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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.


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Funcionarios electos de Los Angeles están tomando acción legislativa para reducir la basura que se genera con la comida para llevar tras un gran incremento en el consumo del plástico de un solo uso. ¿Pero qué significa “Deja el desperdicio”? ¿Y cómo ayuda a luchar contra la contaminación por plástico? Vamos a verlo.

Deja el desperdicio es el último empujón legislativo de Heal the Bay junto a la coalición Reusable LA. #DejaElDesperdicio requeriría que los extras de la comida para llevar y a domicilio — como los utensilios de un solo uso, popotes, condimentos, servilletas y demás — fuesen facilitados a petición del usuario. Si los necesita, los puede tener. Y si no, no hace falta desperdiciar.

Añada su nombre a la petición

El consumo de plástico de un solo uso se ha disparado debido al COVID-19, incluyendo aquí en Los Angeles, donde nuestros queridos restaurantes locales se han visto forzados a depender principalmente de los pedidos para llevar y a domicilio. El consumo de plásticos de un solo uso se ha incrementado entre un 250% y un 300% desde que comenzó la pandemia, con un aumento de un 30% de basura atribuido en parte a utensilios de usar y tirar. En toda la nación, billones de accesorios para la comida se tiran cada año, muchos sin haberse utilizado siquiera. (Muchos de nosotros incluso los guardamos en el temido cajón de los extras, esperando utilizarlos algún día).

La amplia mayoría de estos objetos de un solo uso no se pueden reciclar. Suman a la crisis de basura plástica, ensucian nuestros vecindarios, ríos, el océano, y atascan los vertederos. El uso de combustibles fósiles para producir objetos de plástico que ni siquiera se usan es lo último que necesitamos durante una crisis climática. Estos efectos también presentan problemas de justicia medioambiental, con las comunidades en primera línea sufriendo desproporcionadamente por el cambio climático, la extracción de crudo, y la incineración asociada a plásticos de un solo uso.

Heal the Bay y Reusable LA están abogando por legislar #DejaElDesperdicio en la ciudad y el condado de Los Angeles. En Enero de 2021, los miembros del consejo de la ciudad de Los Angeles Paul Koretz y Paul Krekorian introdujeron una moción para un borrador de ley para #DejaElDesperdicio. Requeriría que en los casos de comida para llevar, servicio a domicilio o servicios de entrega a domicilios de terceros, todos los accesorios estuvieran disponibles únicamente bajo petición. La Junta de Supervisores del Condado de Los Angeles siguió el ejemplo y en Febrero de 2021 pasó una moción similar de forma unánime tras ser introducida por Sheila Kuehl, miembro de la junta.

Esta legislación reconoce que los miembros de la comunidad pueden necesitar pajitas/ popotes/pajillas, utensilios y / u otros accesorios para alimentos de un solo uso. Es crucial que los restaurantes y las aplicaciones de entrega de terceros promuevan y brinden opciones para todos. Este modelo “a pedido” está estructurado intencionalmente para cumplir con todos los requisitos y adaptaciones de la ADA para garantizar un acceso equitativo para disfrutar fácilmente de comidas en el lugar, comida para llevar o entregas en los restaurantes de Los Ángeles. Según esta ordenanza, las empresas pueden proporcionar accesorios para alimentos a los clientes que los soliciten.

Restaurantes y aplicaciones de entrega a domicilio deberían por defecto, no entregar accesorios de un solo uso para los pedidos, a menos que el cliente los solicite. Cambiar a este modelo de accesorios “bajo pedido” elimina basura innecesaria y ahorra dinero a los establecimientos. Los Angeles ha hecho esto antes con los popotes bajo pedido. En un momento en el que los negocios pequeños y los restaurantes están luchando por mantenerse a flote, esta es una solución simple para recortar costes excesivos y contaminación por plástico. Apoyamos estas ordenanzas porque son una solución donde todos ganan, las comunidades de LA, los negocios y el medioambiente.

Contamos con su apoyo para pasar esta ordenanza, así que pase a la acción mediante los enlaces de aquí abajo y manténgase a la escucha para más novedades de #DejaElDesperdicio.

Pase a la acción!

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In 2021, we’re tackling the biggest threats to coastal waters and watersheds in Greater LA. The following three goals represent our key areas of focus this year:

Take Urgent Climate Action

What we’re doing: Taking urgent climate action by empowering people, demanding systemic change, and advocating for multi-benefit solutions that build toward an equitable, sustainable, and climate-resilient future for all.  

How we’re doing it: The climate crisis must be slowed, or communities will be further impacted and much will be lost. Nationally, we need to quickly recover environmental policy rollbacks to regain ocean, river, and wetland protections, and protect water resources by upholding the Clean Water Act. Locally, we support nature-based solutions to protect communities from sea level rise, erosion, and storm surges; champion the cleanup of stormwater through multi-benefit green spaces; and demand an equitable transition to renewable energy. Heal the Bay Aquarium works directly with our community, engaging students and the public through climate action and education initiatives. 


Protect Public Health with Strong Science and Outreach

What we’re doing: Protecting people and ecosystem health through science-based education, outreach, and advocacy on contaminated water, fish, and sediment at our beaches, rivers, and offshore.

How we’re doing it: Clean water and safe, accessible green space are fundamental for public health. Heal the Bay pushes government leaders to protect people at freshwater recreation areas in LA with new public health legislation. Our Beach Report Card with NowCast and River Report Card are expanding in reach and scientific rigor. We hold corporate polluters and public agencies accountable for DDT dumping off our coast and raise awareness about dangerous water contamination across LA. Heal the Bay Aquarium empowers students and families with human health narratives in watershed education curriculum and operations.  


Ban Single-Use Plastics for Good

What we’re doing: Eliminating harmful plastic pollution from our ocean and watersheds in order to defend the vibrancy of our communities.  

How we’re doing it: The toxic legacy of plastic production and waste impacts our everyday life. Heal the Bay supports a ban on disposable products that harm neighborhoods and wildlife habitats. We advocate for legislation to reduce and ban disposable plastics in the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, and California. Our immediate goal is to pass Skip the Stuff Ordinances locally in LA in 2021. Longer term, we are laying the groundwork for statewide legislation and a 2022 ballot initiative: Plastics Free California. Heal the Bay Aquarium is inspiring advocacy by launching new exhibits on plastic pollution and educating about the connection to fossil fuels.  


Take Part

Get Involved

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Spotlighting Belmont Pier in Long Beach, a busy fishing spot, and Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program.

Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier is located in Long Beach near the Belmont Shore neighborhood. The current pier opened in 1967 and is 1,800 feet long. At the end of the pier, there is a large hexagonal area with two “wings” extending 120 feet from each side, giving the pier an overall T-shape.  

Belmont Pier is popular for fishing and like other piers, a fishing license is not required to fish there. However, anglers must make sure to follow fishing regulations regarding size, limits, and seasons for certain species.  

Over the last 18 years, Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program (AOP) has been educating anglers at Belmont Pier (and 7 other piers) about fish contamination, which fish to avoid eating, and which fish are safe to eat. This program is part of the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC)which is managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a far-reaching public education and outreach program about the Palos Verdes Shelf superfund site.  

The Belmont Pier is located in the red zone, where levels of DDT and PCBs are high due to the nearby contaminated site. These toxins can travel through the food chain and accumulate in certain fish – fish caught in the red zone that should not be consumed are the white croaker, black croaker, barred sand bass,  topsmelt,  and barracuda.  

Our Angler Outreach Program is currently suspended due to COVID-19, but when we were able to have in-person outreach, Belmont Pier was regularly one of the top piers in terms of numbers of anglers we talked to. In 2018, we reached 9,801 anglers across 8 piers in the LA region. AOP team members visited all the piers for equal amounts of time, but talked to over 2,500 anglers at Belmont Pier alone (approximately 25%).


Belmont Pier on February 25, 2021

When we conduct outreach to anglers, we also collect data on the types of fish they are catching and each anglers’ zip code . We collect zip code data from new anglers,  and those we have not done outreach to before. In 2018, we collected zip codes from 1,165 anglers at Belmont Pier. The areas where the most anglers came from included Long Beach, as well as surrounding inland areas of Carson, Bellflower, Paramount, and Huntington Park. Collecting this data helps ensure that outreach is also conducted in the communities where anglers reside, through the community partners of the FCEC, along with piers.

In 2018, we documented that anglers at Belmont Pier caught 1,051 fish (over a total survey time of ~144 hours). Of those fish, the majority (85%) were mackerel. We did find that 61 (or 6%) of those fish were on the “do not consume” list, including white croaker, topsmelt, and barred sand bass. There is still a need to continue educating anglers about fish contamination and ensuring that they have the knowledge to protect themselves and their families.


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Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier está ubicado en Long Beach, cerca del vecindario Belmont Shore. El muelle actual se inauguró en 1967 y tiene 1.800 pies de largo. Al final del muelle, hay una gran área hexagonal con dos “alas” que se extienden 120 pies desde cada lado, lo que le da al muelle una forma de T general.

Belmont Pier es popular para pescar y, al igual que otros muelles, no se requiere una licencia de pesca para pescar allí. Sin embargo, los pescadores deben asegurarse de seguir las regulaciones de pesca con respecto al tamaño, límites y temporadas para ciertas especies.

Durante los últimos 18 años, el Programa Educacional Pequero de Heal the Bay (AOP, por sus siglas en inglés) ha estado educando a los pescadores en Belmont Pier (y otros 7 muelles) sobre la contaminación de peces, cuales evitar consumir y qué peces son seguros para el consumo. AOP es parte de Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC), que es administrado por la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de los EE. UU. (EPA) como parte de un programa de divulgación y educación pública de gran alcance sobre el sitio Superfund de Palos Verdes Shelf.

El muelle de Belmont está ubicado en la zona roja, donde los niveles de DDT y PCB son altos debido a la cercanía con el sitio contaminado. Estas toxinas pueden viajar a través de la cadena alimentacia y acumularse en ciertos peces. Los peces capturados en la zona roja que no deben consumirse son la corvineta blanca, corvineta negra, cabrilla, pejerrey y barracuda.

Nuestro Programa Educacional de Pesca está actualmente suspendido debido a COVID-19, pero cuando estuvimos presente, el muelle de Belmont fue regularmente uno de nuestros principales muelles en términos de cantidad de pescadores. En 2018, llegamos a 9.801 pescadores en 8 muelles en la región de Los Ángeles; Los miembros del equipo de AOP visitaron todos los muelles durante la misma cantidad de tiempo, pero hablaron con más de 2.500 pescadores solo en Belmont Pier (aproximadamente el 25%).

Cuando llevamos a cabo actividades de divulgación con los pescadores, también recopilamos datos sobre los tipos de peces que capturan y códigos postales de dónde residen. En el 2018, recopilamos códigos postales de 1,165 pescadores en Belmont Pier. Los códigos postales de donde provenían la mayoría de los pescadores incluían Long Beach, así como las áreas circundantes de Carson, Bellflower, Paramount y Huntington Park. La recopilación de estos datos ayudan a garantizar que la divulgación también se lleve a cabo en las comunidades donde viven los pescadores, a través de nuestros socios de FCEC.

En el 2018, documentamos que los pescadores en Belmont Pier capturaron 1,051 peces (durante un tiempo total de encuesta de aproximadamente 144 horas). De esos peces, la mayoría (85%) eran macarelas. Descubrimos también que 61 (o el 6%) de esos peces estaban en la lista de “no consumir”, incluida la corvineta blanca, pejerrey y cabrilla. Es necesario continuar educando a los pescadores sobre la contaminación de peces y asegurarse de que tengan los conocimientos necesarios para protegerse a sí mismos y a sus familias.


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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.



Elected officials in Los Angeles are taking legislative action to reduce takeout trash after a steep increase in single-use plastic consumption. But what does it mean to “Skip the Stuff”? And how does it help fight plastic pollution? Let’s dive in.

Skip the Stuff is the latest legislative push through Heal the Bay’s plastics work with the Reusable LA coalition. #SkipTheStuff would require takeout and delivery “extras” — like single-use utensils, straws, condiments, napkins, and more — to be provided only upon request. If you need them, you can get them. If you don’t, no need to waste.⁣

Add Your Name to the Petition

The use of single-use plastic has skyrocketed due to COVID-19, including here in Los Angeles, where our beloved local restaurants are forced to rely primarily on takeout and delivery. Consumption of single-use plastics has increased by 250% – 300% since the pandemic began, with a 30% increase in waste attributed in part to disposable foodware. Nationwide, billions of food accessories are thrown away each year, many of which aren’t even used once. (Many of us even keep them in that dreaded drawer of takeout “extras”, hoping that they’ll be used one day.)

The vast majority of these single-use items cannot be recycled. They add to the plastic pollution crisis, litter our neighborhoods, rivers, and ocean, and clog already overfilled landfills. Using fossil fuels to produce plastic items that aren’t even used is the last thing we need during a climate crisis. These impacts also present significant environmental justice issues, with frontline and fenceline communities bearing a disproportionate burden of the impacts from climate change, fossil fuel extraction, and incineration associated with single-use waste.
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Heal the Bay and Reusable LA are advocating for #SkipTheStuff legislation in both Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County. In January 2021, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian introduced a motion to draft city-wide legislation to #SkipTheStuff. It would require all foodware accessories to be available only upon request for takeout, delivery, and third-party delivery apps. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors followed suit in February 2021 and unanimously passed a similar motion after it was introduced by Boardmember Sheila Kuehl.

This legislation recognizes that community members may need single-use straws, utensils, and/or other foodware accessories. It is crucial that restaurants and third-party delivery apps readily promote and provide accommodations for all. This “on request” model is intentionally structured to meet all ADA requirements and accommodations to ensure equitable access to easily enjoy dine-in, takeout, or delivery from LA eateries. Under this ordinance, businesses may provide foodware accessories to customers who request them.

Restaurants and food delivery apps should default to no single-use accessories for orders, unless the customer requests them. Switching to foodware accessories “upon request” reduces unnecessary waste and saves restaurants money. Los Angeles has done this before with straws on request. At a time when local restaurants and small businesses are struggling to stay open, this is a simple solution to cut down on both excess costs and plastic pollution. We support these ordinances as a win-win for our LA communities, businesses, and environment.⁣⁣
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We’re counting on your support to get this ordinance passed, so take action below and stay tuned for updates on how you can #SkipTheStuff.

Take Action!

Sign the Petition

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Join the @REUSABLELA Facebook Group

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Hermosa Beach Pier before COVID-19 pandemicHermosa Beach Pier antes de la pandemia

El muelle de Hermosa Beach es uno de los muelles más tranquilos para pescar en la bahía de Santa Mónica. Está rodeado de hermosas playas, bares y restaurantes. Es un muelle muy sencillo sin vendedores ni restaurantes, poca gente caminando, pocos pescadores y una hermosa vista para ver el atardecer.

El muelle, construido en 1965 y renovado a principios de 2000, se extiende a 1,140 pies sobre el océano. Está abierto para todos los visitantes, así como para la pesca desde las 6:00 am hasta las 10:00 pm. Los pescadores deben asegurarse de seguir las regulaciones de pesca, asi como el tamaño de peces, límites y temporadas de ciertas especies que no se deben capturar. El lanzamiento de la caña de pesca por encima de cabeza de otras personas y el tirar basura en el muelle son actividades prohibidas.

Hermosa Beach Pier before COVID-19 pandemicHermosa Beach Pier antes de la pandemia

La pesca es muy relajante en el muelle de Hermosa Beach. Los pescadores capturan con frecuencia macarelas, umbrina roncador, corbinas, sardinas, entre otros peces. También es común capturar la corvineta blanca, pero hay que evitarla porque es uno de los peces que están en la lista de “No consumir”. Esta lista contiene peces que no deben consumirse debido a los altos niveles de contaminación por DDT, PCB y mercuriotambién en esta lista se encuentran la corvineta blanca, cabrilla, corvineta negra, pejerrey y barracuda.

El Programa Educacional Pesquero de Heal the Bay educa a los pescadores de muelles y costa en los condados de Los Ángeles y Orange sobre los riesgos de consumir peces contaminado con toxinas como dicloro-difenil-tricloroetano (DDT) y bifenils policlorinados (PCBs). Actualmente estamos en pausa debido al COVID; pero estaremos reanudando nuestras actividades en los muelles cuando las autoridades de salud locales lo permitan, y los miembros de nuestro Equipo Educacional Pesquero continúen educando sobre estos peces que no se deben consumir.

No se requiere una licencia de pesca para pescar en el muelle de Hermosa Beach, pero si pesca en las playas alrededor del muelle, tendrá que comprar una licencia.

En todo el estado, el Departamento de Pesca y Vida Silvestre de California (CDFW, por sus siglas en inglés) ofrece dos días de pesca gratis cada año donde no se requiere una licencia para motivar a los nuevos pescadores a esta actividad. En el 2021, esas fechas son el 3 de julio y el 4 de septiembre. Pescar en un muelle o en un día de pesca gratis es una excelente manera de probar un nuevo pasatiempo o cenar para su familia. CDFW ofrece algunos videos instructivos para principiantes y el grupo de Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC) ofrece videos sobre cómo preparar peces de forma segura. ¡Feliz pesca!

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