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Category: Heal the Bay Aquarium

Reflecting on a Year of Progress

Heal the Bay achieved significant accomplishments in 2023 in safeguarding our waters, preserving biodiversity, and raising awareness about the importance of environmental conservation.   Through our collective efforts and with your unwavering support, we worked tirelessly to create cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable coastal waters and watersheds for Los Angeles and beyond from summit to sea. As we reflect on the achievements of this past year, we are thrilled to carry this momentum into the coming year, always aiming to make a lasting difference. Celebrate them with us!  

2023 Highlights   

Our expertise was sought after, and our work was celebrated.  

In 2023, Heal the Bay was honored for decades of commitment to the environment. 

  • The City of Los Angeles officially declared October 20, 2023 “Heal the Bay Day in LA” in recognition of nearly four decades of accomplishments including the 20th anniversary of our Angler Outreach Program as well as our Aquarium.    
  • The 3rd Annual Heal the Bay One Water symposium was convened at Will Rogers State Beach, establishing Heal the Bay as a thought leader among civil engineers, water conservation experts, and local, county, and state legislators.  
  • Heal the Bay was officially appointed to the LA 28 Environmental Sustainability Committee for the 2028 Summer Olympics. 

 

The future of our planet starts with better environmental policy. 

Heal the Bay played a pivotal role in successfully advancing policies and legislation for the benefit of water quality, affordability, and coastal ecosystems to ensure a more sustainable Los Angeles region and climate-resilient California.    

  • Heal the Bay, co-sponsored Assembly Bill 1572 (Friedman) alongside the NRDC and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District. This new law bans the use of drinking water to irrigate non-functional (purely ornamental) turf on governmental and commercial landscapes; and is expected to save the equivalent amount of water that 780,000 households use in a year.  
  • Heal the Bay advocated for water quality protection at the Boeing Santa Susana Field Laboratory site in Simi Valley. The Los Angeles Regional Water Board voted in October to keep regulations on surface water that flows from this previous industrial site, keeping stringent water quality limits, adding more monitoring, and addressing the potential for surface water pollution to impact groundwater, a huge win in the ongoing battle for water quality protection. 
  • Our policy team worked to legally strengthen and streamline fishing regulations to make fishery enforcement more equitable through Assembly Bill 1611 (Lowenthal). This new Heal the Bay sponsored law was supported by conservationists and fishery regulatory agencies alike as a win-win for both nature and the fishing community.   
  • Heal the Bay co-authored a new (and well-received) Vision 2045 Report and shared it with LA County decision-makers who are tasked with overseeing the ambitious Safe, Clean, Water Program (SCWP). This collaborative “vision” laid out a roadmap of bolder goals, and recommendations to more quickly and definitively reach 2045 SCWP targets.   

 

It Takes a Very Large Village.    

This year Heal the Bay published its first Volunteer Impact Report highlighting the accomplishments of our 22,017 volunteers from the 2022 season, which paved the way for the many volunteer successes of 2023. 

  • In 2023, Heal the Bay volunteers collected more than 22,000 pounds of trash and contributing 71,048 hours to protecting our precious watershed and coastal waters!  
  • In September, Heal the Bay mobilized 7,337 volunteers on Coastal Cleanup Day, removing 16,211 pounds of trash (including 429 pounds of recyclables) from greater Los Angeles coastlines and waterways. 

 

Sticking a Fork in Plastic at the Source  

Recognizing the urgent need to combat plastic pollution, Heal the Bay continues impactful campaigns encouraging individuals and businesses to adopt sustainable practices.  For several years, staff has been working with LA City and County to help create legislation aiming to break the harmful plastic cycle.   By advocating for reducing single-use plastics and promoting responsible waste management, we took significant steps toward a plastic-free future.    

  • Our “No Bag November” campaign reaffirmed Heal the Bay’s commitment to a plastic-free Los Angeles.  Through partnerships and community activations, No Bag November urged Angelenos to say “no” to single-use plastic bags and encouraged everyone to grab their reusable bags instead.  
  • In 2023, the implementation of THREE new laws made big waves for the environment as a means to reduce plastic in our oceans.    
  • As a leader in the Reusable LA Coalition, we co-launched the “Hold the Plastic, please, campaign to educate businesses and the public about LA City and County plastic bans that Heal the Bay and partners advocated to pass. 

 

Environmental Health IS Public Health 

In 2023, Heal the Bay continued its relentless commitment to ocean water and freshwater quality from summit to sea.   

  • Since its launch in 2003, Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program (in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency) has educated more than 190,000 anglers about which fish are contaminated, and which are safer to eat.  
  • Our annual Beach Report Card released this year remains the gold standard, providing access to the latest water quality information based on levels of fecal-indicator bacterial pollution in the ocean at over 700 beaches. For more than 30 years, our annual report has assigned “A-to-F” letter grades and ranked the “Best and Bummer” lists across beaches from Washington State to Tijuana, Mexico.  
  • The 5th annual River Report Card was also released, ranking freshwater quality and providing grades for 35 freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County tested during the summer of 2022.  This summer we debuted our upgraded River Report Card with an intuitive letter grading system and celebrated the achievements of our 2023 Summer Stream Team. These two programs are at the forefront of our efforts to keep LA’s waters safe and enjoyable for all.  

 

Conservation and Marine Protection Are Key to Our Mission

Heal the Bay reaffirmed its commitment to biodiversity through both volunteer activations and the tireless efforts of our husbandry, operations, and education Aquarium teams. 

  • Heal the Bay Aquarium plays a pivotal role in species conservation through research, breeding programs, and public awareness campaigns. In 2023, sixteen fish, three swell sharks, and dozens of moon jellies were born at the Aquarium; and our animal care team released five species of protected and rehabilitated marine life including a keystone species, the California Sheephead fish, and a critically endangered Giant Spotted Bass into the Santa Monica Bay. By releasing these animals back into the wild, Heal the Bay continues its mission to protect and support the biodiversity of wild fish populations. 
  • As part of our collective commitment to successful conservation efforts, Heal the Bay Aquarium officially joined the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Wildlife Trafficking Alliance.  As an official member of US Fish & Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Confiscation Network pilot program, the aquarium is certified to care for the well-being of wildlife confiscated from illegal trade.   
     
  • Heal the Bay’s Science and Policy Team successfully advocated for state funding to research DDT in 2022-23 and is now working as part of a coalition to lead public meetings and educate Californias on the impacts of DDT on public health and biodiversity. 
  • As a watchdog for Marine Protected Areas, Heal the Bay’s MPA Team is actively contributing and analyzing critical data on California’s first decade-long review that began in 2023. One of the biggest conclusions of the review highlighted the fact that protecting these precious estuaries for the past decade has worked, allowing for flourishing biodiversity, larger populations, and bigger individual animals in these safeguarded areas. 

Environmental Justice is a pillar of environmental health.    

This year Heal the Bay stood up to big oil and continued to advocate for communities that experience the worst systemic and often immediate impacts of environmental injustice and climate change.  

  • For decades Heal the Bay has advocated alongside organizations like Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling to oppose oil drilling in Los Angeles neighborhoods, a practice long seen as an environmental injustice and a public health crisis. In October of 2023, the LA County Regional Planning Commission voted in support of phasing out oil drilling in the Inglewood Oil Field, one of the largest neighborhood oil fields in the country 
  • In 2023 Heal the Bay publicly endorsed the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy California and will work alongside public health groups, community and faith organizations, and environmental justice leaders from across California to “KEEP THE LAW” (SB 1137) on the November 2024 ballot. This law prohibits new oil wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, day care centers, parks, healthcare facilities, and businesses. 

 

Environmental Education, Outreach and Sharing our Passion to Protect What We Love  

Education remained a cornerstone of our mission.  In 2023, Heal the Bay expanded our outreach program, teaching schools and communities to understand the importance of environmental conservation and the role each individual can play.  

  • Through innovative approaches and interactive science-based programs, educational efforts continued to inspire and inform diverse audiences.  The Heal the Bay Aquarium field trip program sponsored 10,285 students from 22 school districts in LA County— 79% were Title 1 schools.   
  • This year, “Coastal Cleanup Education Day” at the Aquarium hosted more than 250 3rd-5th grade students from across Los Angeles County for a day of beach exploration, scientific excursions, pollution education, and hands on learning while having some fun in the sun.  

 

Cheers to 2023 

 As we look back on 2023, Heal the Bay celebrates a year of accomplishments, resilience, and collaboration. These achievements underscore the collective efforts of our dedicated team, volunteers, and supporters who made a positive impact on the health of our oceans and coastal ecosystems.   

Here’s to a future filled with even greater strides toward a sustainable and thriving planet!    

Looking to the Future with 2024 in our sights 

In 2024, Heal the Bay will enter a bold five-year strategic plan with a focus on protecting and restoring the Los Angeles environment and water. The plan aims to improve water quality, increase access to clean water, and advocate for policies that benefit the environment. We have outlined specific goals and initiatives, such as reducing plastic pollution, restoring wetlands, and engaging communities in environmental education and action.   

Thank you for all our supporters both past and present.


SUPPORT HEAL THE BAY

Want to support our work for years to come? There is still time to make your big impact for Heal the Bay with Year End Giving. Give a gift for good to protect our precious watershed and help keep our coastal waters safe and clean all year round. Whether it be Corporate and Foundation GivingPartnershipsStock DonationsDonor Advised FundsEstate PlansDonations and Sponsorship Opportunities, you can make a lasting impact with your year-end contribution today. Contact Us.


When marine animals are seized in illegal animal trafficking cases, those animals must be cared for by certified Aquariums and Zoos until a verdict can be rendered. That’s where Heal the Bay steps in.

From the desk of Laura Rink, Associate Aquarium Director of Operations, Heal the Bay Aquarium.

Heal the Bay Aquarium is officially a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, a network pilot program that provides a coordinated response for the care and well-being of wildlife confiscated from illegal trade.   

In late October 2023, Heal the Bay joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for a press conference at the Los Angeles Zoo to announce the launch of the Wildlife Confiscations Network in Southern California (see image above).  

“In September 2023 Wildlife traffickers pleaded guilty in federal court in California to illegally importing endangered sea cucumbers – which are prized in China for food and medicine and as a reputed aphrodisiac – from Mexico.” – (Sean Hiller/AP) The Guardian

Online marketplaces and social media have made it significantly easier for consumers to illegally acquire wild animals. Every year, millions of trafficked animals fuel this global demand. Wildlife trafficking decimates species in the wild, fuels criminal networks, destabilizes governments, encourages corruption, and threatens human and animal health through the transmission of diseases. 

Joining this network is an amazing opportunity for Heal the Bay Aquarium to continue its work with partner aquariums and environmental organizations to conserve, protect, and care for the local habitats and species specific to the Santa Monica Bay.  This new Wildlife Conservation Network Certification identifies Heal the Bay Aquarium as a facility qualified to provide the housing and welfare for marine species that are confiscated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service from illegal wildlife trade.  

We hope that through our collaborative efforts, we will not only be able to save the lives of many species but also contribute to effectively combating illegal wildlife trafficking. 

Please note:  The Aquarium does not accept public animal drop-offs.  If you encounter a potential wildlife crime, please report it to the Service’s wildlife trafficking tips line at 1-844-FWS-TIPS (397-8477) or online at: https://www.fws.gov/wildlife-crime-tips. If your tip leads to an arrest, or other substantial action, you may be eligible to receive a financial reward. 

____________________________________________________ 

From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service NEWS DESK

Date: EMBARGOED UNTIL 11:00 AM PT ON FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2023  

Contact: publicaffairs@fws.gov  

 New Network Gives Hope to Animals Trafficked Through Illegal Wildlife Trade 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums announce a pilot network in southern California to provide care and welfare for animals confiscated from illegal trade. 

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums today announced the launch of the Wildlife Confiscations Network in southern California. The network is a pilot program of AZA’s Wildlife Trafficking Alliance that provides a coordinated response for the care and well-being of wildlife confiscated from illegal trade.  

Online marketplaces and social media have made it significantly easier for consumers to illegally acquire wild animals. Every year, millions of trafficked animals fuel this global demand. Wildlife trafficking decimates species in the wild, fuels criminal networks, destabilizes governments, encourages corruption, and threatens human and animal health through the transmission of diseases. 

“Wildlife trafficking is a serious crime that impacts imperiled species throughout the world,” said Martha Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director. “When live wild animals and plants are seized at U.S. ports of entry, it is critical to provide the highest standard of care as quickly as possible. It is also essential to grant safe and appropriate housing for species that cannot be returned to their country of origin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to work with a broad spectrum of law enforcement and conservation partners to ensure the health, wellbeing and proper care of all seized wildlife and plants in our custody. This newly established pilot program network will help conserve animals and plants for future generations.” 

Successful wildlife law enforcement often involves the seizure, confiscation, and holding of a diverse array of wild animals, notably at U.S. ports of entry or exit. In 2022, Service special agents and the Service’s law enforcement partners investigated over 10,000 wildlife trafficking cases and collected over $11,000,000 in criminal penalties. That same year, wildlife inspectors across the country worked alongside other federal agencies to process over 160,000 legal and declared shipments of wildlife products – and seize illegal shipments at U.S. ports of entry.  

Through a cooperative agreement between the Service and AZA, the network will be a point of contact for wildlife law enforcement officers in southern California to lessen the logistical burden of searching for appropriate placement of trafficked animals. With a dedicated wildlife confiscations coordinator, wildlife law enforcement can now make a single phone call to relay the specific housing needs of the species involved. The coordinator will then refer to a list of fully vetted and permitted professional animal care facilities in the region to determine which can meet the case needs. Currently a pilot program, the network plans to replicate the framework developed in southern California throughout the U.S. 

“Many AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums already work closely with law enforcement agencies to provide critical support for the victims of the illegal wildlife trade,” said Dan Ashe, AZA president and chief executive officer. “We are pleased to formalize this work by establishing the Southern California Wildlife Confiscations Network pilot program to ensure the ongoing conservation of threatened species and the wellbeing of individual animals. We will take what we learn in this process and begin to build out the network nationwide.” 

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proud of the work AZA has done to establish the Wildlife Confiscations Network,” said Ed Grace, assistant director of the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement. “Using the network to coordinate placement and care of seized live animals will enhance wildlife law enforcement’s ability to effectively combat illegal wildlife trafficking. This program exemplifies how working together can help serve the American public.”  

If you encounter a potential wildlife crime, please report it to the Service’s wildlife trafficking tips line at 1-844-FWS-TIPS (397-8477) or online at: https://www.fws.gov/wildlife-crime-tips. If your tip leads to an arrest, or other substantial action, you may be eligible to receive a financial reward. 

____________________________________________________ 

About the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, YouTube and Flickr 

 

About AZA: 

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and 12 other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit https://www.aza.org/.   

About AZA’s Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA): 

The Wildlife Trafficking Alliance is a coalition of over 90 nonprofit organizations, companies, and AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, working together to combat illegal wildlife trade around the world. To learn more, visit aza.org/wildlife-trafficking-alliance. 


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Wrapping up our 2023 Heal the Bay Volunteer Season with a look back at our 2022 achievements.


Heal the Bay thrives because of the work and dedication of our amazing volunteers. 2022 was an especially incredible year for our volunteer program as initiatives that were suspended by COVID protocols in 2020 were reenergized by our staff, donors and of course our volunteers!

As we end our 2023 Volunteer Season we take time to reflect on the wins of the year before. Heal the Bay is proud to share all our volunteer accomplishments and achievements in our 2022 Volunteer Impact Report, created by our Volunteer Programs Manager Annie Lopez.

DOWNLOAD THE HEAL THE BAY 2022 Volunteer Impact Report and check out our 2022 volunteer highlights below.

Are you ready to make your impact as a volunteer? Want to help care for animals at the Aquarium? Interested in educating the public on the sand at Beach Cleanups? Ready to help protect precious ecosystems found in Marine Protected Areas? Join us for our LAST Volunteer Orientation of 2023 to learn about all the ways you can help protect what you love!

REGISTER FOR VOLUNTEER ORIENTATION, NOVEMBER 9, 2023.

 



Marine animals aren’t so different from us! They work and play in many of the ways we do. They all have their own unique personalities, but have you ever wondered which ones you share a special connection with based on your astrological sign? Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this article will answer the burning question, “Which ocean animal in Los Angeles are you most compatible with, based on your zodiac sign?”!

 

Aries Giant Sea Bass Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your SIgn

Aries 

As an Aries, you are the extroverted initiator, bravely doing whatever it takes to get a job done. The Giant Sea Bass is the same way, they are outgoing top predators that like to be in control of their environment. You two are a match made in heaven.


Taurus Moon Jelly Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your Sign

Taurus 

Taurus, meet the Moon Jelly! Taurus, you love to be chill, preferring to take the path of least resistance (we should all take a page out of Taurus’s peaceful book). The Moon Jelly can relate; it likes to sit back, look pretty, and eat good food. You’d definitely get along.


Gemini Bottlenose Dolphin Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your Sign

Gemini 

Gemini, you and the Bottlenose Dolphin are perfect for each other. You’re both sociable, friendly, and extremely smart. You both have an extroverted and curious nature that can bring about new experiences and new friends.


Cancer Sand Crab Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your Sign

Cancer 

What better match for Cancer than the Sand Crab? Sand Crabs are exploratory and have lots of different personalities. Both Cancers and Sand Crabs can make anywhere feel like home. Not to mention, Sand Crabs are adorable just like you.


Leo Garibaldi Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your Sign

Leo 

Leo rules over gold, so it’s no wonder your match is the Garibaldi, a bright, show-stealing fish, nicknamed the “Marine Goldfish”! The Garibaldi catches your eye not only with it’s glamorous color, but with its outgoing personality as well. Leo, you and the Garibaldi belong together.


Virgo Horn Shark Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your Sign

Virgo 

Virgo, your shy, helpful, and oh-so-cute match is the Horn Shark! Both you and the Horn Shark have no problem staying to yourself, honoring your introverted tendencies. Horn Sharks like to take their time as they move about the water. You understand their methodical nature.


Libra Gray Whale Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your Sign

Libra 

Libra, you and the Gray Whale make a perfect pair. You are both extremely friendly, and beautiful to look at, but you can become fiercely protective when someone messes with your friends or family. You both give pretty but dangerous vibes.


Scorpio Seahorse Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your Sign

Scorpio

Scorpio, you are most compatible with the sweet Seahorse! The Pacific Seahorse is unique in many ways, namely in their shape and in the fact that they mate for life. Scorpio has the ability to have a long-lasting love, so you and the Pacific Seahorse are a perfect fit.


Sagittarius Sea Lion Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your Sign

Sagittarius

Playful, acrobatic, and charismatic, the goofy and talented Sea Lion is the most compatible marine animal for you, Sagittarius! You will appreciate their boisterous and inquisitive personality. You’re both hilarious and love to make people laugh.


Capricorn Two Spot Octopus Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your Sign

Capricorn

Capricorn, you will love the Two Spot Octopus! This octopus is very smart, sometimes even crafty, and profoundly independent. You can respect how productive the Two Spot Octopus can be. You two are definitely a power duo.


Aquarius Grunion Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your Sign

Aquarius

Aquarius, you rule over community and things that are unique, so the Grunion is the best match for you! Grunions almost always move in a community and are known for their distinct and special spawning behavior. You know all about what it means to do things differently.


Pisces Sea Hare Heal the Bay Which Ocean Animal Are You Based On Your Sign

Pisces

Pisces, your soft, calm, and kind match is the gentle Sea Hare. While the Sea Hare is mellow and genial in personality, they have a very strong sense of smell, similar to the powerful Pisces intuition. You and the Sea Hare are made for each other.

 


 

 

Amber Jay is an astrologer with over 10 years of astrological research under her belt. She utilizes astrology as a practical tool that is enlightening and freeing, focusing on pulling out the inherent wisdom that lies within all of us. You can find her for regular spiritual and astrological guidance at @AmberJayLightsTheWay on Instagram.



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!

image IMG_7419 Swell Shark_ Cephaloscyllium ventriosum_mike bartick (1)
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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.

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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.

   

Learn more about how SMB organizations all over the world can work toward become more inclusive spaces for our LGBTQAI communities all year round!

The SMB Guide to Success in the LGBTQ Market



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.