Jamal Hill, Paralympic swimmer and educator based in Los Angeles, believes the next US Olympic Games champion is 5 years old right now and waiting for their first swim lesson.
To reach them, and many others, Jamal has a goal to teach one million people to swim.
His own love for swimming began at a local YMCA “Mommy & Me” swim class in Inglewood. Even back then, it was evident Jamal was a natural born swimmer.
After paralysis and recovery at age 10, his parents encouraged him to use the experience to inspire others to overcome challenges. Jamal trained and swam competitively in high school and college, and then became a professional Paralympic swimmer. He is currently ranked number one in the US Paralympic 100 Freestyle and number 22 in the world. Watch a short documentary about Jamal’s story.
Jamal’s passion for swimming extends well beyond his personal and professional goals for competing in the next Olympic Games. He also has set his sights on empowering Black and Brown youth locally and globally with water safety and swimming lessons.
The latest statistics from the World Health Organization show that 320,000 people lose their lives to drowning every year. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1-14 years in the United States.
Due to a history of systemic racism in the US, Black and Latinx children are disproportionately impacted by a lack of equitable access to pools for swimming and water safety lessons.
If you are celebrating Thanksgiving at home this year, we have a fun family activity to do that week. Get your household together for a Creative Family Swim on Zoom with Jamal Hill and Heal the Bay at 11am on Saturday, November 28. Together, we’ll unlock basic swim and water safety skills at home without a pool!You’ll just need these supplies: (1) 10-inch bowl, (2) 5-gallon buckets, (1) bench or table that supports your body weight, (1) Note pad, and (1) Pen.
Tune in to Instagram Live with Jamal Hill and Kelly Kelly – Education Manager at Heal the Bay, Danni Washington – TV Host and Co-Founder of Big Blue & You), and Soleil Errico – World Longboard Champion for a series of conversations about equity in water safety and swimming, environmental education and advocacy, and the journey to becoming a pro water athlete. We’ll get started at 11am PT on Tuesday, November 24. Follow @swimuphill on Instagram to watch live and ask questions.
As the sun sets on Coastal Cleanup Month, we are looking back with gratitude and appreciation for everyone who participated in a cleanup, helped us spread the word, raised funds, and joined a virtual event over the course of the month. At a time when it’s easy to feel isolated from one another, it is inspiring to see how we came together across the County, from summit to sea, to protect what we love.
A New Take on 2020
Heal the Bay has been the LA County coordinator for Coastal Cleanup Day for more than 30 years, and 2020 proved to be a completely different cleanup effort than years past. In an effort to prioritize the health and safety of the community, the re-imagined concept was expanded to become an entire month of individualized cleanups close to home and virtual programming to educate about the impacts of trash and pollution and how we can work together towards solutions. Our Heal the Bay Aquarium education team engaged 437 LAUSD students with virtual programming about protecting our watersheds. This was also the first year that we asked for volunteer fundraisers to support our clean water mission. Fundraising teams and individuals raised close to $2,000, and we are grateful for their support.
Each week of Coastal Cleanup Month focused on a different region, starting at the top of our mountains, working through our neighborhoods & waterways, and culminating at our wetlands & beaches. The weekly programming featured a series of panels, webinars, and Instagram Lives with partner organizations that explored the various community and environmental issues facing Los Angeles County.
None of this would have been possible without our Coastal Cleanup Month sponsors, and we would like to thank Water for LA, Blue Shield, K-Swiss, Ford, and West Basin Municipal Water District for their support.
This year, we set a goal of collecting 31,000 pieces of trash throughout the month of September. Thanks to our dedicated Regional Ambassadors and 2,334 registered cleanup volunteers, we surpassed this goal with a total of 40,101 pieces of trash collected!
The top 10 items found across Los Angeles County in the month of September were:
The Effects of PPE and the Pandemic on Our Environment
Coastal Cleanup Month was the first initiative of this scale to track the impact of the improper disposal of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) in LA County. In the first year of tracking this item, PPE was one of the top 10 items found by our volunteers, surpassing common items like glass bottles.
Through our data, we can clearly see the effects of the pandemic on our waste stream. Another observation is that people are relying more than ever on takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining at beaches, parks, and other public spaces. Disposable foodware accessories like utensils, straws, and takeout containers were some of the most common items found during cleanups.
The Plastic Problem
Looking at the data collected throughout Coastal Cleanup Month, it’s obvious that single-use plastic is the top offender. From utensils and straws to takeout containers and grocery bags, our lives are filled with plastic – and so is our environment. Unfortunately, the effects of COVID-19 have worsened these single-use habits and curbed a lot of progress that we’ve seen in Los Angeles over the last several years.
Plastic grocery bags were a common item found during cleanups until California became the first state in the nation to impose a statewide bag ban in 2014. Before the pandemic hit, we were making great strides in reducing our single-use plastic waste. We could bring our reusable bags to the grocery store and refill our reusable coffee cups at Starbucks, and our environment and community were all the better for it. Now, plastic producers are using the pandemic to push disposable plastics as a safer option, a position that has no scientific merit. They were able to undo the work of the state bag ban, and grocery stores statewide have not only reintroduced single-use plastic bags, but many have banned reusable bags from entering stores. This year, we saw plastic grocery bags, cups, and lids in the top 10 items found by our volunteers during Coastal Cleanup Month.
We also found that other than cigarette butts and PPE, the top 10 items are all food and drink-related. With the increasing reliance on takeout and delivery, plastic cutlery and other accessories are becoming a bigger and bigger issue. Restaurants often throw these items in takeout bags regardless of whether the customer needs them or not. To put this in perspective, 40 billion plastic utensils are thrown away each year in the United States. Plastic foodware items, like straws, utensils, and condiment packets cannot be recycled, so they are destined to end up in a landfill, incinerator, or polluting our oceans and communities.
How Can You Help?
Plastic pollution may seem like something that is out of your control. However, there are easy ways you can help make waves of change, from using reusable products when you can to supporting environmental legislation. Here are 3 easy ways to make a change:
From grocery bags and utensils to water bottles and coffee cups, there are reusable replacements for almost all single-use plastics. Check out our Heal the Bay Shop for some ideas! If you’re ordering takeout or delivery, make sure to tell the restaurant “no plastic, please!” and use your own utensils instead. Check out Reusable LA and Habits of Waste for easy ways to help combat this issue, like sending an email to third party delivery companies asking them to make plastic cutlery and accessories optional rather than the default. If you’re unsure where to start, conduct a home waste audit to evaluate your daily habits and see where you can replace single-use items with reusables.
Pack it out.
As a result of limited staff and the increased need to sanitize the bathrooms as a result of COVID-19, Los Angeles County Beaches & Harbors only has the capacity to empty the public trash cans once a day. Combined with the surge of beachgoers picnicking on the sand, this has led to an overwhelming problem of overflowing trash cans and increased beach litter. Similar issues have been observed throughout the County, so if you are enjoying our public spaces, make sure that all trash gets disposed of properly, and pack it out if trash cans are full.
Use your voice.
Every single person has power! You influence the people close to you by voicing your opinion, you influence companies with the purchases you choose to make, and you can influence policy and legislation with your vote. The California bag ban is a good example of local change leading the charge and turning into statewide change, so don’t underestimate the power of advocating at your local City Council or with the County Board of Supervisors. At its core, plastic pollution is not a consumer problem; it’s a producer problem, and you can use your voice to support plastic policies that make plastic producers responsible for the waste they create.
Get Involved with Heal the Bay
We are excited with the results of Coastal Cleanup Month, but protecting our watersheds and coastline is an everyday effort. There are ways you can continue to stay involved and support our clean water mission year-round with different programs like Adopt-a-Beach, Club Heal the Bay, and MPA Watch. If you’re ready for more action to protect our oceans, join our virtual Volunteer Orientation on October 12. And don’t forget to save the date in September 2021 for next year’s Coastal Cleanup efforts!
For the first time ever, Coastal Cleanup Day has transformed into Coastal Cleanup Month, a month-long event to celebrate our watersheds and coastline with decentralized cleanups, educational programming, and virtual events.
Every single one of us makes an impact no matter where we are in Los Angeles County. The mission of Coastal Cleanup Month, beyond cleaning up our streets, creeks, trails, and coast, is to show how closely we are all connected by our watershed. What happens in the mountains makes its way through our creeks and rivers, and the litter we see on our streets eventually ends up on our beaches via the storm drain system.
Heal the Bay has coordinated the Coastal Cleanup effort in Los Angeles for more than 30 years, and we are so thankful to our Site Captains for making the program as successful and impactful as it is. This year, our Captains were tasked with a new challenge: to help us encourage countywide cleanups while also making sure our community stays safe and healthy during these turbulent times. With their support, the role of Site Captains transformed into Regional Ambassadors.
Many of our Regional Ambassadors work for partner organizations that focus on environmental stewardship, conservation, and education throughout LA County, from summit to sea. Today, we are spotlighting some of our amazing Regional Ambassadors from each region!
Dave Weeshoff, San Fernando Valley Audubon Society
“In Los Angeles County alone, we can see well over 270 species of birds each year. Bird watchers enjoy sharing their observations, and so I learn each week where unusual sightings occur, including our seashores, lagoons, harbors, parks, marshes and of course our magnificent San Gabriel Mountains. The additional biodiversity of this high elevation watershed and its forests is easily accessed by way of the Angeles Crest Highway, which begins not far from my home, and is inviting to many resident and migratory birds throughout the year.”
Dave’s favorite cleanup site and happy place, the San Gabriel Mountains, has unfortunately been affected by the Bobcat Fire. While this put a hold on his cleanup efforts throughout Coastal Cleanup Month, he has been enjoying the local parks and cleaning his neighborhood when he can.
Kelsey Reckling, Pasadena Audubon Society
Kelsey and Pasadena Audubon Society are using Coastal Cleanup Month to highlight the Arroyo, the natural watershed that starts in the San Gabriel Mountains and comes all the way down into our neighborhoods. It is home to many species of wildlife, but also a spot where trash often accumulates. Pasadena Audubon Society is encouraging members and anyone else in the area to help clean our mountain areas, the Arroyo, and our neighborhoods.
“I love driving up to the San Gabriels here in Los Angeles because it is so close to us, but it feels like you’re entering a new world. You get to see different plant species and different bird species at higher elevations and also get to have a new perspective,” said Kelsey. “On a clear day, you can look out and see downtown Los Angeles and all the way to the ocean, highlighting our different natural communities.”
Neighborhoods & Waterways
Keyla Treitman, Oak Park Unified School District
Keyla has been a resident of Oak Park for 27 years and chaired the Oak Park Unified School District’s Environmental Education and Awareness Committee for 11 years.
“I feel we all have an obligation to leave a place cleaner than when we got there, a motto the Girl Scouts taught me long ago. Sustainability is a key concept that is important for children to learn so they can do their part to help. By educating them, it can become a natural extension of their daily lives.”
Keyla shared about Coastal Cleanup Month with the school district to encourage families to go out and clean their happy place. They are also working with the County of Ventura and volunteers to refresh the curb signs that read, “Don’t dump. Drains to creek.” at all of the storm drain inlets within Oak Park.
Mika Perron, Audubon Center at Debs Park
Mika is spearheading the Coastal Cleanup Month efforts for the Audubon Center at Debs Park. To help protect bird habitat around the LA River, Mika and her team are participating in cleanups along the LA River in the Elysian Valley and Atwater Village area. They are also cleaning up and maintaining the various habitat enhancement sites along the river, in order to continue building sustainable habitat for birds and other wildlife.
“Our neighborhoods and waterways provide valuable habitat for local and migrating birds, while also providing a gateway for people to learn more about our urban ecosystem. Even if it’s just observing a few crows outside your window, or catching a glimpse of the rushing LA River when it rains, our neighborhoods and waterways provide a place where people can interact with nature in their everyday lives. Local waterways like the LA River are especially important to us because they connect many different neighborhoods and communities – they are not only an important resource for connecting people to nature, but also for connecting people to each other.”
Wetlands & Beaches
Patrick Tyrrell, Friends of Ballona Wetlands
Patrick grew up in Playa del Rey with the Ballona Wetlands as his backyard, inspiring a life-long passion for wetlands and wildlife. He turned that passion into a career by joining the team at Friends of Ballona Wetlands, and is our Wetlands Ambassador for Coastal Cleanup Month.
“Wetlands provide habitat to an amazing array of plants and animals – they are the world’s biological hotspots. They provide food and shelter that are critical to the survival of many species. Every time I travel, I always look up the local wetlands in the area I am visiting, as I know that I will get to see some amazing birds and wildlife.”
Patrick and the Friends of Ballona Wetlands staff are spending the month of September picking up trash along the Ballona Creek levees and Del Rey Lagoon. They are also cleaning up near the Least Tern colony on Venice Beach to ensure that they are not disturbed by the beach groomers that would normally rake the beach every morning.
Brittney Olaes, Roundhouse Aquarium
Brittney joined us as a Beaches Ambassador from the Roundhouse Aquarium in Manhattan Beach, where she gets to share her passion for the ocean and marine life with her local community.
“When imagining the beautiful vast ocean, it’s hard to narrow down its importance. The ocean is home to countless marine life and habitats. It provides comfort and relaxation to those who visit, jobs and security for those who depend on it, and food and supplies for those who survive off it. Even for those who do not directly interact with the ocean, the ocean is making an impact in our lives. From climate regulation to oxygen production, the ocean affects all life around the world.”
The Roundhouse Aquarium is celebrating Coastal Cleanup Month by virtually educating the community about where trash comes from and where it ends up, and encouraging environmental and community stewardship. They are also running a #TrashChallenge to challenge everyone to pick up trash every day in September.
Carl Carranza, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
Carl’s lifelong passion for the ocean and marine life led him to become an Educator with
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. He has been involved with Coastal Cleanup Day for 15 years, and this year, he is one of our Beach Ambassadors.
“Ever since I was a child, I was in love with the ocean, especially tidepools. They have always been a source of joy and wonder for me, and ultimately led me to my degree in marine biology. The ocean is a place I can always reconnect to nature and frees my imagination,” said Carl.
A big thank you to all of our Regional Ambassadors for helping make Coastal Cleanup Month a success! If you’re interested in getting involved and helping protect our watershed and coastline from wherever you live, visit healthebay.org/coastalcleanupmonth.
More Ways to Get Involved this Coastal Cleanup Month:
Beach Programs Manager, Emely Garcia, highlights how Heal the Bay is relaunching our Adopt-A-Beach cleanup program to be a safe, fun, and refreshing summer challenge.
For more than 20 years, Heal the Bay’s Adopt-A-Beach cleanup volunteers have worked together to keep LA County’s natural and coastal resources heathy and safe. Our Adopt-A-Beach program gives passionate volunteers the tools to lead independent cleanups, collect critical marine debris data, and actively participate in protecting what we love. Since mid-March, Heal the Bay has postponed all public cleanup programming to protect public health in response to COVID-19, and we look forward to hosting public cleanups once it is safer to gather.
With the start of summer, we’re excited to relaunch our official Adopt-A-Beach Program for individuals, families, and households that are eager to be a part of the solution to ocean pollution. Ocean pollution starts at our front doors, and local trash on our streets travels through the storm drain systems, creeks, and rivers to become beach and ocean pollution. Everyone can take part and help prevent ocean-bound trash by participating in local neighborhood cleanups. Heal the Bay volunteers have removed more than 2.5 million pounds of trash from L.A County beaches, rivers and neighborhoods. Our newly reimagined Adopt-A-Beach program is adapted to support you and your household to lead a safe and fun cleanup.
About the Official Adopt-A-Beach Program
Our Adopt-A-Beach program originally began as an effort to protect our coastal resource, but Adopt-A-Beach volunteers are encouraged to participate at any location that needs TLC in LA County, such as a park, street, creek, or beach.To participate in the Adopt-A-Beach program, a group needs to commit to cleaning up a favorite outdoor location three times in a year. The program is extremely flexible and allows participants to choose the day, time, and location of their cleanups. Plus, it’s a fun and active way to get involved community science research. (See our guidelines for more details*)
What’s the incentive?
Heal the Bay Educational resources and safety talk from Heal the Bay’s Speakers Bureau.
Nick Gabaldon Day, June 3, 2017 welcome and on-land paddle out ceremony. Participants surround a replica of a painting of Nick Gabaldon by Richard Wyatt. Photography by Elizabeth Espinoza, Martin Luther King Recreation Center, Los Angeles. Adults pictured, standing, left to right: Eric Griffin, director of Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center; Albizeal Del Valle, field deputy for Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Michael Blum, author of the Malibu Historic District National Register Listing Nomination; Alison Rose Jefferson, historian and coordinator of Santa Monica Conservancy’s youth program; Effie Turnbull Sanders, California Coastal Commissioner; Shelley Luce, CEO of Heal the Bay; and Tom Ford, executive director of The Bay Foundation. Front row, kneeling: Meredith McCarthy, programming director, Heal the Bay, led the big hug for the bay.
Join the celebration to honor Nick Gabaldón and his legacy as the quintessential California surfer.
Nick Gabaldón Day introduces communities across Los Angeles County to the magic of the coast through free surf and ocean safety lessons, beach ecology exploration, and a history lesson about an individual who followed his passion against all odds.
In 2013, with the help of African American historian Alison Rose Jefferson, Heal the Bay joined forces with the Black Surfers Collective to amplify and expand Nick Gabaldón Day. This year marks our organization’s 8th Annual Nick Gabaldón Day celebration!
As a result of the COVID-19 response, this year we partnered with World Surf League and the California Coastal Conservancy to create a virtual Nick Gabaldón Day with a series of online panels to dive deeper into past and current issues of justice, equity, and access on our coast.
Panels for Nick Gabaldón Day 2020
The “Nick Gabaldón Day Knowledge Drops Panel” features Alison Rose Jefferson (Historian and Author), Rhasaan Nichols (Filmmaker), and Inés Ware (Special Events Manager at Heal the Bay).
The “Women in Surf Panel” features Rhonda Harper (Founder and President of Black Girls Surf), Jeff Williams (Heal the Bay Board member & Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), and Marion Clark (President of Surf Bus Foundation).
The “Surf Sustainability Panel” features Ryan Harris (Co-Owner of Earth Technologies), Greg Rachal (Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), Jeff Williams (Heal the Bay Board member & Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), and Dr. Shelley Luce (Heal the Bay President & CEO).
The “Community Connectedness Panel” features Greg Rachal (Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), Jeff Williams (Heal the Bay Board member & Co-President of Black Surfers Collective), Jamal Hill (Paralympic Swimmer), Giovanni Douresseau (President of Youth Mentoring), and Marion Clark (President of Surf Bus Foundation). Watch the full video on WSL >
The recent civil unrest has laid bare the desperate need to address racism and racial injustice across all sectors. Our coast is no exception. Let’s dive into some local history and why we honor Nick Gabaldón’s legacy as an early surfer of color in Los Angeles.
Who was Nick Gabaldón?
Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) was a pioneering surfer of African American and Mexican American descent. He was a Santa Monica local and the first documented surfer of color in the Santa Monica Bay. As an accomplished board rider, he smashed stereotypes surfing the Bay during the 1940s and 50s. Gabaldón would sometimes paddle 12 miles from Santa Monica to the fabled break at Malibu. The grueling trip showed true commitment and passion for ocean sports. Tragically, Gabaldón would lose his life during a huge swell at Surfrider Beach in 1951, crashing into the pilings as he tried to pull off a dangerous maneuver called “shooting the pier”.
Gabaldón reminds us of a time when beaches suffered from de facto segregation. The shoreline and waters at Bay Street Beach in Santa Monica were an active hub of African American beach life during the Jim Crow era. This beach was popular in the 1900s to early 1960s among African Americans, who sought to avoid hostile and racial discrimination they might experience at other southland beaches. Racial discrimination and restrictive covenants prevented African Americans from buying property throughout the Los Angeles region, but the community’s presence and agency sustained their oceanfront usage in Santa Monica.
Gabaldón overcame overt and tacit racism and became a role model for communities of color. Taking his rightful place in a lineup with such legends as Ricky Grigg and Matt Kivlin, Gabaldón helped integrate what largely was an all-white sport. In 2008 the City of Santa Monica officially recognized Bay Street and Nick Gabaldón with a landmark monument at Bay Street and the Oceanfront Walk. Today, Gabaldón is an enduring symbol that our beaches are recreational havens for all people.
In past years, we have hosted nearly 150 African American and Latinx youth from Pacoima to Compton for a day of ocean exploration and cultural reflection at Bay Street Beach. Many youth who particpate are learning to surf for the first time. Usually, we celebrate with a paddle out, free surf lessons, and free Heal the Bay Aquarium admission.
“The Ink Well” is a derogatory name that was used for a stretch of beachfront near Bay Street and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, which was a safe haven for African American beach-lovers during the Jim Crow era. This area became a sanctuary of sorts for Gabaldón. He learned to surf at the gentle beach break about a half mile south of the Santa Monica Pier.
In 2019, the Bay Street Beach Historic District became officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places. “[The addition of the] Bay Street Beach Historic District [to the National Register of Historic Places] increases the number of listings associated with communities of color, which [as of July 2019] is less than five percent of the total sites represented on the National Register,” according to Santa Monica Conservancy.
How can I support?
Please consider making a donation to these organizations creating opportunities to advance equity:
The Black Surfers Collective, Heal the Bay, Surf Bus Foundation, Santa Monica Conservancy, and more organizations will be back for the next Nick Gabaldón Day on June 5, 2021. Together, our goal is to continue to reach families in underserved communities and help build personal and shared cultural, historical, and nature heritage as well as civic engagement, which makes up the foundation of stewardship for the next generation of leaders.
Inés Ware, our Advancement Special Events Manager, dives into how Heal the Bay is adapting fundraising programs and focusing on virtually connecting with supporters, including the launch of new live videos and a shift to an all Online Auction.
This year has been one for the books. However, as we brace for a challenging fundraising period as a nonprofit, we are confident we will continue to keep up the good fight to protect clean water.
The health and safety of our supporters, partners, staff, and community is a top priority. Heal the Bay has postponed our Annual Gala until further notice. We also temporarily closed Heal the Bay Aquarium and suspended all public program activities.
Heal the Bay’s Auction is open for bidding on Wednesday, May 20 at Noon PDT and closes Wednesday, May 27 at 9pm PDT. You can text “bringthebeachhome” to 243725 for real-time updates from Heal the Bay about our Auction and Bring the Beach Home live videos.
We have amazing items to offer in our Auction this year, including one-of-a-kind Heal the Bay goodies, luxury getaways, coveted experiences (that can be booked in 2021), and more. View all our Online Auction items and donate to Fund the Bay!
Proceeds from our Auction directly fund Heal the Bay’s science, advocacy, community outreach, and public education work. Bid early, bid often, bid generously, and help us continue to keep California’s coastal waters safe and healthy for people and marine life.
Heal the Bay Live Auction Livestreams
Tune in to our special livestream of the Live Auction on Facebook Live and YouTube Live with auctioneer and host Billy Harris on Wednesday, May 27 at 6pm PDT. I look forward to seeing you there.
Earth Day 2020 may just be a few days away on Wednesday, April 22… but we protect our waters every day! Get involved, be inspired, and learn something new all throughout April. Join us this month for special guest social media takeovers, new blog posts, live videos from Heal the Bay Aquarium, and our freshly launched Knowledge Drops science education series. Scope out our full calendar below for details on how to connect and celebrate.
Shop with Heal the Bay, support our work, and save $8 OFF your order with code “HTBEarthMonth” (expires 4/30). On Earth Day only, you can save $50 on orders of $150 or more with code “EarthDay50” (expires midnight on 4/22).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.