Heal the Bay Blog

Category: California Coast

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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Learn more about the Angler Outreach Program:

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.

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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 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 y consulte el siguiente enlace del FCEC sobre cómo preparar su pescado de manera segura:

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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 and if you want to join our bilingual team call us at 310-451-1500 or visit our site at

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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.

Eight years have passed since Marine Protected Areas started to officially be implemented in California. Forest 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