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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Heal the Bay Aquarium

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.



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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.

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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 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.



Heal the Bay hosts hundreds of field trips to Heal the Bay Aquarium and the beach each year. We always kick off the new school year with the biggest field trip of them all: Coastal Cleanup Education Day!

The entire Heal the Bay team takes part in this special day for hundreds of local students in Grades 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Students are invited to experience natural phenomena and explore the great outdoors while practicing science skills. See all the photos from the day.

Inspiring today’s youth with real-world science

This year, we hosted 480 students from ten schools (9 from Los Angeles Unified School District and 1 from Long Beach Unified School District). Kelly Kelly, Heal the Bay’s Education Manager, says students honed in on Next Generation Science Standards “NGSS” Science and Engineering Practices – making observations, asking questions and developing explanations. They also experienced local beach ecology through animal ambassadors and interactions with the natural environment. Tying into Coastal Cleanup Day, students learned about watershed health, human impacts and pollution, and solutions to maintain a healthy environment – they even picked up 18 pounds of trash from Santa Monica State Beach.

Overheard on Coastal Cleanup Education Day

Students were overheard saying, “This is the best day ever!” And when asked what their favorite part of the day was, one student replied  “Sharks! Touching the animals! I’ve never gotten to touch them before,” and “the beach was really awesome!”

One staffer said a highlight for her was when the students made a real-time connection between what they were learning and what they were seeing. After students reviewed a lesson on watersheds and storm drains in Heal the Bay Aquarium, they walked by grates in the ground on their way to the beach, and the students pointed out – “oh those are storm drains too!”

Why is a field trip to the beach so important?

Field trips are a great way to bring lessons learned at school to life. Research shows that outdoor classrooms are a critical tool to teaching and learning science.

“Teachers can effectively use the outdoors as a learning context periodically throughout the year as they instruct lessons on science. There is wide-ranging evidence to support the use of natural environments, local communities and outdoor settings as a real-world context for science learning that engages student interest as they investigate places around them,” according to the California Department of Education.

Get involved

We wouldn’t be able to create such a rich and dynamic field trip experience, if it weren’t for our volunteers, donors and advocates. Here’s how you can help out.

Give time: Stay on the lookout at our Take Part page for our 2020 Volunteer Orientation calendar, and sign up to learn how to become a volunteer at Heal the Bay. And visit Heal the Bay Aquarium – we’re open daily and we’d love to SEA you.

Give money: With 75 cents of every donated dollar supporting science-based advocacy, grassroots community outreach, and award-winning educational programs, your donation is a smart investment. Donate today!

Give voice: Out of time AND money? We get it. Don’t forget your voice is powerful in making change, too. Advocate for healthier seas and a greener and bluer LA, not only for  future generations, but also for the youth today. Sign our Plastic Petition to reduce blight and health risks from plastic pollution in our neighborhoods and add your name to our monthly Blue newsletter for the latest campaigns and opportunities.



Heal the Bay extends our deepest sympathies to all of those who experienced loss in the destruction of the dive boat Conception near Santa Cruz Island on Monday, September 2. The diving community is a close-knit group of passionate people who truly love and appreciate the ocean. Our thoughts are with the families and friends who lost their loved ones.

We are saddened to hear about Marybeth Guiney, a Heal the Bay cleanup volunteer and donor dating back to 2011, who was aboard Conception.


Marybeth Guiney is pictured here to the far right-hand side at a Heal the Bay Speakers Bureau Training in  2017.


Marybeth Guiney is pictured here in the center under the banner holding up a peace sign after a beach cleanup on March 18, 2017.


Ways to Donate

Please seek out the individual GoFundMe pages in support of families.

The divers on the Conception were drawn to the wonders of the Channel Islands. In memory of those ocean lovers, here are some organizations that support this critical ecosystem:

Channel Islands Restoration
Channel Islands Park Foundation

Support local first responders:

Coast Guard Foundation
Red Cross – Santa Barbara Chapter

Please contact us if you have additional recommendations for GoFundMe pages and organizations to support. We did our best to comprise fundraising resources, and we appreciate any suggestions you may have.


In memory of Conception and in honor of all the lives lost, we’re holding a Community Gathering and Vigil at Heal the Bay Aquarium with Eco Dive Center on Thursday, September 5 from 6:00PM to 10:00PM. Our hope is to bring together family, friends, the diving community and the general public to grieve. We kindly ask attendees to please bring open hearts and dive lights or flash lights, if you have them.

Event Information

Event Schedule

  • 6:00pm – Gathering at Heal the Bay Aquarium. Dive videos on display; Bringing a reusable beverage container is recommended.
  • 7:00pm-7:15pm – Formal words from:
    • Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO and President
    • Richard Bloom, Assemblymember for the 50th Assembly District including Santa Monica
  • 7:15pm-7:45pm – Open mic for storytelling and sharing; getting ready for procession
  • 7:45pm-8:00pm – Vigil procession down to beach
  • 8:00pm-8:45pm – Gathering on shore to hear bagpipes in memory of those lost
  • 8:45pm-10:00pm – Gathering at Rusty’s Surf Ranch on the Santa Monica Pier

Transportation to Heal the Bay Aquarium

  • Take the #7 Big Blue Bus to Downtown Santa Monica
  • Take the Expo Train to the last stop at Downtown Santa Monica
  • Paid parking on top of Santa Monica Pier and Lot 1 North


Ever wonder what it’s like to be an Aquarist at Heal the Bay Aquarium? Laura Rink, Associate Aquarium Director of Operations, spills on a day in the life.

A jack (fish) of all trades is a fitting description for what it takes to run the operations of a Heal the Bay Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier.

Sometimes it feels like everything under the sun (fish) can be required. From filthy filters, to growing baby jellies, to system designs and adventures on our beloved Dorothy Green Boat, there is never a dull day.

While the day-to-day operations are ever changing, the purpose remains clear and constant. My job is to create and maintain exhibits for aquatic animals with the mission to inspire a world filled with humans who care about protecting wildlife and conserve our natural resources to allow diverse species to thrive.


Laura Rink presents at the PBS Nature event on July 30, 2019. Photos by Rahoul Ghose/PBS

Although rare, it is sometimes requested that we bring our animal ambassadors to offsite locations. This occasion presented itself recently when I traveled with our East Pacific Red Octopus to a PBS Nature event.

Fondly referred to as the “cats” of the cephalopods, octopuses are notorious for choosing to be social, if, and only if, they so desire to be. Fortunately, on this occasion she embraced the audience with all eight arms, showing how enriching the experience was for both her and the humans who encountered her.

If you’d like to learn more about the marine animals that call the SoCal coast home, come visit us at Heal the Bay Aquarium and sign up for our next Volunteer Orientation to go behind-the-scenes.

All fish puns are entirely intended with the nerdiest of intents.



¡Vengan a disfrutar de las actividades familiares y aprender más acerca de la vida marina local!

1. ¡Los niños de 12 años o menor entran gratis! y el precio para adultos es de solo $7 dólares. ¡En grupos de 10 o más cada persona entra por $5!


2. Con alrededor de 100 especies de animales marinos locales en exposición, actividades para los pequeños, y programas educativos diarios, el Acuario del Muelle de Santa Mónica es el lugar perfecto para sumergirse en las ciencias marinas sin tener que mojarse.


3. ¿Experiencia Virtual? ¡Si, el Acuario de El Muelle de Santa Mónica lo tiene! La exposición virtual les dará la oportunidad de explorar la vida marina que habita las aguas de la Isla Catalina, incluyendo a la lubina gigante (giant sea bass) cual se encuentra en peligro de extinción.


4. ¡Fishing for Health! ¡Pesca Saludable! El programa de Heal the Bay, Angler Outreach Program o en español El Programa de Alcance a Pescadores, lanzo una nueva oportunidad educacional bilingüe en cual aprenderán de la contaminación de peces en el condado, el consumo de pez, y maneras de cocinar para los que pescan en los muelles de Los Ángeles. ¡El programa es incluido con la entrada a el acuario y toma acabo el viernes cada dos semanas a las 2 p.m. de la tarde!


5. ¿Las estrellas del mar no son consideradas un pez? ¡Acompáñenos cada viernes de 2:30 pm a 3:00 pm para darles de comer y aprender más sobre esta especie marina!


6. ¡Tun tun, tun tun, tun tun! ¡Acompáñenos cada domingo de 3:30 pm a 4:00pm a darle de comer a nuestras dos especies de tiburones, y a la misma vez aprenda más información! A la misma vez, puede ser testigo del baile de los bebes tiburones.


7. ¿La basura en exposición? Durante su visita a nuestra acuario podrá ver una exposición de la basura cual es normalmente encontrada en nuestros océanos. Esta basura no es solo interesante para nuestros ojos, es especialmente dañina para los animales marinos. 


8. ¡Usted puede ser un voluntario! ¡Puede participar detrás de las escenas y aprender de los animales marinos! Después tendrá la oportunidad de relatar la información con los visitantes del acuario. 


9. ¿Sabían que pueden rentar el acuario para tener un evento? ¡Una celebración junto a la vida marina! Hagan clic para ver más información de como poder tener eventos en el acuario.


10. El acuario esta directamente en el muelle de Santa Monica. Después de disfrutar del acuario pueden ir a conocer el resto del muelle y disfrutar de la playa de Santa Monica y todas sus atracciones. 

 



What are some of the reasons you should visit Heal the Bay’s Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier this February?

REASON #1. Life is over-whale-ming.

Life can whale-y be crazy sometimes! So, give yourself the gift of time outside to decompress and connect with nature. We are so lucky to be able to do this during the winter in L.A. So, celebrate #WorldWhaleDay with us on Feb. 16 and make a special visit to our Aquarium for Whale of a Weekend. Aquarium naturalists will host a wildlife observation station at the west end of the Santa Monica Pier. Spy for migrating Pacific gray whales through binoculars and explore field guides to identify local birds and marine life. You’ll feel relaxed after staring out over the horizon for a bit—trust us!


REASON #2. The news is a bunch abalone

Sick of click bait? Come experience something real for a change. Featured in our newly reopened touch tank is a species of marine snail known as the Red Abalone (Hailotis rufescens). Red abalone are one of seven species of abalone found along the California coast. These animals are found in rocky areas with kelp, which serves as their most primary food source.

Unfortunately, due to overharvesting, disease, predation, and starvation, these marine snails have struggled to maintain high levels of population. As a result, the California Fish and Game Commission closed commercial abalone fishing in 1997 and have recently closed recreational fishing until 2021. Fortunately, there has been some success in the aquaculture of this species allowing for the outplanting of adults when they grow to maturity. Speak to our knowledgeable Aquarium staff to learn about abalone and how to protect them.


REASON #3. You have a case of the Mondays. 

This should help: Our Aquarium is now open on Mondays. Start your week by meeting some of the locals and exploring 100s of animal and wildlife species that call the California coast their home.

VISIT OUR AQUARIUM

 



December is the Month of the Seahorse at our Aquarium!

From frosty, festive seahorse-themed winter holiday events all along the Santa Monica Pier, to our month-long seahorse feeding and crafts exhibit at the Aquarium, our Pacific Seahorses are the sparkling (sea) stars this season.

To learn what Pacific Seahorses eat and how they thrive, come participate in our special educational presentations every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 1PM. The Seahorse Celebration at both the Aquarium and Pier will end January 6. So swim on by soon and join in the festivities.

After the presentation, help us decorate the Merry-go-Round with a festive seahorse coloring page. Write a wish on the coloring page that will be strung along the Merry-go-round, and seen by all Pier visitors.

Feelin’ inspired by all this talk about seahorses? We encourage you to Aquadopt a Pacific Seahorse and provide for the care and feeding of the animal, plus much more!

Please note: The Aquarium will be closed during December 24 and 25, but will be opened special extended hours of 12:30 PM to 5 PM from Wednesday, December 26, to Sunday, December 30th. The Aquarium will be closed on Tuesday, January 1st to observe the New Year, but open on Wednesday, January 2 for regular hours.



¿Has pensado explorar lo que existe bajo la superficie de nuestro Océano Pacífico y de los animales acuáticos que lo habitan?

El único problema es que ¡no podemos bucear sin equipo, ni permanecer por largo tiempo en aguas frías!

Celebrando #UnderwaterParksDay

Este sábado 20 de enero, en el acuario del muelle de Santa Monica, vengan a celebrar y a disfrutar de la belleza marina y a participar en nuestro nuevo evento virtual llamado Underwater Parks Day.

Nuestros científicos revelarán las maravillas de nuestros paraísos acuáticos a través de una experiencia de video muy cautivadora. Usando gafas especiales, tendrán la oportunidad de bucear y explorar la vida marina del área de Long Point en la Isla Catalina ¡sin mojarse!

Nuestra nueva exposición virtual les dará la oportunidad de explorar la vida marina que habita las aguas de la Isla Catalina, incluyendo a la lubina gigante (giant sea bass) que se encuentra en peligro de extinción.

Nuestro agradecimiento a Alex Warham y a Diatom Productions por hacer estas imágenes de la vida marina fascinantes y disponibles para el público en general.

The BOSCO—una compañía destacada en instalaciones fotográficas, proveerá de recuerdos gratuitos para todos los visitantes, los mismos que tendrán la oportunidad también de tomarse una fotografía con animales acuáticos desde una cabina fotográfica. Todas las fotos serán compartidas con los visitantes a través de correos electrónicos y tendrán la oportunidad de participar en una petición diseñada para proteger las áreas marinas.

Todas estas actividades estarán incluidas con la entrada al acuario.

Honrando a las Áreas Marinas Protegidas

A partir del 2011, una red de áreas marinas protegidas o parques subacuáticos, fueron establecidas en El

Sur de California. Heal the Bay ha trabajado en asociación y con el estado de California para identificar áreas de estos territorios especiales donde la vida marina pueda mejorarse.

Las áreas marinas protegidas están presentes en las aguas de Point Dume en Malibu, Catalinas Island, Abalone Cove en Palos Verdes, y en Point Vicente. Nuestros logros como guardianes de nuestras áreas marinas protegidas han sido posible a través de la educación, investigación, supervisión y programas de apoyo.

Si no pueden asistir al evento de Underwater Parks Day, únanse al programa de MPA Watch como voluntario y ayuden a monitorear estos lugares especiales en las costas de Malibu y Palos Verdes.



Have you ever wondered what lies beneath the surface of our big beautiful Pacific Ocean? Ever pondered what animals lurk in the deep, both big and small?

But there’s just one hitch – you don’t know how to SCUBA dive or have the nerve to brave its chilly waters.

Celebrating #UnderwaterParksDay with “Underwater Treasure”

Well, we’ve got you covered with a new virtual exhibit called “Underwater Treasure” – at our Underwater Parks Day celebration in Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Families and friends of the sea are encouraged to come!

Our scientists will reveal the wonders of our local underwater paradises through a 360-degree experience. Donning special goggles, guests will have the opportunity to dive into the Catalina Island Long Point marine protected area and explore its vibrant marine life without getting wet.

Visitors to our new virtual exhibit will be able to see the animals that call the waters off Catalina Island home, including a peek at the endangered giant sea bass – the so-called ‘VW Bus of the Sea’. We thank our creative partner Alex Warham and his company Diatom Productions for making these astounding underwater images available to the general public.

All special activities are included with Aquarium Admission.

Honoring Marine Protected Areas

In 2011, a network of marine protected areas, or underwater parks, became effective in Southern California, providing safe haven for ocean wildlife. Heal the Bay spent years working with partners and the State of California to identify areas for these special places to be strategically located for enhancement of marine life populations.

Marine protected areas are present in the waters off of Point Dume in Malibu, Catalina Island, and Palos Verdes’ Abalone Cove and Point Vicente. We have continued on as guardians of our local marine protected areas through research, educationmonitoring and advocacy programs.

Can’t join us for Underwater Parks Day? Come join us as an MPA Watch volunteer and help monitor these special places from shore in Malibu and Palos Verdes.

(En español)