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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: California Coast

Mike Couffer has been working alongside Heal the Bay Aquarium to research giant sea bass, the largest bony fish local to LA waters. In this blog, Mike recounts his research on these fish and their uniquely identifying spots, as well as our Aquarium’s journey raising and releasing a giant sea bass.

Early in the morning on May 21, 2021, aquarists from Heal the Bay Aquarium arrived in Redondo Beach with a truck and a seawater tank holding precious cargo: a 40-pound giant sea bass. This giant sea bass, which had been raised for research and education over the last 5 years, had outgrown its tank and was now ready to be released into the ocean. The fish was fitted with an acoustic transmitter that would send signals for about 10 years as it passed receivers scattered along the coast. It’s a straight shot to the open sea along the harbor’s jetty, and the fish could leave the harbor or stay awhile and feast on the lobsters near jetty rocks. Either way, the giant sea bass would be free and in another 5 years or so should be old enough to spawn and help boost California’s recovering population of this historically overfished species.

Giant sea bass are the largest bony fish inhabiting California and Mexico’s near-shore waters, reaching 9 feet long and over 800 pounds during at least a 76 year lifespan. They range from Northern California to Oaxaca, Mexico, including parts of the Gulf of California. After overfishing decimated their numbers during the early 1900s, they were listed as a critically-endangered species internationally and restricted from intentional catch in California.

But while protecting adult fish from fishing pressure is important, protecting their young is also needed. Until 2013, little was known about giant sea bass babies but masters degree candidate Stephanie Benseman found that in California, most of the babies grow up in soft bottomed nursery sites along beaches inshore from the few heads of submarine canyons that start close to shore. The best location known for baby giants are the shallows off Redondo Beach in Los Angeles from Redondo Pier outside of King Harbor to a jetty 800 yards down the coast.

During my first baby giant sea bass dives with Stephanie, I was hooked into studying them by an incongruity; how could we not know even the most basic information about the babies of our largest nearshore fish? I would spend the next seven (and counting) years studying them. As they age, the fish change color from jet black to brown, to orange, a mottled calico, and then a dark brown with black spots. But it’s the orange with black polka dots phase of the babies that draws your attention; this spot pattern develops in the early brown stage and becomes striking when their background color turns orange.

I noticed that each fish’s spot pattern was different from every other. Could we use underwater photos of their spot patterns like fingerprints to identify individual fish in the ocean? If so, maybe we could learn about the behavior and movements of individual fish in the ocean. I couldn’t answer this question in the ocean because if I photographed a fish one day and the fish’s spots changed slightly, I couldn’t be absolutely sure that the fish I photographed next time was the same fish or a different one.

That’s where teaming up with Heal the Bay Aquarium came in. I needed experienced aquarists to raise a baby sea bass while I photographed its spot patterns as it grew. I would use my collecting permit and expertise to catch a baby giant and bring it to them. They would care for and display the little bassling for visitors to enjoy and learn about. Once a month for a year, I’d visit and take photos of the spot patterns on both sides of the fish and they would weigh and measure it. If the spot patterns of baby giant stayed similar enough to be recognized in photos as the fish aged, photos of their sides could be used like fingerprints to identify individual giant sea bass, maybe for the rest of their lives. After a year, I would write my scientific paper on any changes in the spot patterns of the baby giant sea bass that I gave to Heal the Bay.

In November 2015, I dived the Newport Pier giant sea bass nursery site in Orange County with a little hand net and caught a 1 3/8 inch brown-phase baby giant with a special permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. I photographed the spot patterns of both sides in a tank and brought the baby giant to Heal the Bay Aquarium. No baby giant of this age had ever been successfully raised before, so there was little knowledge about how to care for them, but Aquarium staff were up for the challenge and succeeded!

At the end of each month, I photographed the baby bass in its tank and watched the Aquarium team measured and weighed the fish. A year passed and by November 2016 the baby bass had grown from 1 3/8 inches long and 5/10 tenths of an ounce to 7 inches long and five ounces. In my 2017 scientific paper, I showed that you could compare baby pictures of five baby giant sea bass by eye and recognize individuals for the first year. This meant that it was possible to study the babies in their shallow nursery sites using underwater photography and perhaps learn something about their behavior and movements.

By the end of 2016, the sea bass had become an important member of Heal the Bay Aquarium’s fish community where over 70,000 visitors a year learned about the fish or just enjoyed watching it. Managers and aquarists joined the aquarium, cared for the fish, and left to chart other courses in the world. The fish continued to educate and entertain and there was no motivation to release the fish yet; it’s believed that they don’t breed until they are at least 10 years old, so keeping a fish for five years and releasing it wouldn’t impact the population. I kept photographing the fish and aquarists weighed and measured it every six months. After the fish was transferred to the aquarium’s largest tank, I hoped that we could photograph and measure the fish until five years from its arrival date at the aquarium before it got too big for its tank.

November 2020 arrived and I photographed the fish one last time. Aquarists weighed and measured the fish five years after I had brought it to the aquarium. With these photos and measurements and the fish growing larger in the aquarium’s biggest tank, it was nearing time to release it into the sea. The Department of Fish and Wildlife gave permission for the release and I contacted Dr. Chris Lowe of the California State University at Long Beach who had years of experience tracking adult giant sea bass and white sharks with underwater transmitters. Dr. Lowe said that he could fit the now 40-pound fish with the same transmitter worn by white sharks that could “ping” for 10 years. So long as the underwater receivers are maintained, if the fish passes within a receiver’s range it should be recorded as it moves up and down the coast and perhaps to and from the Channel Islands.

On May 21, 2021 at the King Harbor Yacht Club, a small group of scientists and fish caretakers watched the giant sea bass release. Aquarists carefully lowered the fish into the water, while I photographed the occasion. It was a bittersweet moment as the fish swam out across the sandy bottom, but we were all excited by the successful release after five years of raising the baby giant sea bass. With the fish’s unique transmitter active and the underwater receivers ready and waiting, we hope to get occasional electronic travel updates as the giant sea bass swims up and down the coast.

 


 About the Author

Michael Couffer is sole proprietor of Grey Owl Biological Consulting. Mike contracts to conduct focused presence or absence surveys for rare, Threatened, or Endangered wildlife. For the past seven years, Mike has focused on surveys, research, and underwater photography of Giant Sea Bass out of pure fascination with the species and the hope that he can help this historically-overfished species to recover. His latest scientific journal paper was published in the 2020 Department of Fish and Wildlife’s journal California Fish and Wildlife. It focuses on Giant Sea Bass nursery sites and how cities with nursery sites along their shores can build and maintain shoreline infrastructure without impacting baby Giant Sea Bass.



Photo credit: Ashlee Malyar, Marine Mammal Volunteer

Heal the Bay MPA Watch intern, Alex Preso, saw a distressed seal pup while conducting beach surveys, and helped it get the care it needed by alerting the California Wildlife Center. Alex shares what happened, plus the “Do’s” and Don’t’s” of helping a marine mammal in distress.


At first I thought it was a piece of driftwood on the beach… it was actually a distressed seal pup.

On Wednesday, March 18, I was taking surveys for Heal the Bay’s MPA Watch Program on El Pescador Beach in Malibu. As I was making my way along the beach, I noticed what looked like a washed-up log in the distance. As I moved closer, I realized that it was actually a small seal. The seal was lying on its back, barely moving, and was thin with wrinkled skin. It looked noticeably uncomfortable and I immediately suspected that something was wrong.

Sometimes a seal pup like this one simply struggles to survive on its own after separating from its mother, but there are also a variety of human impacts that can cause a marine mammal to be in distress. 

1) First, plastic debris in the ocean or on beaches poses a significant threat to marine mammals. When ingested, these animals cannot digest the plastic, so it stays in their bodies. This plastic can leach harmful chemicals into their bodies or even block their digestive tract, leading to starvation and malnourishment. Heal the Bay is working to combat this through our plastic pollution and beach cleanup programs. These programs aim not only to help remove plastic from our oceans, but also to keep this harmful marine debris from entering our oceans in the first place.

2) Second, overfishing of important food sources for marine mammals limits available nourishment and puts these animals at risk. Heal the Bay’s sustainable fisheries work aims to maintain healthy fisheries so that these animals have abundant food sources.

3) Third, loss of habitat can endanger marine mammals. Heal the Bay’s MPA program helps to monitor protected areas that are critically important to protecting these habitats, so that these animals have safe places to live, reproduce, and find food.

4) Fourth and finally, poor water quality can cause marine mammals to become sick. Polluted water can cause a variety of health issues for marine mammals, including bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. Heal the Bay’s water quality work aims to prevent harmful bacteria, toxins, and other pollutants from ending up in the ocean and endangering marine life.

Heal the Bay is doing what we can to prevent these threats to marine mammals, but while these issues persist, it is important that we all keep an eye out for stranded marine mammals on our local beaches.

But even if you see a seal on the beach, how can you tell if it is in danger or simply catching some rays?

Many people don’t know how to tell if an animal like this is actually in trouble, let alone what actions to take if it is distressed. When I encountered this young seal, I saw many other people walking along the beach, barely taking notice of the animal.

Here is are some clear signs that a marine mammal is in distress and in need of help:

  • visible entanglement in trash or fishing gear
  • visible malnourishment or open wounds
  • a young pup without an adult nearby
  • erratic behavior 

Fortunately, you don’t need to be an expert to help a seal in need. If you suspect that a marine mammal may be in distress, always call the appropriate rescue hotline. It is better to have the rescue crew come to the beach to find a healthy animal than to leave an animal in distress without help. The numbers to call vary by location and are listed below.

Here are a few things to avoid if you find a distressed marine mammal:

  • DO NOT touch or approach the animal
  • DO NOT attempt to return the animal to the water 
  • DO NOT pour water on the animal
  • DO NOT attempt to move the animal

If you wouldn’t want someone to do it to you while you’re sunbathing on the beach, chances are the animal wouldn’t like it either. Marine mammals intentionally seek out dry land when they are in distress so that they can rest and soak up the sun.

What you should do if you find a distressed marine mammal:

  • DO stay approximately 50 feet away
  • DO call the appropriate rescue hotline
  • DO take a picture of the animal
  • DO try to pinpoint the animal’s location
  • DO wait near the animal until the rescue crew arrives

The number for the rescue hotline varies by location, but any of them can connect you to the correct region if you do not have the right number. 

  • For animals found in San Pedro up to Pacific Palisades (including all beaches between them) – call Marine Animal Rescue # 1-800-399–4253 [WHALE]
  • For animals found in Malibu – call the California Wildlife Center # 310-458–9453 [WILD]
  • For animals found in Long Beach – call Long Beach Animal Control # 562-570–7387

When you call the hotline, they will ask you to send a photo of the animal as well as its location. Try to be as precise as possible so that they can save time and arrive at the animal directly.

In this instance, I called the Malibu number. Then I waited with the seal for about 30 minutes until the rescue crew arrived at the beach. While waiting, I was careful to keep my distance from the seal and ensured that other passersby did so as well. When the crew arrived, they expertly loaded the seal into a crate and took him back to their facility for rehabilitation.

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Later, I learned that this animal was a 12 week old elephant seal pup that was badly malnourished. He had shrunk back down to his birth weight of about 75 pounds when he should have been closer to 300 pounds. They named him “Yellow” because they used a yellow marker to make an identifying mark on him while in their care.

The California Wildlife Center (CWC) is permitted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide rehabilitative care to seals and sea lions. They will rehabilitate Yellow and help him gain the necessary body weight and skills to better fend for himself before returning him to the wild. All of the animals they rescue stay in their facility temporarily, as their mission is to rehabilitate and return marine mammals to the wild where they belong. 

For Yellow, the outlook is bright and he is expected to be released back into the wild in May. This instance just goes to show that a chance encounter on the beach can be the difference between life and death for a marine mammal. It was for Yellow.


Photo credit: Ashlee Malyar, Marine Mammal Volunteer


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Yes, that’s right. We’re reopening Heal the Bay Aquarium! Come visit our outdoor patio experience on Saturday, April 24 and Sunday, April 25 from 12pm to 4pm for our Aquarium’s Earth Day Celebration.

VISIT

The health and safety of our community and staff are our number one priority. When you plan a visit, follow our COVID-19 guidelines and reserve your tickets in advance. Heal the Bay Aquarium is located at 1600 Ocean Front Walk in Santa Monica, California – under the Santa Monica Pier.

When you visit our new outdoor patio exhibits, you’ll get to explore local marine animal exhibits, study a gray whale rib bone, learn about ocean pollution and what we can do to prevent it, snag a sustainable souvenir from the Gift Shop, and more!

Discover your inner marine scientist at the Sharks & Rays and the Tide Pool animal exhibits. Sharks & Rays demonstrates the full lifecycle of sharks, and features baby swell shark pups. Observe the development of this important native species as they grow from egg to pup, and learn about all the local sharks that live in Santa Monica Bay. The Tide Pool display allows you to get up close and see local tidepool creatures like sea cucumbers, bat stars, hermit crabs, and marine snails.

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Swim by our Watershed exhibit to learn about the Los Angeles ecosystem and view California native plants that are found in these habitats. Check the water quality grade at your favorite beach with our Beach Report Card, find out how you can take the Climate Action Challenge, and take action to #SkipTheStuff at our Plastic Pollution exhibit. A visit to the Aquarium will give you a greater understanding of the ocean, and inspire stewardship of the marine environment and its inhabitants.

We’ll have fun, eco-friendly crafts and activities you can take home, and beach cleanup kits available to purchase, so you can continue to Heal the Bay, the ocean, and the planet even after your visit.

Plus, you can bring the memories home with a souvenir from our Aquarium Gift Shop. Check out zero-waste goodies, plushies, green travel items, limited edition Heal the Bay gear, and more. Every purchase directly supports our marine education and clean water programs.


 Keep Making Waves with Heal the Bay Aquarium: 



The Big Beach Cleanup book

The Big Beach Cleanup is a new book written by Charlotte Offsay. Heal the Bay asked the author about her process, discoveries, and single-use swaps at home in this Q&A.


Join Charlotte Offsay & Heal the Bay for a virtual book reading + live animal feeding on Saturday, March 6. 

Learn More


Q: How did you work with Heal the Bay on the book?

A: I first reached out to Heal the Bay in early 2019. I had written The Big Beach Cleanup and was looking to connect with experts regarding fact checking recycling and ocean cleanup facts. I live in Los Angeles and am familiar with the important work that Heal the Bay does to protect our oceans, so I decided to ask for their help. Nancy Shrodes, the Associate Director of Policy & Outreach, kindly agreed to review my manuscript and offer her feedback. Since then numerous staff members at Heal the Bay have continued to offer assistance, including providing input on additional educational materials for the book as well as generously offering to do a live animal feeding at The Big Beach Cleanup virtual launch event!

Q: What inspired you to write about a beach cleanup?

A: One day while walking with my children, I stopped to pick up a piece of trash that was in our way and toss it in a nearby trashcan. Throwing away that piece of trash sparked endless questions from my ever-curious children. They wanted to know where the trash had come from and how it got there in the first place. We ended up in big conversations around pollution and doing our part to protect the planet. It was on that walk that I decided to write an ocean advocacy story featuring little hands joining together to make big change. I went home that day and wrote the first draft of what would eventually become The Big Beach Cleanup!

Q: What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on this book?

A: Honestly the most interesting thing I found is how immune we can become to the things that are right in front of us. I have lived and walked around Los Angeles for a long time. I have also cared about the planet and my environmental footprint for a long time, but it wasn’t until I began working on this book that my eyes really opened to how prevalent our pollution problem is and how frequently it is right in front of me on a daily basis. There is no shortage of trash in Los Angeles, not only on our beaches but right on the streets in my very own neighborhood. On my regular walk with my kids we always find trash, even if we have been picking up trash on that same walk the day before. Things get dropped, trash bags aren’t tied properly and more and more we are finding discarded masks and disposable containers. We really need everyone to join together and make conscious changes in order to tackle this growing problem.

Q: Has the book inspired you to make any single-use plastic swaps at home?

A: Writing this book has encouraged my family to look around our home and evaluate our daily waste. We have been replacing individually wrapped items with bulk sizes and make an effort to use refillable containers whenever possible, we have tried to make choices that avoid plastic containers and to purchase less ‘stuff’ (toys, general excess) overall.

Illustration of people cleaning beach

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

A: My hope is that The Big Beach Cleanup shows readers that big changes begin with small steps. I hope that readers are inspired to think about the changes they want to see in the world, to know that they can make a difference, and are encouraged to join together with those around them to create those changes. I hope they walk away knowing that their hands matter and are needed.

Q: What is your favorite beach in California?

A: Every summer since my husband was little his family has spent time in Coronado. When I met my husband, I was warmly welcomed into this tradition and I look forward to spending time at the beach on Coronado island every year. Locally though we love to visit Will Rogers State Beach as it is close to where my inlaws live and they are often able to join us there!


CHARLOTTE OFFSAY was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. Through her work, Charlotte hopes to make children laugh, to inspire curiosity, and to create a magical world her readers can lose themselves in time and time again.

Charlotte’s debut picture book, The Big Beach Cleanup, illustrated by Kate Rewse will be published by Albert Whitman in Spring 2021, followed by How to Return a Monster, illustrated by Rea Zhai releasing Fall 2021 with Beaming Books. A Grandma’s Magic, illustrated by Asa Gilland will be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers in Spring 2022.

Learn more about Charlotte’s work at charlotteoffsay.com and follow her on Twitter at @COffsay and on Instagram at @picturebookrecommendations.



Necesitamos su ayuda para hacer responsables a los contaminadores y a sus aliados políticos.

Una reciente investigación del LA Times destapó que la corporación contaminadora Montrose no solo vertió medio millón de barriles con residuos contaminados con DDT en la bahía, el doble de lo estimado, sino que junto a agencias del gobierno escondieron el vertido cerca de la isla Catalina durante décadas, exponiendo a personas, animales y ecosistemas marinos enteros a uno de los compuestos químicos tóxicos más peligrosos que se ha hecho nunca.

Heal the Bay está presionando a las agencias y a los cargos electos para que se ocupen de limpiar el DDT y protejan la salud pública.

Foto de LA Times, David Valentine, ROV Jason

Originalmente desarrollado como insecticida, el compuesto químico DDT es conocido hoy en día por su impacto en la salud y la destrucción del medioambiente. El DDT es especialmente devastador porque nunca desaparece. El productor de DDT más grande de los Estados Unidos, Montrose Chemical Corporation, tenía su base en Torrance entre 1947 y 1982. Y durante esa época vertieron cientos de toneladas de residuos tóxicos al océano en la zona de Palos Verdes. Fueron a juicio y terminaron pagando un acuerdo, y el área fue designada como superfund site (zonas contaminadas de Estados Unidos que requieren una respuesta de limpieza a largo plazo por contener contaminantes nocivos) por la EPA en 2000.

Décadas más tarde, nos enteramos de que la misma corporación contaminadora vertió cerca de la isla Catalina el DOBLE de DDT que se había estimado previamente, junto a otros compuestos tóxicos además. Nadie está rindiendo cuentas por ese medio millón de barriles que se están filtrando a nuestro suelo marino hoy en día.

Las agencias gubernamentales necesitan redoblar sus esfuerzos de una forma clara. No nos podemos escurrir de estos desastres del pasado. Y tampoco podemos ignorar los retos que suponen estos compuestos tóxicos para el presente y el futuro.

Las pruebas demuestran que el DDT ha entrado en la cadena alimenticia, afectando la salud de miles de personas que comen alimentos del mar procedentes de la bahía, y también está llevando a especies, como las águilas calvas, hacia la extinción. La comunidad científica y los expertos en salud están preocupados por el impacto a largo plazo de la bioacumulación de DDT en el océano.

LA no puede esperar otra década para lidiar con los compuestos tóxicos en nuestro océano. La crisis climática está acelerando la subida del nivel del mar y las temperaturas, que ya de por sí tienen un impacto suficientemente negativo en el océano y nuestras comunidades.

Heal the Bay está lista para embarcarse en otra batalla para proteger nuestro océano, hacer responsables a los contaminadores, y a mantener al público, especialmente a los pescadores locales y usuarios recreativos del agua, informados sobre los riesgos para la salud del legado tóxico de DDT en LA. Su contribución posibilita nuestra misión de mantener el agua limpia para todos. Done a Heal the Bay.

Traducido por Beatriz Lorenzo


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Surfrider Beach Third Point, Malibu. Photo by The California Coastal Commission 

On November 15-16 and December 13-15, 2020, head to the beach during the King Tides to catch a glimpse of what our future coast will look like with sea level rise.

King Tides occur when the Moon aligns with the Sun, and is also at its closest position relative to the Earth. This exerts cumulative gravitational pulls on Earth, resulting in the most extreme high and low tides of the year. In California, experts say that King Tides today are what we can expect our daily high tide to look like in the next few decades under climate change and sea level rise predictions.

For many people, it’s hard to see everyday impacts of climate change locally and difficult to understand real-life impacts that are here or coming. King Tides give us the opportunity to visualize firsthand what a higher sea level will be like, and it’s impact on California cities. This is also an opportunity to get involved as a community scientist and document the #KingTides through photos. These photos can be used by scientists, government agencies, and decision makers to understand, plan for, and educate about climate change impacts.

As sea levels rise, flooding and erosion along the coast will increase, putting people’s homes, freshwater aquifers, and critical infrastructure (like roads, bridges, wastewater treatment plants) at risk. Sea level rise is also predicted to result in the loss of 31-67% of SoCal’s beaches. However, the impact of sea level rise does not stop at the coast. As ocean water flows farther inland, it displaces groundwater, pushing it closer to the surface. Eventually, that groundwater can break the surface and damage roads and homes, and release toxins and pollution that would otherwise remain trapped in the soil.

There are actions that we can take today to minimize and prepare for coming climate change impacts. For instance, individuals can reduce their carbon footprint by driving less, adopting a plant-based diet, and demanding action from elected officials. Individuals and agencies can support and advocate for restoration of coastal wetlands, such as the Ballona Wetlands, which sequester carbon and buffer communities from sea level rise and storm surges. Governments can update their Local Coastal Programs (a planning document to guide development) for sea level rise and climate change adaptation.

You can take part in community science and take photos for the Coastal Commission’s Project and USC Sea Grant’s Urban Tides Program.

Want to learn more about climate change? Request a speaker from Heal the Bay to give a virtual climate change presentation to your school, club, or group.

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Mother's Beach, Marina del Rey 2019. Photo by The California Coastal Commission

Helpful resources for King Tides:



DDT Dumping near Catalina

Heal the Bay’s Communications team sat down with Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO and discussed her reaction to the in-depth story in the Los Angeles Times uncovering DDT dumping near Catalina that happened more than three decades ago.

What is your reaction to the recent LA Times article on DDT pollution in the Bay? 

I am shocked. We know about the superfund site off of Palos Verdes. We worked on the scientific and legal investigations in the 1980s and 1990s. We supported U.S. and state agencies in their lawsuit against Montrose Chemical Corporation and three other companies, which was finally settled in 2001. Heal the Bay helped create the Angler Outreach Program to inform local subsistence anglers about the toxic waste that contaminates the fish they are catching to feed their families. 

But these thousands of barrels of DDT dumped near Catalina were not part of the discussion.  

It took years to negotiate the cleanup requirements for the Palos Verdes site. It’s just unfathomable the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the State Water Board all knew about the additional contamination and did not make that part of the cleanup and mitigation requirements.  

The impacts of half a million barrels of leaking DDT are far-reaching.  

DDT is an especially devastating chemical because it never goes away. It gets into ocean animals and concentrates as it moves up the food chain. It harms untold numbers of fish, marine mammals, and birds, as well as people in especially vulnerable communities – people fishing to feed their families.  

And in this time of climate change, this DDT dumped in the waters off Catalina is yet another blow to our ocean. Oceans are already stressed from warming and acidification, as well as overfishing and pollution from products like plastics, that never biodegrade or leave the environment.  

How can we hold polluters accountable? 

It’s so hard. Sometimes as nonprofits we have to fight unethical corporations and our own governments. Today we’re talking about DDT from Montrose Chemical Corporation. Last month we saw Exide Technologies, Inc. was allowed to walk away from the toxic lead and arsenic mess they created for three decades near 110,000+ residents in East LA, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Vernon, Cudahy, Maywood, Bell, and Huntington. 1 Support East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice in the fight to hold Exide accountable.

Corporations can leave. Government officials can leave. But our communities stay. 

This DDT was dumped decades ago and a settlement for a portion of the pollution was already reached. Now we will fight again to hold these polluters accountable. We will start by asking the EPA, DOJ, Coastal Commission, and the State Water Board what jurisdiction they have to bring further claims against the parties responsible for the DDT dumping, and by collaborating with agencies who show they want to fix this problem. We demand solutions and will take action to reach them.      

What more needs to be done to protect communities and habitats? 

In addition to legal action, here are three things we must do:   

  1. We need a lot more education for people who rely on fish they catch to feed their families. Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program is the model: we reach the most vulnerable people, in their own languages, and in places where they feel comfortable receiving this information. 
  2. We need more frequent and extensive monitoring of sediment and fish, to track contamination that can harm animals and the people who eat them. Every five years is not enough; we need detailed assessments to understand what is happening to the DDT that is out there.
  3. We must find a way to clean up the DDT and PCBs in our ocean. We know the pilot project to cap the Palos Verdes site was not a success, but that does not mean we walk away. The EPA, NOAA, and other agencies must convene the experts who can come up with the next step and the next, until we find a way to deal with this toxic legacy.   

 Tell us what you think should be done. Contact Us.

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1 East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice



Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program, through the EPA’s Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC), has been visiting eight Los Angeles County and Orange County piers throughout the last 17 years, talking to anglers about fish contamination and how to stay safe and healthy. Many anglers come to the coast to catch fish to eat for themselves and their families. Our previous research indicates that 78% of pier anglers fish for subsistence. 

To better understand the local angler community, our outreach team collects zip code information from individuals fishing on piers and along the coast. We recently analyzed this survey data from 2018 and 2019. Our findings help us understand where anglers are located and how to better serve them. 

In 2019, we talked to 8,488 anglers and collected zip codes from 3,052 of those anglers. We collect zip codes only from anglers who are surveyed for the first time. Most of the zip codes (3,001) were from California. The rest were likely tourists and visitors. We even talked with some anglers from as far away as Alaska — fishing in Alaska is surely different than LA!

In both 2018 and 2019, one location had the highest density of anglers surveyed: Hawthorne (90250), a city in the South Bay in southwestern LA County bordered by the 105 freeway on the north and the 405 freeway on the west. According to the LA Times and census data, Hawthorne is a diverse area in the South Bay and LA County with a 44.2% Hispanic, 32.4% Black, 12.9% White, and 7.6% Asian population 

In both 2018 and 2019, a few areas showed up in the top five zip codes of anglers: Compton and Willowbrook (90222), Long Beach (90805), and South El Monte (91733).  

In both years, many anglers hailed from areas in the San Gabriel Valley, including South El Monte and Rosemead. The demographics of these two areas differ greatly: South El Monte has a predominantly Hispanic (86.2%) population; Rosemead has an Asian (48.6%) and Hispanic (41%) population. 

It has been widely shown that People of Color are disproportionately impacted by pollution. This environmental injustice includes air pollution, water pollution, waste dumping, oil drilling and refining, fish contamination, and more. Many communities where anglers live have high pollution burdens on CalEnviroScreen, a tool that compiles environmental, health, and socioeconomic information to produce a score showing which communities are most affected by and most vulnerable to pollution. 

It is imperative that our Angler Outreach Program reaches people effectively in order to protect public health. In example, if anglers speak Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese as their first language, warning signage and other resources about fish contamination that are written in English may not be effective. Our Angler Outreach Program has employed multilingual team members who directly engage local anglers about fish contamination and how to stay safe. We have produced educational materials and resources in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese. 

Using the results of our zip code survey, we created a heat map of where anglers are located in Los Angeles County, and through it we see many opportunities for additional outreach in specific areas. Ensuring there is accessible and relevant information across Heal the Bay’s programs, especially in top angler zip codes, can increase the number of people we reach and maximize impact. 

It is interesting to also use our zip code survey analysis to gauge how effective other Heal the Bay programs are at reaching angler communities. Heal the Bay Aquarium hosted 24 field trips for 1,217 students from schools in the top angler zip codes* in 2017. Heal the Bay’s Speakers Bureau Program gives free talks (previously in-person and now virtually) throughout LA County, and we gave 39 talks to 2,985 people in the top angler zip codes* in 2017. While Heal the Bay conducts outreach and provides education in many of the communities where anglers are located, there is ample room for growth and a lot more to be done! We are excited to continue our analysis and find new ways to engage anglers and their families with helpful information. 

 *Zip codes with 31-80 anglers in 2018 and 2019. 

 

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El Programa Educacional Pesquero de Heal the Bay, a través del Grupo Educacional sobre Contaminación de Peces (FCEC, por sus siglas en inglés) de la EPA, ha estado visitando ocho muelles en los condados de Los Ángeles y Orange durante los últimos 17 años, hablando con pescadores sobre la contaminación de peces y cómo mantenerse seguro y saludable. Muchos pescadores vienen a la costa para pescar y alimentar a sus familias. Nuestra investigación anterior indica que el 78% de los pescadores de muelles pescan para subsistir.

Para comprender mejor a la comunidad de pescadores locales, nuestro equipo educacional recopila información de los códigos postales de las personas que pescan en los muelles y a lo largo de la costa. Recientemente analizamos los datos de estas encuesta del 2018 y 2019. Nuestros hallazgos nos ayudarán a comprender major de donde vienen los pescadores y cómo servirlos mejor.

En 2019, hablamos con 8.488 pescadores y recopilamos códigos postales de 3.052 de ellos. Recopilamos códigos postales solo de pescadores que fueron encuestados por primera vez. La mayoría de estos códigos postales (3.001) eran de California. El resto probablemente fueron de turistas y visitantes. Incluso hablamos con algunos de ellos que provenían de lugares tan lejanos como Alaska. ¡Pescar en Alaska es seguramente diferente a LA!

Tanto en el 2018 como en el 2019, una ubicación tuvo la mayor densidad de encuestados: Hawthorne (90250), una ciudad en South Bay en el suroeste del condado de Los Ángeles que limita con la autopista 105 al norte y la autopista 405 al oeste. Según el LA Times y datos de censo, Hawthorne es un área diversa en South Bay y en el condado de Los Ángeles, con una población que consta de 44,2% latinos, 32,4% negros, 12,9% blancos y 7,6% asiáticos.

Tanto en el 2018 como en el 2019, tres códigos postales aparecieron en los cinco principales códigos postales de los pescadores y fueron: Compton y Willowbrook (90222), Long Beach (90805) y South El Monte (91733).

En ambos años, muchos pescadores vinieron de áreas del Valle de San Gabriel, incluyendo South El Monte y Rosemead. La demografía de estas dos áreas es bastante diferente: el South El Monte tiene una población predominantemente latina (86,2%), Rosemead tiene una división más pareja entre las poblaciones asiáticas (48,6%) y latina (41%).

Se ha demostrado ampliamente que las personas de color se ven afectadas de manera desproporcionada por la contaminación. Esta injusticia ambiental incluye la contaminación del aire, agua, vertimiento de desechos, extracción y refinación de petróleo, contaminación de peces y otras. Muchas de las comunidades de donde provienen los pescadores tienen altas cargas de contaminación. En CalEnviroScreen, una herramienta que recopila información ambiental, de salud y socioeconómica para producir un puntaje que muestra las comunidades son más afectadas y las más vulnerables a la contaminación.

Es imperativo que nuestro Programa Educacional Pesquero eduque y llegue a las personas de manera efectiva para proteger la salud pública. Por ejemplo, si los pescadores hablan español, chino y vietnamita como primer idioma, es posible que las señales de advertencia y otros recursos sobre la contaminación de peces no sean efectivos si solo están escritos en inglés.

Nuestro Programa Educacional Pesquero ha empleado a un equipo multilingüe que involucra directamente a los pescadores locales sobre la contaminación de peces y cómo mantenerse a salvo. Hemos producido materiales y recursos educativos en inglés, español, chino y vietnamita.

Utilizando los resultados de nuestra encuesta sobre el código postal, pudimos crear un mapa para saber de dónde vienen los pescadores en el condado de Los Ángeles, y a través de él hemos visto muchas oportunidades de llegar con programas adicionales en áreas específicas. Asegurarse que haya información accesible y relevante en todos los programas de Heal the Bay, podría aumentar la cantidad de personas a las que llegamos y poder maximizar el impacto de nuestro trabajo, especialmente en las áreas de códigos postales de donde provienen la mayor cantidad de pescadores.

Es interesante también poder utilizar nuestro análisis de encuestas de código postal para evaluar la eficacia de otros programas de Heal the Bay y poder llegar a las comunidades de donde provienen los pescadores. En el año 2017, el Acuario de Heal the Bay organizó 24 excursiones para 1,217 estudiantes de escuelas que estuvieron ubicadas en los principales códigos postales de donde provienen los pescadores. En ese mismo año, el programa Speakers Bureau de Heal the Bay ofreció charlas gratuitas (anteriormente en persona y ahora virtualmente) en todo el condado de Los Ángeles, y dimos 39 charlas a 2,985 personas con códigos postales de donde provienen los pescadores. Si bien Heal the Bay lleva a cabo actividades de divulgación y brinda educación en muchas de las comunidades donde se encuentran los pescadores, hay mucho espacio para el crecimiento y mucho más por hacer. Estamos emocionados de continuar nuestro análisis y encontrar nuevas formas de involucrar a los pescadores y sus familias con información útil.

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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.

IMG_1317 Screen Shot 2020-06-04 at 9.15.03 AM IMG_1424 giving tuesday heal the bay IMG_1321
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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).