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Heal the Bay Blog

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Every year, Heal the Bay staff scientists assign A-to-F letter grades to beaches all along the California coast. These grades are based on bacteria pollution and help inform public health. This year, 92% of 500 California beaches received an A or B grade for the busy summer season. However, several beaches are on our list of no-goes.

We’re announcing our 2019-2020 Beach Bummers List, a ranking of the ten most polluted beaches in the state based on levels of harmful bacteria. This year, six of the ten Beach Bummers are from San Mateo County and the remaining four are in Southern California.

The Beach Bummers of 2020

  1. No. 1 – Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at San Vicente Creek Outlet (San Mateo County) Fitzgerald Marine Reserve has never appeared on the Beach Bummer list before. The beach generally has good summer water quality, but is impacted by dry weather runoff from San Vicente Creek. This beach is one of six San Mateo County Beach Bummers this year, which is unprecedented for one county.
  2. No. 2 – Poche Beach at Creek Outlet (Orange County) Poche Beach is no stranger to the Beach Bummer list, appearing on the list in 2018, 2013, 2012, and 2011. The beach is impacted by the Prima Deshecha Cañada storm drain (referred to as Poche Creek), which carries pollution into the ocean even during dry weather from the Dana Point area.
  3. No. 3 – Pillar Point Harbor at Capistrano Avenue (San Mateo County) Pillar Point Harbor at Capistrano Avenue is one of three Pillar Point Harbor Beach Bummers this year. There are several storm drains that carry pollutants into the harbor in dry weather, and the seawalls around the harbor prevent pollutants from getting flushed away.
  4. No. 4 – Foster City, Erckenbrack Park (San Mateo County) Erckenbrack Park is a first time Beach Bummer; however, this area of the San Francisco Bay has had a known record of poor water quality. This beach lies within an engineered patchwork of enclosed channels that are impacted by dry weather runoff from the surrounding residential and commercial developments.
  5. No. 5 – Topanga Beach at Creek Outlet (Los Angeles County) A 2014 study found Topanga Lagoon as the likely source of bacteria pollution at Topanga Beach. The lagoon sees high amounts of bird and dog fecal matter. When breached, the fecal matter flows into the ocean resulting in high bacteria concentrations. Planning for a lagoon restoration is underway and could mitigate poor water quality.
  6. No. 6 – Pillar Point Harbor Beach (San Mateo County) Pillar Point Harbor Beach is the second of three Beach Bummers contained within the Pillar Point Harbor. Unfortunately, it appears that the entire harbor was more polluted than normal this past year.
  7. No. 7 – Linda Mar Beach at San Pedro Creek (San Mateo County) Linda Mar Beach is making its third consecutive appearance on the Beach Bummer list this year, and is one of six San Mateo County Bummers. This beach is impacted by runoff during dry weather, which flows untreated into the ocean through San Pedro Creek.
  8. No. 8 – Mission Bay, Vacation Isle North Cove (San Diego County) Vacation Isle North Cove is an enclosed beach in Mission Bay that is impacted by dry weather runoff from the surrounding commercial and residential developments. Pollutants are not easily flushed away from this enclosed beach, which is located within a deep cove.
  9. No. 9 – San Clemente Pier (Orange County) San Clemente Pier is making its second consecutive appearance on the Beach Bummer list and is one of two Orange County Beach Bummers this year. This beach is impacted by untreated dry weather runoff that flows into the ocean through a storm drain.
  10. No. 10 – Pillar Point Harbor at Westpoint Avenue (San Mateo County) Rounding out the Beach Bummer list is Pillar Point Harbor at Westpoint Avenue, which is the third Pillar Point Harbor Beach Bummer and one of six San Mateo County Beach Bummers this year. Untreated dry weather runoff appears to be causing significant water quality problems in this enclosed harbor.

For a detailed look at beach results by location, why some beaches are more vulnerable to higher levels of pollution, and more information about the Beach Bummers (pages 16-18), refer to our complete annual Beach Report Card 2019-20

Polluted ocean waters are a significant health risk to beachgoers. We encourage all beachgoers to check the Beach Report Card when planning a trip to the ocean! Because a day at the beach shouldn’t make anyone sick.

Coming into contact with beach water that has a grade of C or lower greatly increases the risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and rashes. 

See more highlights from this year’s report.



Heal the Bay’s Advancement Special Events Manager, Inés Ware, kicks off our latest collaboration with K-Swiss and how it represents a very special fish in the Pacific Ocean.

 

Heal the Bay x K-Swiss is back with another ocean-inspired shoe! This time around it is all about the Garibaldi, our beloved California State Marine Fish.

The Garibaldi is a protected inhabitant of the waters just off the California coast. The fish is well known for their bright orange color and feisty behavior. As one of the most recognizable marine animals in the ocean, the Garibaldi’s bold contrast against the cool blues and greens of the surrounding ocean kelp forest habitat make it a shoo-in for instant inspiration (see what I did there?). 

Fun fact: juvenile Garibaldi fish have bright blue spots that fade as they mature. 

The K-Swiss team just released a new shoe featuring textured fish scales and an orange exterior, and there’s even a kids version with bright blue spots along the sides, as a reference to the unique characteristic of juvenile Garibaldi.

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Photo by Monterey Bay Aquarium

These shoes are a perfect pop of color and pair nicely with our Heal the Bay gear. We are stoked to see one of our favorite fish making such a bold fashion statement for the ocean!

View the new Garibaldi Shoe

On top of paying homage to marine life through its creative design, the Garibaldi shoe features recycled materials. Specific materials include 100% recycled PET linings, 100% recycled polyester laces, Ortholite ECO comfort sock-liner with Bio-based castor bean oil instead of 20% of petroleum, Bloom foam algae-based sustainable midsole foam, and a cellulose-based water-soluble biodegradable hang tag. 

 

All proceeds from the sale of the Garibaldi shoe go toward supporting Heal the Bay’s work to make LA’s coastal waters and watersheds safe, healthy, and clean. We are thankful for K-Swiss’ continued commitment to sustainability and  generous support. From volunteering at our beach cleanups to creating shoes with eco-friendly materials to donating proceeds, we applaud K-Swiss for going the extra mile to protect what we love. 

See our wave-inspired Heal the Bay x K-Swiss shoe that we launched last year, and check to see if your size is still available (in mens and womens).



Due to COVID-19, the recent closure of all Southern California piers was a major issue for subsistence anglers. As piers now begin to reopen, Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program Manager, Frankie Orrala, gives tips on consuming seafood that is healthy and sustainable. 

Staying healthy during COVID-19 is extremely important. Not only should we accommodate social distancing, wear facial coverings when out, and practice good sanitation, but we should also pay attention to the food we put in our bodies. Here are some helpful tips on how to eat healthy and sustainable seafood now and in the future.

Where does seafood sold in the US come from?

Fisheries in the United States are generally well managed thanks to the federal Magnuson-Stevens Act and the California Marine Life Protection Act. However, the US imports over 90 percent of its seafood from abroad, and unfortunately the bulk of it comes from places with weak fisheries management systems or from areas experiencing human rights abuses. When shopping for fish or seafood, it can be difficult to trace a product back to the source in order to understand local management practices and regulations.

How to shop for healthy and sustainable seafood

When purchasing seafood that is labeled with the source location, use Seafood Watch and the Marine Resources Stewardship Council to see if the seafood has been caught sustainably.

Another good way to get sustainably caught fish is by eating seafood sourced locally, especially here in California. Even in the US some fish can be non-sustainably caught, contaminated, or otherwise unhealthy to consume. So it is always best to check Seafood Watch and the Marine Resources Stewardship Council as well as ask your seafood provider if more information is available.

Best practices for fishing in SoCal

In Southern California, many fish caught from local piers are contaminated with DDT and PCBs. Some examples of such fish are white croaker, barred sand bass, barracuda, topsmelt, and black croaker. The best way to avoid eating these contaminants is to choose fish that are deemed healthy to eat and consume only the fillet of certain fish from this area. By eating only the fillet and removing the skin, the organs, and fatty parts of the fish, you can reduce the level of these chemicals and avoid possible negative health effects. People who regularly eat contaminated fish face greater health risks because of prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals.

Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program, through the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC), educates pier anglers about the risks of consuming contaminated fish and how they can protect their health. However, not only anglers are exposed to these contaminated fish – some of these fish appear in local markets for consumer purchase.

It’s important to note that exposure to DDT and PCBs will not make people immediately sick. Continuous, low level exposure may build up in the body and increase risk of developing health problems such as chronic health conditions, liver damage, decreased ability to fight diseases, reproductive harm, neurological effects, and developmental effects.

To learn more about eating healthy fish, visit www.pvsfish.org and check out the video below from the FCEC on how to prepare your fish safely.


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angler outreach los angeles county

Mantenerse saludable durante la pandemia de COVID-19 es extremadamente importante. No solo debemos practicar pautas de distancia social y buen saneamiento, sino que debemos prestar atención a los alimentos que llevamos a nuestra mesa. Siga leyendo para aprender cómo comer pescados saludables y sostenibles ahora y en el futuro.

La pesca en los Estados Unidos generalmente está bien administrada, gracias a la Ley Federal Magnuson-Stevens y Ley de Protección de la Vida Marina de California . Sin embargo, EE. UU. importa más del 90 por ciento de sus productos pesqueros del extranjero, y puede ser difícil rastrear esos productos. Muchos de ellos provienen de países con una gestión pesquera débil y de lugares con problemas pesqueros o violaciones de los derechos humanos. Cuando compre mariscos en el extranjero, usa recursos como el de Seafood Watch y el Marine Resources Stewardship Council para ayudarte a encontrar mariscos que hayan sido capturados de manera sostenible. Una de las mejores maneras de garantizar la captura sostenible de pescado es comiendo localmente, especialmente aquí en California. Sin embargo, algunos de los peces en nuestros mares locales están contaminados y no son saludables para el consumo.

En el sur de California, muchos de los peces capturados de muelles están contaminados con DDT y PCB, como la corvineta blanca, cabrilla, barracuda, pejerrey y corvineta negra. La mejor manera de evitar comer estos peces con estos contaminantes, es elegiendo ciertos peces de esta área que sean saludables para el consumo y solo el filete.

Al comer solo el filete y eliminando la piel, visceras y partes grasosas del pescado, podríamos reducir el nivel de estos químicos y evitaríamos posibles efectos negativos para la salud. Las personas que comen pescado contaminado regularmente enfrentan mayores riesgos de salud debido a la exposición prolongada a estos químicos. El Programa Educacional Pesquero de Heal the Bay, a través del Grupo Educacional sobre la Contaminación de Peces (FCEC, por sius siglas en inglés), educa a los pescadores de muelles sobre los riesgos de consumir pescado contaminado y cómo pueden proteger su salud. Sin embargo, no tienes que ser un pescador para exponerte a estos peces contaminados: algunos de ellos han aparecido en mercados locales para la compra del consumidor.

Es importante tener en cuenta que la exposición al DDT y PCB no enfermará a las personas de inmediato. La exposición continua de bajo nivel puede acumularse en el cuerpo y aumentar el riesgo de desarrollar problemas de salud, como riesgos de contraer cáncer, mayores problemas de salud no cancerosos pero crónicos, daño hepático, disminución de la capacidad para combatir enfermedades, daño reproductivo, efectos neurológicos y efectos durante el desarrollo.

Desafortunadamente, la pesca en los muelles del sur de California se ha convertido en un problema importante para los pescadores de subsistencia debido al problema que enfrentamos con COVID-19 y el cierre de todos los muelles. A medida que los muelles comiencen a reabrir, esperamos que los pescadores y todos los que aman comer pescado tomen decisiones saludables al informarse sobre los problemas de contaminación de los peces y la sostenibilidad.

Para obtener más información sobre cómo comer pescado saludable, visite www.pvsfish.org y consulte el siguiente enlace del FCEC sobre cómo preparar su pescado de manera segura:


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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).

 

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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.

nick gabaldon day 2013 poster

What is Nick Gabaldón Day?

To honor his pioneering spirit, Nick Gabaldón Day is celebrated during the first week of June with community partners, including Heal the Bay, the Black Surfers Collective, the Surf Bus Foundation, and the Santa Monica Conservancy.

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.

In 2020, World Surf League and the California Coastal Conservancy joined our efforts as well.

What was “The Ink Well”?

“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:

Save the Date: Nick Gabaldón Day 2021

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.

 


 

Photos from past #NickGabaldónDay events

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What an honor and awesome experience it was to paddle out for Nick Gabaldon today! . . . Nick Gabaldon, was the earliest recorded surfer of color who taught himself how to #surf. He would surf at Tower 20, in Santa Monica, California, and would even #paddle 12 miles north to #Malibu (He didn't own a car) often to surf better waves. The white Surfers of Malibu did not bother him at all, instead showed #respect, which was unheard of or rare at the time. He unfortunately passed away doing one of the most #dangerous tricks in surfing, #shooting the pier. Though he's no longer with us, he has been a #huge influence and #role model for both African and Mexican American surfers across the world! . . . Today, we #commemorate Nick with a paddle out, dedicated the time out at sea to any other losses in ones family (I did for my grandmother), threw our roses in, #splash some water, and caught a #wave in their names! 💙 . . Then we taught #InnerCity youth how to surf!! Some of these kiddos have never been to the #beach, the ocean, or even have felt #sand!! It was awesome to #educate, #empower, and even have good old #fun with such stoked kiddos! 🤙🏾 . . It was wonderful to #serve alongside the Black Surfers Collective, Heal The Bay, Surf Rider, The Surf Bus Foundation, and many more! Thank you to everyone that were there, truly made my day, and I'm sure it changed lives for many others! . . #NickGabaldonDay #Honor #PaddleOut #ForThoseWatchingOver #SurfingCommunity #Unity #Serving #Influence #FunInTheSun #StayAwesome #SharingTheStoke #Grateful

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Life lessons. #nickgabaldon

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Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program Manager, Frankie Orrala, shares the program’s positive impacts and successes from over the last 17 years.

Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program (AOP) is celebrating 17 years! This program is designed to educate pier and shore anglers in Los Angeles and Orange County about the risks of consuming fish contaminated with toxins such as dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Created in 2003, AOP is a component of the Fish Contamination Education Collaboration (FCEC) and managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a far-reaching public education and outreach program. Notably, the program also works in association with federal and state agencies as well as local community organizations.

The FCEC was established to address a major contamination site (aka Superfund site) off the coast of Los Angeles, along the Palos Verdes shelf. DDT and PCBs were historically discharged into the ocean near the Palos Verdes Peninsula, pollution which still exists in the sediment today. These toxins can travel through the food chain into fish and potentially have negative impacts on human health if the fish are eaten; certain species of fish and certain areas are more likely to be contaminated.

The goal of the AOP is to educate anglers about this contamination and share which fish should be avoided. During visits to different piers in Southern California, Heal the Bay’s educational team has interacted with diverse fishing communities and outreach is conducted in multiple languages. Heal the Bay is proud to have a team of bilingual staff who have educated Southern California pier anglers in multiple languages, including: Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Khmer and Russian.

Since its inception 17 years ago, Heal the Bay’s AOP team has educated more than 170,000 pier anglers. Along the way, we have heard many stories and learned a lot about the people who frequently fish on our local piers. We appreciate these anglers and the knowledge and experiences they share with us.

Awards Received at the National Level

In 2009, the EPA presented two prestigious awards to the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative. FCEC was recognized for its work to protect the most vulnerable populations in Southern California from the health risks of consuming fish contaminated with DDT and PCBs; the other award was given to Heal the Bay and all FCEC partners in Los Angeles for Achievement in Environmental Justice.

On behalf of the AOP and Heal the Bay, I traveled to Washington D.C.  to receive the distinguished award in recognition of Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement. This award is presented annually to an individual or community group working with a Superfund team for outstanding achievements in the field of environmental protection.

Heal the Bay was thrilled to be selected to present to the FCEC among other national projects. The recognition was significant as it confirmed Heal the Bay’s work is truly protecting the health of all people, especially communities with economic and social disadvantages.

 

2009 Award Winner: Frankie Orrala of Heal the Bay receiving the Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement and Environmental Justice Achievement Awards

In addition to accepting this award in Washington D.C, in 2009, I traveled to Ecuador in South America, along with scientists from the National Fisheries Institute (Instituto Nacional de Pesca) as well as professors, researchers and students from the University of Guayaquil. We came together to talk about FCEC’s efforts to monitor pollution and educate the public about its effect on human and environmental health.

The international interest our program receives is an honor; the AOP team is busy building on these relationships and with more communities as they are facing similar problems as Southern California.

Continuing to advance environmental justice is a critical objective of our work. Moving forward, Heal the Bay’s AOP program remains committed to educating and protecting chronically underserved populations in the region, many of whom are exposed to higher rates of pollution compared to the general population.

In closing, there are many reasons for the AOP team’s continued success, from our great team members to the communities we work with, to the experts who are providing us with advice. All of it wouldn’t be possible without Heal the Bay’s dedicated supporters and for that we say THANK YOU!


To learn more about our program, visit www.pvsfish.org and if you want to join our bilingual team call us at 310-451-1500 or visit our site at www.healthebay.org

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Luke Ginger, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay, discusses our disappearing Los Angeles County beaches due to climate change, and what we can all learn from the COVID-19 pandemic as local beaches begin to reopen. Luke fights for the environment’s rights by advocating for water quality regulation and enforcement. But he’s also looking out for the humans who go to the beaches, rivers, and streams by managing the Beach Report Card with NowCast and the River Report Card.

The beach has always provided me with happiness, fun, comfort, and adventure. As a kid, my parents had to pry me and my siblings away from the beach every time we went – we would have gladly tried our luck sleeping on the cold damp sand rather than get into our minivan. Two decades later, most of my beach days end with me reluctantly walking back to my Prius clutching my beach accoutrements with pruney fingers and purple lips from staying in the water too long. Only now I don’t have to convince anyone to stop for ice cream on the way home!

The ocean always has and always will be a fixture in my life. And, the same is true for many people living in SoCal. Beaches are where families gather, where people go to relax and have fun, and where anglers provide food for their families. The beach is a priceless resource woven into our lives providing us with happiness, memories, and sustenance. This makes it hard to accept the bitter reality that we will lose many of our beaches due to impacts from climate change and coastal development. 

Climate change is causing our oceans to warm up. When water warms up it expands, leading to sea level rise. The melting of glaciers and ice sheets also contributes to sea level rise. This puts our local beaches at risk because the ocean will gradually get bigger and eat up more sand and land. 

Our coastline is also shrinking because coastal development exacerbates beach loss by acting as a barrier to the natural movement of beaches inland as well as by cutting off natural sources of sand that would have nourished our beaches.

Depending on our response to sea level rise and our approach to coastal development, Southern California is predicted to lose between 31% and 67% of its beaches. What’s even more devastating is the fact that we cannot make that figure 0% because there has not been enough done to stem climate change both locally and globally. The hard truth is losing beaches is an inevitability due to humanity’s inaction to properly safeguard them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a dire glimpse into what our future holds. It is telling that many beaches in California had to be shut down during the pandemic because too many people were drawn to them. The beach gives us opportunities to exercise and offers moments of mental peace and relaxation, especially during difficult times. While beaches in Los Angeles County start to reopen this week for active recreation activities only, we still face the reality that soon there will be less beach for all of us to enjoy. 

These facts are hard to live with. But, we need to harness our emotions and use them for action. Our actions now can ensure we give our disappearing beaches a fair chance at being saved.

Here’s what you can do right now to help save our remaining beaches:

  1. Become civically engaged! Support policies that reduce pollution and wane our dependence on oil and fossil fuels. Heal the Bay supports California Senate Bill 54/Assembly Bill 1080, which requires companies to reduce their single-use plastic packaging (derived from oil) by 75%. We also support the end of drilling in neighborhoods as well as on the coast. If there are no climate action policies to vote on, or if you can’t vote, become an activist and participate in local events like Fire Drill Fridays or volunteer with organizations like STANDLA.
  2. Change your behavior! Consider personal lifestyle changes such as eating more plant-based meals and reducing your dependence on single-use plastics. See our list of climate action tips to help you. If we all take steps to reduce our individual climate impacts, we can have a huge impact. But we can’t rely solely on our individual actions; we need policies at all levels of government that will reign in polluting industries. Learn more about why we need to make systemic changes along with personal changes.
  3. Volunteer with Heal the Bay! We offer many opportunities for individuals and groups to help make an impact on protecting the environment. Register for a virtual volunteer orientation. Once we are back up and running, you can join us for a beach cleanup, help educate the public at Heal the Bay Aquarium, and participate in our community science programs.  
  4. Enjoy the beach safely! Tackling climate change requires widespread public support and for all of us to adapt to new realities. Whenever you visit the beach, make sure you are following all signage posted in the area as well as health and safety guidelines. And before you go in the water, make sure you check the Beach Report Card for the latest water quality grades and information.
  5. Increase coastal access! Heal the Bay supports coastal access for all, and it concerns us that many local communities in California have no access to open space. Nature heals us, and everyone should be able to enjoy the outdoors. As we continue to prioritize the COVID-19 response, and look toward the gradual reopening of outdoor spaces and related services, it is crucial for our state to work with diverse stakeholders to set clear health and safety guidelines so our outdoor spaces can reopen to all people and for a variety of activities. You can take action by urging your local and state government to prioritize safety, equity, and access when creating reopening plans for our beaches, parks, and trails.


Annelisa Moe, our Water Quality Scientist, explains the potential of LA’s rainfall, and how every individual can take part in voicing which stormwater capture projects should get Measure W funding.

Like all those across the country who can, I have been practicing responsible physical distancing and staying #SaferAtHome, only leaving the house to buy food or go for a walk. It is getting hot now, but throughout March there were days when I had to carefully time my neighborhood walks to avoid getting caught in the rain – something I am not used to having to do here in sunny Los Angeles.

Although we experienced a very dry winter this year, we have also gotten an unusually wet spring. In fact, we got 4.35 inches of rain in March alone, far exceeding the historical average for that month. But let’s be honest, when it comes to rainfall in LA, “average” does not happen all that often. In 2017, we received only 5 inches of rain. In 2018, we got a whopping 19 inches of rain. And in the 5 years that I have lived in LA, I have been caught off guard by more than one mid-summer downpour.

That’s why this is the time – right now – to figure out how to capture, clean, and reuse more of our stormwater, even from the most unexpected showers, so that we can prepare for a warmer and drier future with a dwindling snowpack.

Stormwater is the number one source of pollution in our rivers, lakes, and ocean. But it could instead become a new source of water for beneficial use. We now have the opportunity to fund new multi-benefit and nature-based stormwater capture projects because LA County voters approved The Safe, Clean Water Program (Measure W) back in 2018. Dozens of projects were proposed across Los Angeles County, 53 of which qualify for funding through the Safe, Clean Water Program this year! Funding and completion of the best of these projects – the ones that truly exemplify the goals of the Safe, Clean Water Program – will improve water quality at beaches and in rivers to protect public health, and green our communities and promote local water to make LA County more resilient to climate change.


Safe Clean Water Program GIS Reference Map. Each Watershed Area is shown in its own unique color. The colored dots represent all of the projects that applied for Safe, Clean Water Program funding this year. Explore the interactive map for more information.

As members of the nine Watershed Area Steering Committees (WASCs) decide which projects to fund, they must consider the commitments made to the greater LA community under this Program, including the goals to improve water quality, prioritize nature-based solutions, foster community engagement, ensure the equitable distribution of funds, and provide local quality jobs.

Fifty-three stormwater capture projects to choose from for Measure W funding! 

OurWaterLA, a diverse coalition working to reinvest in our water future, believes that the following projects best exemplify the goals of the Safe, Clean Water Program, out of the 53 proposed:

In response to COVID-19, WASCs will now convene through virtual online meetings, which are open to the public. The nine WASCs will be making their final decisions on which projects to fund starting Tuesday, April 28, and continuing through May. These funding decisions must be made with consideration given to community input. OurWaterLA will be advocating for the projects listed above, and providing additional input on other proposed projects.

Join Heal the Bay and OurWaterLA to become a Water Warrior:

Search your address to find out which WASC area is yours. Click on your WASC link below to learn all about your watershed area and your committee representatives, and then scroll down to sign up for e-mail updates. You can also check out the OurWaterLA Events calendar to see upcoming committee meeting dates, and find links to join your virtual online meeting.

Take a look at the PowerPoint presentations for the projects proposed in your WASC area, and contact your WASC representatives about which projects you would like to see funded this year.

Check out OurWaterLA Water Leader Resources. Don’t forget to share these electronic resources with your community. We may be physically distancing right now, but we can band together online and in spirit to secure our water future!

Contact Annelisa at Heal the Bay with any questions, or to learn more about how to get involved.


Want to learn more?



Sign Petition

On March 26, in response to lobbying from the oil and gas industry, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced rollbacks on enforcement of regulations during the COVID-19 response. These rollbacks put public health at risk by letting industries off the hook for their legal requirements to control their pollution. Communities that are already disproportionately burdened by pollution, including the unsheltered and low-income communities of color, are the ones who will be hit hardest. The government’s response to a pandemic should not upend its commitment to address other, longstanding threats to public health.

It is clear that COVID-19 is having major impacts on all sectors, from individuals to small mom-and-pop businesses to large factories. There may be cases when a relaxation in requirements is acceptable to help those businesses, but to cease oversight altogether is not the answer. Blanket exemptions cannot be tolerated, because doing so puts people’s health further at risk, particularly those who are most vulnerable and most likely to be impacted by COVID-19. Any regulatory flexibility must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Now is not the time for blanket rollbacks of environmental regulations. The administration’s recent actions to rollback regulations on car fuel standards as well as water and air pollution are unconscionable and only take advantage of this terrible pandemic at the expense of public health.

What do the EPA rollbacks mean?

We have seen dozens of piecemeal rollbacks during this current administration. Now the EPA has released a memorandum announcing across-the-board rollbacks on enforcement of regulations that protect public health and natural resources, including clean water. It applies to any facility regulated by the EPA including private industries that discharge polluted water, as well as essential services including drinking water or wastewater treatment facilities.

The memorandum states that COVID-19 “may affect the ability of an operation to meet enforceable limitations on air emissions and water discharges, requirements for the management of hazardous waste, or requirements to ensure and provide safe drinking water.” The memorandum encourages facilities to report instances of non-compliance that may create an acute risk to human health or the environment. But encouragement is not enough – these occurrences must be reported immediately and publicly so that people are aware of the increased risks to their health.

Additionally, the EPA will no longer penalize violations of routine monitoring and other obligations. Monitoring and record keeping are fundamental to addressing pollution – knowing which contaminants (and how much) are discharged into our waterways allows us to prioritize public health issues and demand plans to address the pollution.

Here in California, state laws like the Porter-Cologne Act protect public health and the environment by creating a strong backstop to prevent environmental rollbacks; however, this federal non-compliance policy creates enormous pressure for state agencies to follow suit.

The California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) announced back on March 20 that the “timely compliance by the regulated community with all Water Board orders and other requirements… is generally considered to be an essential function during the COVID-19 response.” However, they are reviewing requests to roll back protective measures related to water here in California, on a case-by-case basis. We are counting on the State Water Board to uphold environmental and public health protections, and provide leniency only when it is in the public interest.

What are people doing about these rollbacks?

As we all know, WATER IS LIFE. Particularly now, as we respond to COVID-19, we must ensure reliable access to safe and clean water, to protect the health of people and the natural resources on which we depend. Therefore, advocacy groups across the country have been fighting these rollbacks since they were first announced.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of environmental justice, climate justice, and public interest advocacy groups filed a Petition for Emergency Rulemaking in response to this reckless non-enforcement policy, stating that any facility that stops monitoring and reporting their pollution must notify the EPA, to be publicly posted within one day.

Dozens of California based environmental groups (including Heal the Bay) sent a letter to Governor Newsom and many other state officials, urging them to remain committed to prioritizing public health and the availability of safe and clean water for all Californians.

Heal the Bay is urging the EPA and the State Water Board to uphold environmental regulations that protect public and environmental health, and to give leniency only when it is truly necessary and does not jeopardize public health. We also demand transparency so that any requests approved by the State Water Board are publicly noticed so the public can protect themselves and groups like Heal the Bay can continue to watchdog the decision-making process.

How you can help!

Sign Heal the Bay’s petition to tell our State Water Board to:

  • uphold environmental regulations to protect public and environmental health,
  • only give leniency when it is necessary and does not jeopardize public health, and
  • ensure transparency so the public can know when any leniency is given.

Join the Center for Biological Diversity to fight the federal rollback by sending in your own comment letter directly to Andrew Wheeler (The Administrator of the EPA), or submit a letter to the editor of your local paper.

 

Sign Petition

 



Eight years have passed since Marine Protected Areas started to officially be implemented in California. Heather Leigh Curtis, MPA Watch & Outreach Associate at Heal the Bay, calls out eight reasons why we should expand our network of Marine Protected Areas. Even though we can’t visit our local MPAs and beaches in LA right now, we can reflect on their critical importance during Earth Month.

California’s network of Marine Protected Areas “MPAs” sustains a variety of majestic landscapes and thriving ecosystems by ensuring precious marine life habitats are safeguarded. Just like the beach, MPAs welcome guests to visit and explore. 

Los Angeles County proudly manages 13 MPAs in three regions: Point Dume, Ranchos Palos Verdes, and Catalina Island. As part of the California Statewide MPA Network, these 13 areas have special protections in place to preserve their biological, geological, and cultural resources.

MPAs not only offer protection to the marine life and ecosystems within their boundaries, but also provide benefits to all Angelenos. Read on to learn more about all the benefits from MPAs!

1. Fun in the sun

There are so many reasons to go to the beach and visit your local MPAs! Some beachgoers are looking to relax and recharge while others are looking for adventure or physical fitness. Whatever you are searching for, beaches have a lot to offer. Activities such as swimming, surfing, stand up paddleboarding, sunbathing, wildlife watching, and tide pooling can be whole-heartily enjoyed at the beach and in our MPAs. 

2. Bigger fish in the sea

MPAs are underwater growth engines. These healthy habitats create the conditions for ample biodiversity, meaning a greater abundance and variety of marine life. Plus, wildlife populations are able to readily replenish and species can develop into larger sizes. Healthy, large animals often spillover into areas outside of the MPAs boundaries, which helps the overall ecosystem flourish.

3. A stronger blue economy

From whale watching excursions and recreational diving to seafood, the ocean is the backbone for both the tourism and fisheries industries. Prior to implementing MPAs in California, some feared that zoning off parts of the ocean from fishing could negatively impact local anglers visiting the area and the livelihoods of commercial fishers. Fortunately, a recent study suggests California MPAs boost local economies, which is also supported by similar research in the EU.

4. More resilient to pollution

The ocean is massive and incredibly deep, but it is not large enough to dilute all of the pollution from humans, nor should we rely solely on it to play that role. Some pollutants, including plastics, become more concentrated in the ocean as they enter the food chain (known as bioaccumulation). Animals high in the food chain such as sharks and sea lions can have contamination levels that are millions of times higher than the water in which they live. Stressors such as pollution and fishing are cumulative, and removing some pressure allows overall ecosystems to become more resilient. MPAs provide a natural buffer for species affected by pollution and allow them to recover. 

5. Mitigation against climate change

The ocean can facilitate extraordinary processes that fight against climate change, including carbon sequestration, oxygen creation, water purification, and storm buffering. In fact, new evidence has doubled the predicted carbon sequestration capacity of the ocean’s phytoplankton. Other research indicates MPAs are also effective at housing large, reproductive animals that could help replenish populations across the region when impacts from climate change like warming temperatures and reduced oxygen cause species to die-off.

6. Scalable science-based actions

While MPAs can help mitigate against some impacts of climate change, they can’t take on the climate crisis without our help. California’s MPAs were specifically designed as a network of several small zones to increase the area’s resilience to climate change. Changes in ocean temperature, ocean currents, oxygen availability, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and storm intensification all lead to a phenomenon known as species redistribution. In other words, as water conditions shift in the ocean, entire habitats and species follow. Few can predict beforehand exactly where habitats will move to, and a network of MPAs helps ensure that there are several stable and safe places to go. More MPAs will increase our ocean’s resilience. MPAs have the power to turn the tides on climate change, but only if we take urgent action to increase marine protection and decrease pollution from fossil fuels and plastics.

7. Learning opportunities for all

MPAs teach us how the underwater world works and what we can do to keep the ocean healthy, safe, and clean. Research divers, students, naturalists, and scientists alike can observe, study, and glean important information from MPAs. This new knowledge can be used to inform our environmental and economic policies to improve life for future generations. #bluemind

8. Inspiring ocean stewardship

Experience more wonder and adventure in your local MPA by volunteering with MPA Watch! As a volunteer, you can work alongside people who care about the ocean. You efforts will inform state and local MPA management about the specific needs of each MPA and how to keep them thriving. You’ll receive training on how to collect much-needed scientific data and stay in the loop about how MPAs are management and how they are changing.

Become a MPA Watch volunteer in Los Angeles by attending a Heal the Bay Volunteer Orientation. Or, learn more about other MPA Watch programs in California.


Maps of MPAs in LA County