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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Heal the Bay Aquarium

Laura Rink, Associate Director of Aquarium Operations shares an update on where our released Giant Sea Bass is swimming in the Santa Monica Bay and the impacts of the recent oil spill on fish eggs.

When an animal is released into the wild, there are assumed risks. Transport logistics to the release, acclimation into a foreign environment, predation, inability to find food sources, and natural diseases are all concerns our Heal the Bay Aquarium team had when releasing the beloved Giant Sea Bass (Stereolepis gigas), whom we fondly refer to as GSB, into the Redondo Beach King Harbor in May 2021.

Over the subsequent months we were delighted to observe the fish’s journey in local waters.

We were able to monitor the animal’s movements because, implanted in the abdomen of this Giant Sea Bass is an acoustic tracker that allows us to make observations for ten years. This data provides insight into the success of a captive animal release and additional migration data for a historically endangered species. From the release in May 2021, we have observed the GSB’s migration from the Redondo Beach Artificial Reef, into the Point Vicente Marine Protected Area (MPA), down along the coastline of Cabrillo, and most recently, into the waters along Huntington Beach (See image 1 and 2).

Image 1: A visual map of the Giant Sea Bass migration down the southern coast of California. Points of detection are buoy markers that record movement when an individual passes. Number of detections show how many times the individual was documented passing a specific buoy: the larger the circle on the map below, the more times the fish was recorded at that site.

Image 2: Number of detections made at specific sites and their correlating dates. Dots show where the fish was detected (on the left ) and in what month (along the bottom). 

While our team has excitedly followed the fish over the last few months, an unexpected concern arose when the major oil spill off of Orange County’s coastline near Huntington Beach happened in early October 2021—just 5 months after the fish’s release. The fossil fuel industry failing was not only a source of concern for the singular Giant Sea Bass fish, but also for the countless local species who call our ocean home. And, this catastrophic event has brought forward a question that is now commonly posed to our Heal the Bay Aquarium team, “How does an oil spill affect the local species of ocean life?”

Most news reports and oil spill updates from officials mention the impacted marine mammals and birds, animals that capture the public eye and spend a great deal of time at the surface of the sea where most of the oil is seen. But, what about the lesser known fish swimming deep below in our salty waters?

Anecdotal evidence shows that oil spills have devastating effects on ocean animal populations, starting at the first stages of development. Giant Sea Bass are a key example of this issue. While adult individuals like our released GSB may only incur minimal impacts, their offspring may not be so lucky. Giant Sea Bass and various other species of fish are what we call “broadcast spawners”. This term means they release hundreds to thousands of eggs into the surrounding ocean waters where they develop and hatch into larval fishes. Due to the biological makeup of these eggs, they will float to the surface of the water, which is precisely where the toxic oil ends up after a spill. Consequently, research has shown that when eggs come into contact with oil, it can have severe developmental impacts on the growing larvae. One can imagine, then, the potentially disastrous generational effects of an oil spill occurring during the peak spawning season of an endangered fish species.

Oil spills in the ocean can be prevented only when we stop offshore drilling. Here are actions you can take to stop the environmentally damaging impacts of the fossil fuel industry. It’s not enough that we stop offshore drilling, we need to phase out oil and gas drilling on land too. Send a pre-written public comment that demands the following three items: 1) support a 3,200-foot setback of new oil wells from schools, hospitals and homes, 2) demand that the setback applies to existing wells, and 3) demand an emergency response to ban all new permits within the setback until the final rule is in effect.

Come visit Heal the Bay Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier. We’ll tell you all about the GSB and the other amazing animals who live in the Santa Monica Bay, and more ways you can protect them.



Get in the spirit of the season and celebrate Fishy Fest at Heal the Bay Aquarium on October 30 and 31 from Noon – 4pm. Heal the Bay Aquarium, located beach level at the Santa Monica Pier, has a fun and family-friendly event planned both days, including activities that honor the unique holidays of Halloween and Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

For Halloween, visit our Dorothy Green Room for a deep-sea experience, tip-toe (if you dare!) through our “Ocean’s End Cemetery”, and learn about ocean pollution in our Mad Scientist Laboratory. All ghosts and goblins are also invited to take part in a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt.

For Día de los Muertos, add a memento of your loved ones to our Día de los Muertos Ofrenda, create colorful Día de los Muertos crafts, and much more!

What is Día de los Muertos?

“Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is a time to honor and revere our deceased family members and ancestors. This tradition is rooted in the native Mexican belief that life on earth is a preparation for the next world, and of the importance of maintaining a strong relationship to the dead.

It is a time for families to gather and welcome the souls of the dead on their annual visit home. Cempasúchil (marigold) flowers, burning copal incense, fresh pan de muertos bread, candles, sugar skulls, photographs and mementos of the departed adorn special altars. In Mexico, Day of the Dead is celebrated over an entire week with the preparation of altars, foods, dance, music, and special offerings for people who have died.” – Mano a Mano: Mexican Culture without Borders

Schedule of events:

Join our Fishy Fest celebration, taking place on both Saturday and Sunday from Noon – 4pm, at Heal the Bay Aquarium for a fun-filled weekend.

Saturday, Oct. 30

1:00pm – Saturday Sea Star Feeding

2:00pm – Spooktacular Story Time

3:00pm – Saturday Sea Star Feeding

Sunday, Oct. 31

1:00pm – Sunday Shark Feeding Presentation

3:00pm – Sunday Shark Feeding Presentation



At Heal the Bay Aquarium, we believe that there are 52 Shark Weeks in a year, so we’re keeping all the #SharkWeek learning going. It’s important to share and teach facts, not fear, as we all work towards protecting our ocean environment and the animals that call it home. Shark conservation is a 24/7 job, so let’s continue this deep dive into learning more about these critically important, and often misunderstood, creatures.

California is known for its incredible richness and variety of ecosystems—both on land and under the sea. Venture across the Golden State and you’ll cross coastal wetlands, lush wooded forests, and the vast deserts in Death Valley. Dive below the waters off our coastline and see the fairytale-like beauty of our kelp forests, the infinite expansiveness of the sandy seafloor, and the rocky shore dynamics of our tide pools. From abalone, to sea lions, hermit crabs to Mola mola, there is a wealth of marine diversity right in our Bay.

So, who are our elasmobranch neighbors? In our local waters, there are at least 23 different kinds of sharks, and over a dozen types of rays and skates (the triangular-shaped Rajidae—not the retro kind spotted weaving down the boardwalk). Wade into our shallower waters and you may see the slim, spotted shadow of a leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata) sashay by, on the hunt for crustaceans and clams on the sandy bottom. Head out a little further with the surfers and you may even get the rare, incredible opportunity to spot our resident (albeit juvenile) landlord: the great white shark (Carcharodon Carcharias). From long-tailed thresher sharks, to the chiropteran-like bat rays, you never know what you’ll “sea” when you explore our coast. At our Aquarium, we exhibit marine species that you can find right next door in Santa Monica Bay. Learning about these local animals allows our visitors to see what our clean water mission is all about: not only protecting public health, but also protecting the thousands of different kinds of marine life that call it home—from seabirds and fish, to marine mammals and phytoplankton—all are part of the southern California ecosystem.

Let’s meet the locals in our Sharks & Rays Exhibit!

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Swell sharks (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) are a visitor favorite because when you’re observing them in the exhibit, you’re now in the “Splash Zone”, due to the fact that they literally spit water while they swim around. They’re so aptly named because when agitated, swell sharks will hold on to their caudal fin with their teeth and swell up with water, making it more difficult for predators to bite them or pull them from their rocky den. Ever seen a Mermaid’s Purse? Swell sharks are also oviparous, which means they lay keratinous egg cases. Developing swell shark pups take about 9-12 months until they’re ready to hatch into adorable, 6 inch (15 cm) long baby sharks. Check out Baby Shark Watch to see a swell shark grow from egg to pup!

Horn sharks (Heterodontus francisci), are named for the large horns in front of each dorsal fin. These horns are used for protection against predators, making horn sharks extremely difficult to eat. Imagine trying to swallow a sandwich with the toothpicks still holding it together—you’d have a pretty hard time getting that down. These oviparous sharks also have a uniquely shaped mouth that allows them to “suck” in food and forage through sand for a tasty crab or some other buried seafloor invertebrate. The scientific name Heterodontus comes from the Greek words “heteros” and “odont”, meaning “different teeth”. Horn sharks have sharp pointy teeth in the front, and crushing molar-like teeth in the back. This is why they’re one of the few shark species that can actually eat a spiky sea urchin (sometimes staining their teeth with the urchin pigment).

Round stingrays (Urobatis halleri), lovingly known as “sea pancakes” by our visiting students, are commonly found in sandy bottom habitats, and typically hang around intertidal areas down to depths of about 15 m (50 ft). Stingrays are viviparous (live birth), and will have between 1-6 pups that are about the size of the palm of your hand (2.5-3 inches or 6-7.5 cm).

To the right, to the right…to the left, to the left…now shuffle! Ever heard of the Stingray Shuffle? It’s actually the best way to protect both yourself and unsuspecting stingrays that may be camouflaging in the sandy bottom below you when you head into the waves. If you slide or shuffle your feet in the sand as you enter and move about the ocean, rays will feel the movement from your feet, and will move somewhere else to avoid contact. If you walk in normally (especially around this time of year during stingray mating season), you may accidentally step on a ray, which will then defend itself by using the venomous barb on their tail. The venom of the round stingray is not dangerous to humans; however, it is extremely painful. If stung by a ray, the best course of action is to seek help from the nearest Lifeguard, and soak the affected area in very hot water. This actually denatures the proteins in the venom, and will hopefully help provide some relief from the sting. This is also the best treatment for sea jelly stings, since contrary to popular myth (and TV sitcoms), peeing on the jelly sting can actually make the pain worse!


During our closure throughout 2020, we were busy at work refreshing our exhibits and creating fun, new experiences for our visitors for when we could safely reopen. We o-fish-ally re-opened our indoor gallery on June 12, 2021, and visitors can now enjoy our upgraded, interactive Sharks & Rays Touch Tank Exhibit! Get up close and feel the sandpapery touch of a swell shark’s skin from their dermal denticles (“tooth-skin”), or the velvety softness of a round stingray. Gentle interactions with these animals helps to dispel long-held myths about sharks being scary, mindless, man-eaters.

Lurking. Stalking. Chasing. Attack. These are all familiar (and unfairly given) terms when we see any news about encounters between humans and sharks. Sharks have been around on this planet for at least 400 million years. They’re a keystone species, which means as apex (top) predators, sharks are critically important to a healthy ecosystem and marine food web. Just like the tumbling of a Jenga tower when we pull out a single, structural-load holding piece, the removal of sharks can decimate the delicate balance of the ocean environment. We’ve seen the same impacts on land ecosystems with the human-led removal of wolves from Yellowstone National Park. Without these apex predators keeping elk populations in check, the land suffered from erosion and deforestation—affecting more than 200 other species of animals living in that ecosystem. Sharks usually take a long time to reproduce, and most don’t have that may young at a time. Female great white sharks usually aren’t even sexually mature for at least 1-2 decades, and their young take more than a year to gestate. Sharks are already vulnerable to the impacts of pollution and climate change, and data shows that worldwide shark populations have declined by almost 99% due to the additional stress of overfishing.

So, what can we do to help protect sharks? One super easy way is to spread facts, not fear. Even though encountering sharks in the wild can still be a scary thought, sharks have no desire to eat us (honestly—do we really think we taste that good?). Sharks are actually probably much more afraid of you than you are of them, and when they encounter people, their usual reaction is to swim away, hide, or out of simple curiosity just check out this silly-looking animal scooting around the water. Being conscientious about sustainable seafood choices, and going zero-waste and plastic-free as much as possible can go a long way towards shark protections. Destructive fishing methods not only cause habitat loss, but harms millions of sharks each year as bycatch. Just looking at the Pacific Ocean alone, an estimated 3.3 million sharks are accidentally caught each year as bycatch on longlines that were targeted for other fish. Supporting bans on shark fin products and shark finning can also add protections to critically declining shark populations, because we can eliminate the market for fins by passing laws prohibiting their sale. Globally, at least 70-100 million sharks are killed each year just for the inhumane shark fin trade. Heal the Bay, along with partners and supporters, successfully led the charge to ban the sale and possession of shark fins in California in 2013. Right now, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (H.R. 737) is still waiting for a vote in the Senate. The House passed this bill in November 2019, and the bill would “prohibit the sale, purchase, and possession of shark fins in the United States”. Your voice and action can help protect what we all love. Helping to teach others about the importance of sharks is a great way to help change the way people think about sharks. For the record, we think they’re “swell”.

Learn more about shark conservation with these great organizations and researchers:


Citations:

  • https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/how-fix-jellyfish-sting-180963582/#:~:text=And%20before%20you%20ask%3A%20no,consistent%20chemical%20makeup%2C%20she%20says
  • https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/737/text


We’re celebrating Pride Month with an aquatic-themed virtual drag show! Join us for the first-ever Queers on the Pier on Friday, June 25 at 7PM PT.

Buy My Ticket

Be prepared to have your wigs snatched by an amazing cast of performers and celebrate inclusivity in environmental spaces through representation and aquatic-themed drag art and dance. All folx are welcome in the outdoors no matter their sexual orientation or identity. Let’s celebrate the bridge between the Queer Community and Environmentalism.

In partnership with SaMo Pride—and just in time for Pride Month🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️—Heal the Bay is excited to present our first-ever Queers on the Pier virtual event! This is an adults only (18+) show streaming on June 25 from Heal the Bay Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier.

A variety of marine-inspired drag acts will showcase environmental issues connected to the ocean. In between acts, there’ll be interviews with professionals within the Queer community, highlighting both their voices and their work. Additionally, we will feature informative segments discussing queerness in the natural world, specifically in the ocean.  The show will star burlesque company QWN, with performers Ricky ‘Merkin, Coochiano Pavornaughtti, Beyond Existence, Katinka, and Annie Malé. Please join us on June 25, 2021 at 7PM PT and let’s slay summer 2021 like the Queens we are!

The Meaning of Queerness:

Queerness: n. The state or condition of being strange. The term “queer” has a number of definitions, but historically the term “queer’ has been used in a derogatory way to dehumanize, harm, and humiliate members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In today’s society, any sexual orientation other than heterosexual is scrutinized, invalidated, and othered. Like most things in life however, sexual orientation exists on a spectrum and to have variations in sexual behavior is a naturally occurring phenomena. Many members of the LGBTQIA+ community have reclaimed the term “queer” as an all-encompassing expression to include all of the various members of the community, and that is how we at Heal the Bay are aiming to utilize this term as well.

Radical inclusion and increased queer representation are the essence of this show, and Queers on the Pier will deliver this through performance art, interviews with queer scientists, and with talks on queerness that exists in our ocean. Welcome to the Show!

Get Tickets

Plus, swing by in-person or on @HealtheBay’s Instagram Saturday 6/12 and 6/19 at 11AM for a Drag Queen Storytime for kids! We are stoked to have Facisha Farce reading at Heal the Bay Aquarium on 6/12 and Ruthless Envy on 6/19.


Thank you to ETC Hotels and Avocado Mattress for sponsoring this event.

   

 

 



Yes, that’s right. We’re reopening Heal the Bay Aquarium! Come visit our outdoor patio experience on Saturday, April 24 and Sunday, April 25 from 12pm to 4pm for our Aquarium’s Earth Day Celebration.

VISIT

The health and safety of our community and staff are our number one priority. When you plan a visit, follow our COVID-19 guidelines and reserve your tickets in advance. Heal the Bay Aquarium is located at 1600 Ocean Front Walk in Santa Monica, California – under the Santa Monica Pier.

When you visit our new outdoor patio exhibits, you’ll get to explore local marine animal exhibits, study a gray whale rib bone, learn about ocean pollution and what we can do to prevent it, snag a sustainable souvenir from the Gift Shop, and more!

Discover your inner marine scientist at the Sharks & Rays and the Tide Pool animal exhibits. Sharks & Rays demonstrates the full lifecycle of sharks, and features baby swell shark pups. Observe the development of this important native species as they grow from egg to pup, and learn about all the local sharks that live in Santa Monica Bay. The Tide Pool display allows you to get up close and see local tidepool creatures like sea cucumbers, bat stars, hermit crabs, and marine snails.

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Swim by our Watershed exhibit to learn about the Los Angeles ecosystem and view California native plants that are found in these habitats. Check the water quality grade at your favorite beach with our Beach Report Card, find out how you can take the Climate Action Challenge, and take action to #SkipTheStuff at our Plastic Pollution exhibit. A visit to the Aquarium will give you a greater understanding of the ocean, and inspire stewardship of the marine environment and its inhabitants.

We’ll have fun, eco-friendly crafts and activities you can take home, and beach cleanup kits available to purchase, so you can continue to Heal the Bay, the ocean, and the planet even after your visit.

Plus, you can bring the memories home with a souvenir from our Aquarium Gift Shop. Check out zero-waste goodies, plushies, green travel items, limited edition Heal the Bay gear, and more. Every purchase directly supports our marine education and clean water programs.


 Keep Making Waves with Heal the Bay Aquarium: 



The Big Beach Cleanup book

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.

Illustration of people cleaning beach

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.



Beach Wheelchair at Santa Monica Pier

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.

 

Beach wheelchair facing ocean

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:



Beach Wheelchair at Santa Monica Pier

Beaches are one of the great treasures in Los Angeles, and they should be accessible to everyone.

 

Heal the Bay Aquarium has beach wheelchairs available to rent for free at the Santa Monica Pier starting December 26, 2020.

Complimentary manual beach wheelchair rentals are available for two hours, and a valid photo ID is required as collateral during the rental period. The wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis during operating hours on Saturday and Sunday. 

 

Beach wheelchair facing ocean

Where:
1600 Ocean Front Walk
Santa Monica, CA 90401

When: 
Saturday – Sunday
12PM – 4PM

More Information: 
(310) 393-6149 
aquarium@healthebay.org 

 

Santa Monica has several accessible pathways to the water. The closest pathways near the Santa Monica Pier are Santa Monica State Beach, Arizona Avenue, and Bay Street. Download this map from the City of Santa Monica Disabilities Commission: Accessible Santa Monica Map

Map with accessible pathways in Santa Monica

While wheelchair rentals are available, Heal the Bay Aquarium is temporarily closed to accommodate physical distancing and help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The health and safety of our supporters, partners, staff, and community remain our top priority.

 


 

Heal the Bay’s beach wheelchair program is made possible thanks to funding from The Coastal Conservancy.

The Coastal Conservancy is a California state agency, established in 1976, to protect and improve natural lands and waterways, to help people get to and enjoy the outdoors, and to sustain local economies along California’s coast. It acts with others to protect and restore, and increase public access to, California’s coast, ocean, coastal watersheds, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Its vision is of a beautiful, restored, and accessible coast for current and future generations of Californians.

Follow them on social media:

 



What’s spookier than Halloween? Plastic pollution!

Trash in the ocean and in our neighborhoods, especially single-use plastic waste, negatively impacts public health, water quality, our food supply, marine ecosystem health, and our carbon footprint.  Plastic is made from fossil fuels, and toxic pollution from its extraction, development and manufacturing disproportionately impact People of Color and low-income communities. ⁣

Around the globe, we produce 300 million tons of plastic annually, 50% of which is used for disposable items. That number is only expected to jump, as Big Plastic pushes their agenda and pumps up plastic production to make up for fuel price losses during COVID-19. ⁣

While we’ll keep doing cleanups to pick up the plastic pieces that have already made their way into our environment, a better solution is to shift away from single-use and move toward a thriving culture of reuse.

Help protect our planet! Reduce plastic pollution this Halloween by taking part in our at-home virtual Halloween Challenges below. Tag #healthebayhalloween on social media, so we can “sea” your creepy creations! We’ll feature a few on our feeds, too.

And, tune in to Heal the Bay Aquarium’s Facebook channel on October 31 at 1:00pm for a virtual Spooktacular Saturday Storytime with a family-friendly reading of “The Garbage Monster” by Joni Sensel.

Sustainable Costume Challenge

Calling all frightfully fintastic Halloween a-fish-ianados! Instead of buying a new costume that will come wrapped in plastic packaging – opt for a DIY look. Make a costume with reused, repurposed or upcycled materials from home, local thrift stores, or any items you can find.

Come on, unleash your kraken of creativity. Create a light saber using the force (of a flashlight and rolled up paper) or swim around your living room with a shark fin made of cardboard, cloth, and safety pins.

Plastic-Free Trick or Treat Challenge

We’re seriously scared by how much single-use food and candy wrappers are in our environment. In the last 5 years, 48,015 food and candy wrappers were picked up by cleanup volunteers in Los Angeles County.

⁣Don’t let the ghost of plastic’s past come back to haunt you. In-person trick-or-treating may be cancelled this year, but we can still enjoy some Halloween favorites at home. Whip up some delicious homemade Halloween candy, purchase candy in recyclable or reusable paper boxes, or opt to give some fun goodies like an ocean animal plush keychain that supports your favorite local nonprofit.

Trash Art Challenge

Conduct your own neighborhood or community cleanup, and turn that gross plastic pollution into trash art. Reuse the materials you find to create a garbage monster, sculpture, mosaic, homage to your favorite artwork, or anything you choose—there’s an ocean of creativity that awaits. Remember to wash your hands, avoid using any hazardous materials, and clean the trash before you get to work.

Get Inspired with our Gallery of Ideas

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Photo Credit: Washed Ashore, Smithsonian's National Zoo

More Family-Friendly Ways to Get Involved:



Laura Rink, Heal the Bay Aquarium’s Associate Director of Operations, deepens our understanding of biofluorescence in the Santa Monica Bay and shares how local ocean animals get their glow on.

When you think about a rainbow, what comes to mind?

A beautiful archway of color after a rain? A favorite multi-colored candy? A representation of equality for all? Or perhaps the engrained acronym from early childhood, ROY G BIV (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet)?

Regardless of what comes to mind, one thing holds true: the colors of the rainbow are what make up visible light. This fact, however, does not hold true as one enters the world beneath the waves of the ocean. In many instances, ocean animals have the unique capability to see what humans consider to be invisible light, illuminating their world in a unique and fascinating way.

Light greatly governs our lives (think sunrises, sunsets, light bulbs, traffic lights, and rocking out to the song “Blinded by the Light”). Light also plays a large role in the life of ocean animals. 

Frequently, ocean animals use light as a form of adaptation for recognition, protection, or attraction. A commonly known use of light in the ocean is called bioluminescence. Examples of bioluminescence include firefly butts, glowing algae, and that oogey boogey fish of the deep that uses a light lure dangling from the top of its head to attract unsuspecting prey. This type of glow adaptation is a chemical process animals use to create light. See the most recent example of bioluminescence in the Santa Monica Bay in April 2020.

More recently scientists have discovered a variety of ocean animals with a protein in their skin that reflects ultraviolet light through a process called biofluorescence. How this works is the protein in the animal’s skin absorbs low energy ultraviolet blue light from the sun and reflects it at a higher energy, resulting in either a green or red fluorescent glow. This is similar to how the ink of a highlighter glows as you streak it across a textbook page, emphasizing a sentence you need to remember for a pop quiz later.

What animals might use this illuminating process, you wonder?

If we dive into the Santa Monica Bay and other Pacific Ocean areas in Southern California we find swell sharks, spiny lobsters, Kellett’s whelk snails, and a large variety of anemones who all get their glow on.   

Although the specific reason that each species glows is not entirely certain, scientists hypothesize that some ocean animals, such as swell sharks, use this process to help identify individuals. Sort of like the identifying spots on a cheetah or a unique birthmark on a human, only much brighter.

Why has it taken scientists so long to discover the biofluorescent glow of ocean animals? Most human eyes are only capable of seeing the colors of light from the rainbow and cannot see the glow of bioluminescence without some extra help. Through the use of a strong ultraviolet light source and blue light blocking lenses, humans are able to see the glow that certain types of ocean animals naturally see with their uniquely adapted eyesight.

If you would like an opportunity to see ocean animals glow and learn more about this dazzling process, stay tuned for our Heal the Bay Aquarium special night event series: “Go With the Glow”*. Guests can take a tour of our Aquarium’s darkened gallery to see the spectacle of biofluorescence in the ocean.

*Our Go With the Glow event series is postponed to accommodate physical distancing and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please sign up for our next event dates on July 3 and September 4.