protected Area MPAThese Islands, along with special places throughout the entire California coast, enjoy state protections that allow the marine wildlife inside to thrive. Like underwater parks, the marine protected areas (MPAs for short) here act as safe havens for the garibaldi, black seabass, and giant kelp forests that call Southern California’s coastline home. And, the good news is that globally, MPAs are on the rise. There are more than 6,000 MPAs worldwide, yet less than 2% of our oceans is protected.

Next week, ocean scientists, policymakers, leaders, and conservation professionals will be convening in France to share ideas about how to foster MPA effectiveness around the world at the 2013 International Marine Protected Areas Congress.  And Heal the Bay’s story will be among those in the fold. As one of the prime  players in the establishment of MPAs in the Golden State, we will be part of  a California delegation heading to Marseilles to spread the good news.

We will be sharing stories about California’s MPAs and showcasing the Marine Life Protection Act as a model for other nations that want to build effective community engagement and science-based planning in their MPA development. We’ll also bring back MPA stories from around the world that may enhance MPA stewardship on our coast.

Next time you visit a California MPA to enjoy the majestic kelp forest, just think that at the same time someone else might be enjoying the corals along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, whale sharks in Mozambique, or diving iguanas in the Galapagos.

Please look for our daily blog posts, photos and videos from the conference:

Bon Voyage!

You win some, you lose some. And some fights just are too soon to call.

Heal the Bay was a big winner this week at the FOX TV Eco Casino night (pictured right). Not only were we one of the evening’s beneficiaries, but some of us got to attend this swell Hollywood party. We thank FOX for continuing to support our work with this lively event.

Also in the win column: We feel resplendent in our new Patagonia gear, which the apparel company donated to outfit our Aquarium and Stream Team staff and volunteers (pictured below). Big thanks to Patagonia for their colorful—yet practical—contributions to environmental health!

In the “too close to call” category, this week we learned that the State Assembly rejected a bill that would have granted stronger enforcement powers to the California Coastal Commission. We supported AB 976, which will now be delayed at least year.

However, we are grateful to our many supporters who not only contacted their legislators in favor of the bill, but also traveled to Sacramento to testify on its behalf. Thank you especially to the Black Surfers Collective. We hope you sustain your efforts to make beaches accessible to everyone.

Feeling feisty? Check out Heal the Bay’s Action Alert page to find out which issues on our front burner.

Aquarist Jackie Cannata and Operations Manager Jose Bacallao model their Patagonia wear at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

We’ve got some big news at Heal the Bay! After an extensive national search, we’re proud to announce that beginning Sept. 16, Ruskin Hartley will be Heal the Bay’s new CEO. Conservationists may recognize Ruskin’s name from his prolific work protecting California redwoods, but for those who don’t, here are the top ten things you need to know about the veteran environmentalist. 

1. Ruskin worked at the Save the Redwoods League in San Francisco for 15 years, six of those years as the Executive Director. In its nearly 100 year history, The League helped protect over 180,000 acres of redwood forest and create over 39 redwood state parks and preserves.

2. Ruskin was born and raised in rural southern England by an architect and urban planner and trained as a geographer at Cambridge University. 

3. He was asleep in Kuwait City when Iraq invaded Kuwait leading up to the Gulf War. Subsequently, he spent two years in Kuwait as an environmental planner working on the country’s third post-war reconstruction plan.

4. He’s seen every episode of Battlestar Galactica

5. Clean and healthy water has always been part of Ruskin’s mission. He spent a summer in Oman researching traditional irrigation systems and groundwater recharge. He also studied rural development at the University of East Anglia (that’s in the UK!). 

6. He’s a cricket fan and is learning to love baseball. 

7. He helped add the 25,000-acres Mill Creek property to the Redwood National and State Parks, the largest acquisition in Save the Redwood League’s history.

8. He learned to skateboard for the first time as an adult this year. He rode a longboard while his older son skated on a “trixie.” 

9. He’s tall. And don’t forget that British accent. 

10. Finally, he likes to tweet. A lot. Follow him at @ruskinhartley.

You can meet Ruskin while on the beach this Coastal Cleanup Day on September 21, 2013. For more information on Ruskin, read our full press release, visit his website or watch the video below where Ruskin describes his involvement with the Save the Redwoods League.

An unseasonably early squid run has surprised SCUBA divers this week in Santa Monica Bay — with thousands of opalescent squid mating and laying eggs in Redondo Submarine Canyon.

Spurred on by reports from my diver-extraordinaire friend, Claudette, we headed out to dive off Vet’s Park in the wee hours of the morning on August 27. What a dive it was!

After mating en masse, the female squid carefully lay their single egg cluster into collective egg baskets at about 60-90 feet below, on the slopes of Redondo’s Submarine Canyon. Everyone’s getting in on the action! Surrounding the squid and egg baskets are animals from up and down the food chain — from target shrimp, to sea lions, to rock crabs- feasting on the dead squid!

Local divers are surprised by how early the squid are running — usually we see them in the winter months, and we haven’t seen a run like this since 2005 and 2007 — a beautiful natural phenomenon in our local waters.

The eggs will be around waiting to hatch for the next 3-5 weeks, but this is the week to see thousands of squid mating off Vet’s Park. Most of my diver friends are re-arranging their work schedules to get out there to experience this squidtastic event — definitely not to be missed!

—Dana Roeber Murray
Heal the Bay’s Marine & Coastal Scientist

Learn more about the California Market Squid.

Kalisa Myers organized the Miracle Mile Plastic Response Team to help rid her community “of plastic and non-biodegradable debris … before it can get into our oceans.” Here, Kalisa shares how she managed to get the city to clean up several “mini-gyres” of illegally-dumped trash that kept popping up near a neighborhood construction site.

First of all, I want you to know that it isn’t unreasonable to be infuriated by litter in your neighborhood. It is perfectly OK to stop someone and ask them why they are littering. It is perfectly OK to “make a big deal about it.” It is a big deal. It’s going straight into the ocean, and that is a very, very, big deal indeed. 

On walks throughout my neighborhood, I often “harvest” plastic trash by picking it up and removing it. So after noticing the several mini-gyres of trash that seemed to spawn at the same rate as activity increased at a local construction site, I did what I always do…I picked it up.

After removing several buckets, I went around back and then my heart sank — here was the source of all the trash-gyres — an open dump! Even worse, toxic spray insulation was blowing peacefully to the (still open) storm drain at Wilshire and La Brea. 

There was no information or contractor’s contact number or anything around the dump. So I waited until the workers were on break and after talking with them, they gave me the phone number for their boss. 

I took the phone number and completed an illegal dumping complaint form.

Then I went to the surrounding businesses (they know me from picking up trash with my Miracle Mile Plastic Response Team bucket) and asked the managers to both complete a form and call the boss of the site. Mood Fabrics complained the same day I did.

Victory! The next day, the dump was gone!

And I’m happy to report an overall cultural shift in the neighborhood, at least around the sites I have “haunted” most. The staff at the CVS on 3rd and La Brea are now required to do daily outside cleanups after I completed a customer complaint form online and did several public cleanups outside the store. The construction site and one area across the street from a Starbucks are cleaner too.

Sometimes the city does respond. Sometimes just one person in it does. What I know now is it’s “less OK” to dump in my neighborhood.

Kalisa recently joined our Speakers Bureau team and plans to help us spread the word about the perils of—and solutions to—pollution. If you see pollution in your neighborhood, report it!

Follow Miracle Mile Plastic Response Team on Facebook.

Exhilarating! That’s how I describe my recent expedition with the Pacific American Volunteer Association (PAVA) to Korea. Our mission was to explore some of the many water spaces the Koreans have transformed over the past two decades. Beyond the adventure of seeing a new land and exploring a culture quite different from my own (this being my first trip to Asia), I had the opportunity to glimpse what potentially awaits so many of our own local water spaces.

For those of you unfamiliar with this story, I mentioned a few weeks back that one of our community partners was taking me, Heal the Bay’s Watershed Education Manager, on a journey with them to Korea to hear and see how different cultures deal with water in the environment. For the past three years, the students of PAVA Jr have joined me on an educational exploration of water in the environments throughout Los Angeles, and this year was about taking those lessons one step further.

Some of the highlights of my trip:

  • Mallipo Beach in Taean County, where a 2007 oil spill devastated a beach tourist community, leaving local marine ecosystems coated in 290,000 tons of thick sludge and local residents in a thick economic and very personal depression. But, in the face of such an overwhelming catastrophe, community members from throughout the region joined forces to volunteer in one of the world’s largest single efforts, bringing together just over 1 million people to help clean the beaches and remove oil. Now, Taean Love (a local organization) continues to keep Mallipo beautiful, and after five short years of recovery, the city has seen tourism return to normal. As we prepare locally for Coastal Cleanup Day, I can feel swell with excitement at what can happen when people join together to volunteer.
  • Heal the Bay's Man in South KoreaOncheoncheon River near Busan, Korea’s second largest city. Here, in a dense urban center, what once was a creek
    polluted beyond recognition from local development and nearby industrialization, is now part of a green belt through the city, providing much needed recreation and habitat space for both people and animals to enjoy. A bicycle path, park space, and outdoor sports fields fill the outer reaches of the floodplain, while riverside reeds, shrubs, and native birds fill the shores and banks. Again, standing in this space so far from home, I couldn’t help but think of the Glendale Narrows section of our own Los Angeles River, where for the first time in 80 years, people have been allowed to recreate this summer, I can only be excited by the possibilities! 
  • Suncheon Bay, an extremely well preserved coastal wetland complete with quick little red crabs that dart in and out of holes when you’re trying to take pictures of them (I myself have no pictures for this site as my camera died right when was I was trying to capture the  moment). At just over 6,000 acres, Suncheon Bay boasts the widest reed bed of all of Korea, and is also home to several rare and endangered bird species, including the Hooded Crane and the Chinese Egret. This space was my favorite of the whole trip, if only because standing in such a wide and open wetland with reeds dancing in the wind all around you feels like you’re floating in a sea of green. Here too, I can only think of our own Ballona Wetlands could become, once restoration begins.
  • The Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, the heart of South Korea’s capital for 600 years. This river provides local freshwater for drinking and cleaning, and well as food from fishing and trapping. After the Korean War, when hyper industrialization began to drive population inwards from rural settlements to the urban center, the Cheonggyecheon became home to shanty towns built unsteadily over the creek space. Later, when the city’s need became transportation, a freeway was built over the space to provide a thoroughfare from east to west for the bustling city. Much like our own Los Angeles River, the Cheonggyecheon became the victim of urbanization and growth, hidden beneath concrete and impaired beneath a city that no longer saw it. Then, in the mid-90s, Korea began to change its environmental tune, investing time, money, and political and social capital in revitalization their urban waterways. The Cheonggyecheon was daylighted from beneath its concrete enclosure, and once again brought into the city’s daily life. While it is not the greenway that the Oncheoncheon in Busan is, nor the sprawling eco-preserve that Suncheon Bay, the Cheonggyecheon offers the hustling and bustling city a return to calmer times. Walking along its banks, I felt a sigh of relief from the skyscrapers and traffic that detail so much of life in Seoul, and the exhaustion from my trip gave way to soaking my feet in the water’s cool flow while watching several ducks bathe themselves. I can only hope that when the Los Angeles River is made anew, it will offer up this same urban getaway.
    Heal the Bay's Man in South Korea 

And thus my travels ended in Seoul. I will say my experience in Korean waters is but a glimpse of the potential that we strive for here in our own city. It’s true that the students and I saw many visions of the future and of potentially cleaner waters on this trip, but most of all we received a renewed sense of drive to protect what we love in our own home town.

—  Eddie Murphy,
Heal the Bay’s Watershed Education Manager

Discover the wide range of Heal the Bay’s public education resources.

Whether it’s good beer or good beaches, you’ve got to have clean water.

We’d like to thank the good people at 213 Nightlife (especially principals Cedd Moses and Alan Verge) for helping us keep our local waters clean by making Heal the Bay the beneficiary of their well-run 4th annual L.A. Craft Beer Crawl last weekend.

While the beer crawl was happening in the “213,” in the “310,” Golden Bridge Yoga was celebrating its new Santa Monica location, with proceeds from the day of yoga and music going to HtB and Childrens Hospital. Thank you to Golden Bridge!

We are also grateful to employees from Northrop Grumman, who cleaned Dockweiler Beach on August 10 (pictured). More than 100 volunteers removed 157.5 pounds of trash and collected almost 3500 cigarette butts (which they plan to recycle via Terracycle.) The winning debris removal teams were: Trash Busters, Trash Patrol and Help’n Hornets.

Northrop Grumman

You can also make a big difference by picking up trash on Coastal Cleanup Day, Sept. 21, 2013. Gather your friends, teammates, scout troops, students and family for a cleanup close to you. You can find a site conveniently located for everyone at

My first exposure to the Colorado River was as a kid.  I was very fortunate to take a two week white water rafting trip down the Colorado River with my family.  To this day it is the best vacation that I have ever taken. Experiencing this amazing natural wonder so intimately was the adventure of a lifetime.

Fast-forward to now, when, as a resident of Southern California, I rely on the Colorado River each and every day.  Angelenos are among the 20 million Californians who depend upon the Colorado River for at least a portion of their drinking water.  Most of the California-grown vegetables we eat are irrigated with Colorado River water.  Unfortunately, demand on the river’s water now exceeds supply, which is depleting both river flow and bringing water stored in reservoirs to historic lows. 

There is currently considerable “buzz” around the Bay Delta — and rightly so.  This system is under enormous pressure.  The draft Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) was recently released, which is the state’s strategy for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Bay Delta system that aims to ensure a more reliable water supply and a healthy ecosystem.  Of note, many environmental groups have raised concerns over the draft BDCP and have provided counter-proposals.  The Colorado River provides roughly the same amount of water for urban Southern California as does the Bay-Delta, and both systems are under intense pressures. Yet the Colorado receives much less attention in California than the Bay-Delta receives.  Colorado River Day provides an opportunity to reflect and give the much needed attention to the Colorado River system.   

Heal the Bay has long advocated for maximizing our local water supplies, thereby decreasing our region’s need for imported water and relieving pressure on these over-taxed river systems.  At the same time, focusing on local water helps us improve the water quality in our rivers and ocean.  For instance by infiltrating stormwater into groundwater basins, we increase our local water supply and prevent polluted stormwater runoff.  By increasing the recycling of treated wastewater, we offset the need for imported water and reduce discharge to our rivers and streams.   Further, increasing our local water supply will save ratepayers money over generations.  Los Angeles Department of Water and Power drafted cost comparison models that show the cost of Metropolitan Water District imported water will eclipse the cost of conserved water in 2015, groundwater cleanup for recharge in 2022, reclaimed waste water in 2028, and reused stormwater in 2029.[1] In other words, investing in local water is a win-win scenario.    

I hope to take another river trip down the Colorado someday.  I recently learned that the Colorado River supports a $26 billion recreation economy!  However, we Californians need to make some serious changes in our reliance on imported water to ensure that this precious resource is protected and visitors and wildlife can enjoy this resource in perpetuity.  Let’s use Colorado River Day as an opportunity to ask our leaders to take the steps necessary to make sure this becomes a reality.

 — Kirsten James
Science and Policy Director, Water Quality

 Keep track of West Coast beach water quality with Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card®


[1] LADWP, Local Water Supply Sensitivities, November 2011.