Top

Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Heal the Bay Aquarium

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!

image IMG_7419 Swell Shark_ Cephaloscyllium ventriosum_mike bartick (1)
<
>

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.

Photo_Mar_28_21 04-42-51 PM-4 Photo_Mar_28_21 04-42-51 PM-1 Photo_Mar_28_21 04-42-51 PM-5
<
>

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

47580464481_674c7c41a8_o 26750452946_97103fc6ea_o 2536647685_24a35e9a75_b aid975669-v4-728px-Make-a-Light-Saber-Using-Everyday-Items-Step-6-Version-4.jpg (2) SideBySideCoco-1200x900 (1) 26680702034_04b02e694e_o
<
>
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.



Every year, our Aquarium celebrates its love for whales – just in time to mark the annual migration of the Pacific gray whale.

Pacific gray whales undergo a gargantuan 10,000-mile roundtrip journey between the Arctic and Mexico each year. These gentle giants breed and give birth in the warm Baja waters in late fall/early winter before heading back north with their calves around February. The migration takes the whales through the Santa Monica Bay – sometimes close enough to be spotted from the West end of the Pier.

Make sure to stop by for Whale of a Weekend on February 15-16 at Heal the Bay Aquarium (and don’t forget to celebrate World Whale Day on Feb. 15). From baleen to blubber, you’ll leave with a ton of knowledge. Be sure to take a look through our binoculars from the observation deck; you might just spy a whale!

Our Top Ten Facts About Whales

  1. Whales only breathe through their blowholes – they can’t breathe through their mouths.
  2. There are two categories of cetaceans (whales): those with teeth and those without.
  3. Toothless whales, called baleen whales, include the Pacific gray whale, blue, humpback, fin, and right whales.
  4. Toothed whales include orcas, belugas, dolphins, narwhals, porpoises and sperm whales.
  5. Nearly 90% of all cetaceans are toothed whales.
  6. Baleen whales are the largest mammals on earth but they eat some of the smallest creatures in the ocean: tiny zooplankton.
  7. Baleen whales have two spout openings (like having two nostril openings).
  8. Toothed whales only have one spout opening.
  9. Narwhals actually only have two teeth. One of those teeth is the large spiral shaped ivory tusk that develops through their upper lip.
  10. When baleen whales blow air out of their spout, it creates a spray that sometimes comes out heart-shaped.



heal the bay

Oh, what a year! We reflect on some of our favorite milestones from this past year. A huge thank you goes out to our bold and dedicated Heal the Bay community. We would not have achieved these victories without your ongoing support.

heal the bay

heal the bay aquarium

heal the bay


Take a swim down memory lane with us and replay 6 unforgettable moments from 2019.

6. Released our first-ever Stormwater Report—a groundbreaking assessment of stormwater pollution management in Los Angeles County.

In our new Stormwater Report we found that local governments have made shockingly minimal progress in addressing stormwater pollution over the last 30 years. If the current rate of stormwater pollution cleanup continues, LA County communities will wait another 60 years for clean water.

The LA County stormwater permit, the only real mechanism we have for regulating stormwater pollution, is up for renewal in early 2020. Heal the Bay is pushing hard for a strong stormwater permit. We fear it will be weakened and deadlines will be extended, further delaying cleanup of local waters. Municipalities can tap into various funding sources to implement projects, so there is no reason for them to not make meaningful progress moving forward.

Our Stormwater Report was big news for LA and was covered by the L.A. Times, The Guardian, NBC, CBS, KCRW, KPCC, KNX, LAist, The Argonaut News, Daily Breeze, Patch and more.


Heal the Bay Aquarium
Photo by Kelton Mattingly

5. Welcomed our 1 millionth visitor to Heal the Bay Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier.

Since our Aquarium opened its doors in 2003, our mission has been to give visitors an underwater experience of the Pacific Ocean without getting their feet wet. We invite all our guests to explore critically important marine habitats and environmental issues.

From swell sharks to red octopus, and seahorses to stingrays, more than 100 local wildlife species thrive at our Aquarium. And now we can proudly say that more than a million visitors have met our local underwater residents!

Around 100,000 visitors come to Heal the Bay Aquarium each year. Local residents and global tourists share their passion for their own local waterways with us and inquire about how to protect what they love. In order to better serve the public, we’ve centered our programs and events around environmental advocacy, community science, pollution prevention and family education.

We also host 10,000-15,000 students each year for school field trips and we offer fun, educational, zero-waste birthday parties.


4. Hosted our 30th anniversary of Coastal Cleanup Day as the LA County coordinator.

What an honor it has been for Heal the Bay to steward this annual event since the 1990s, especially with such vibrant community support. Our very first Coastal Cleanup Day hosted 2,000 volunteers – my how far we’ve come! From diving underwater in the Santa Monica Bay to hiking along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River and everywhere in between, 13,914 volunteers removed more than 30,165 pounds of trash — from 79 locations in Los Angeles County, in a span of three-hours — on Coastal Cleanup Day 2019.

The weirdest finds from 2019 included: A laptop and electric scooters (underwater in Santa Monica); A 20 foot industrial ladder (underwater in Redondo Beach); Horseshoe (Compton Creek); Cat skull (South LA); Positive pregnancy test (White Point Beach); Shake weight (Venice); Half a rat (Arroyo Seco Confluence); and a California King Mattress-sized Styrofoam block (Arroyo Seco Confluence).


Straws-On-Request

3. Supported Straws-On-Request going into effect in the City of LA.

Los Angeles City Hall passed the Straws-On-Request ordinance this past Earth Day, making single-use plastic straws available by request only at all food and beverage facilities in the City of LA. This, along with other plastic reduction strategies, will hopefully decrease the amount of trash we see in our environment while still giving patrons access to straws when needed.

Often times plastic trash flows from our streets into our storm drains and out to the ocean. Plastic straws and disposable beverage, food, and snack-related items are some of the top types of trash we find at Heal the Bay cleanups. In fact, our cleanup volunteers have picked up more than 138,000 plastic straws from LA beaches over the last two decades.

The Ocean Protection Council acknowledges that trash in the ocean is a persistent and growing problem that is negatively affecting human and ecosystem health, not to mention coastal beauty. We’ll continue to work locally and at the state-level in California to reduce the use of harmful single-use plastics.


2. Rejoiced over these announcements: Hyperion will recycle 100% of the City’s wastewater and LA will phase out gas-fired coastal power plants.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant (aka sewage treatment plant), one of the largest in the world, will recycle 100% of the City’s wastewater by 2035. The water will be treated extensively and then put into our local groundwater supply for additional treatment by natural soils. Afterwards, the clean water will be pumped up to replenish our local tap water supply. Hyperion’s capacity is 450 million gallons per day and treated water currently flows out to the ocean. But with full recycling at Hyperion we can re-use that water!

Garcetti’s next big announcement was that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will close three coastal gas-burning power plants in El Segundo, Long Beach and the Los Angeles Harbor area by 2029. The plants will be replaced by renewable energy sources and storage.

Heal the Bay was integral to both advancements. We advocated for over a decade for wastewater recycling and for eliminating the marine impacts of the coastal power plants. Our founder Dorothy Green would be so proud of us, and of our City, for taking these giant steps forward.


the inkwell

1. Celebrated the new listing of the Santa Monica Bay Street Beach in the National Register of Historic Places.

The shoreline at Bay Street in Santa Monica was an active hub of African American beach life during the Jim Crow era. This beach was popular from the 1900s to early 1960s among African Americans, who were barred from enjoying most other southland beaches. Santa Monica’s Bay Street Beach Historic District recent listing in the National Register of Historic Places recognizes this important coastal history.

Since 2013, with the help of African American historian Alison Rose Jefferson, we’ve joined forces with the Black Surfers Collective to honor Nick Gabaldón Day at Santa Monica Bay Street Beach.

Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) was a pioneering surfer of African American and Mexican American descent. He was the first documented surfer of color in the Santa Monica Bay. Nick Gabaldón Day provides an opportunity for broadening outreach, action and education to connect Angelenos with their cultural, historical and natural heritage.


Now go check out our top Instagram posts from 2019. And view our 2019 wrap up for environmental legislation in California.