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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Marine Protected Areas

Local shorelines already impacted by climate change are now bracing for El Niño. The picture may not be pretty, says Heal the Bay’s Dana Murray, but there are things we can do to prepare.

What will El Niño’s footprint be on our beaches this winter? No one can say for sure, but the expected heavy precipitation and storm surges in California this winter will certainly take their toll on our local shorelines. Couple that with already rising sea levels due to climate change and the outcome could be seriously destructive and dangerous for coastal life.

Based upon historic El Niño events like 1982-83 and 1997-98, much of Southern California’s beach sand may disappear, coastal bluffs will suffer serious erosion, and some homes and businesses will flood. The suite of impacts associated with both El Niño and climate change is also a serious stressor to ocean life.

It’s important to note that El Niño is not climate change. Rather, it’s a natural cycle on Earth that occurs every 7-10 years. What remains to be seen is if our coastal ecosystems can recover and survive climate change-intensified El Niño events.

This makes strong coastal and ocean policies even more important, and Heal the Bay staff are busy advocating for such management measures. By creating marine protected areas and reducing the ocean stressors that we can control, such as pollution, inappropriate coastal development and overfishing, we are helping to buffer coastal and ocean environments from harm associated with strong El Niño events.

The eastern tropical Pacific typically averages about 10°F cooler than the western Pacific, making it more susceptible to heat-induced temperature increases, as well as creating conditions ripe for global warming to usher in Godzilla El Niños.

Scientists predict that super or “Godzilla” El Niño events will double in frequency due to climate change. This is not to say that we will have more El Niños, but rather, the chances of having extreme El Niños doubles from one every 20 years in the previous century to one every 10 years in the 21st century.

Although ocean temperatures are the common measure to evaluate El Niño intensity, sea level heights also provide an important glimpse into the strength of an El Niño. In some areas of the Pacific, particularly along the eastern side, sea levels actually rise during an El Niño. Currents displace the water along the equator, and warmer waters expand, which results in higher sea levels in the eastern Pacific and lower levels in the western Pacific. It’s important to remember that a rise of just a few inches in sea-level height can contribute to El Niño impacts.

Marine Life Impacts

During an El Niño, marine life has to contend with stress due to extreme fluctuations in sea level, as well as warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification due to climate change. In the tropical western Pacific, climate change will more than double the likelihood of extreme changes in sea levels that could harm coral reefs. Extreme sea level drops in the western Pacific will also last longer, putting coral under even more stress. During the 1997-98 El Niño, sea levels dropped up to a foot in the western Pacific, leaving coral reefs high and dry. 2015’s El Niño has already caused the sea level to drop seven inches in the western tropical Pacific Ocean.

Back in California, El Niño also quashes the usual upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich seawater along our coastline. The cold California current supports our oceanic food chain: from plankton and fish species, to kelp forests and marine mammals. Fish have responded to warming ocean temperatures this year by migrating north or out to sea in search of cooler waters. Consequently, sea lions have had to venture further from their young to look for those fish as their primary food source. This has had a cascading effect on California sea lion populations, leading to an unusual mortality event for sea lions this year. Following the warm ocean water, an influx of southern, more tropical marine life have moved up along California this year, such as whale sharks, pelagic red crabs, and hammerhead sharks.

Riding the warm ocean currents across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the only sea snake that ventures completely out to sea has been spotted in Southern California waters and beaches as far north as Oxnard for the first time in 30 years. The Yellow-bellied Sea Snake has some of the most poisonous venom in the world, and is a descendant from Asian cobras and Australian tiger snakes. This sea snake is a harbinger of El Niño–it typically lives in warm tropical waters. The last time the yellow-bellied snake was spotted in California was in the early 1980’s during an El Niño. Scientists are calling for the public’s help to confirm occurrences of these sea snakes in California and your sighting could be published in scientific journals. A recent sighting took place in the Silver Strand beach area in Oxnard. As the yellow-bellied sea snake is highly venomous, the public should not handle it. Instead, take photos, note the exact location, and report any sightings in California to iNaturalist and Herp Mapper.

Shoreline Impacts

Storm Surge Beach HouseEl Niño-caused sea level rise, coupled with sea levels rising from ice sheet melt associated with climate change, is projected to lead to more coastal flooding, shrinking beaches, and shoreline erosion. This year’s El Niño has western U.S. cities planning for coastal flooding. Higher sea levels, high tides and storm surges that force waves well past their usual reach pose very real threats. And when these forces coincide, such as during an El Niño, significant inundation can lay siege to coastal communities, freshwater supplies, wastewater treatment plants, power plants, and other infrastructure — not to mention public health and the environment.

Locally we have several communities that are particularly susceptible to coastal flooding and erosion (photo on right shows home on Malibu beach). Venice Beach, San Pedro, and Wilmington are some of the most vulnerable local communities to flooding, according to a USC Sea Grant study examining sea level rise impacts for coastal communities in the City of Los Angeles.

Sea level rise in Los Angeles may reach 5.6 feet by 2100, which may be further exacerbated by El Niño storm events, high tides, and storm surge – especially when big wave events occur at or near seasonal peak high tides, or King Tides.

Some sandy beaches in Malibu are already eroding away with each wave that crashes on armored sea walls. Beach parking lots and playgrounds in Huntington Beach become inundated after a winter storm, as storm surges push seawater deeper into the built environment.

At Heal the Bay, we’re committed to advocating for environmentally sound climate change adaptation methods through participating in local stakeholder groups such as Adapt-LA, analyzing and commenting on proposed plans and policies, and educating the public about the coastal threats associated with climate change. We want to help everyday people understand how they can support sound solutions that protect our critical natural resources.

It’s imperative that coastal communities invest in environmentally sound adaptation solutions to be resilient in the face of climate change, especially during an El Niño year. The environmental, economic, and social impacts of sea level rise in California emphasize the importance of addressing and planning.

Preparing for El Niño and climate change requires time, money, and planning, but by investing in the long-term health of our coastal communities, we can foster resilience to coastal climate change. Protecting and restoring marine and natural coastal areas like wetlands, kelp forests, and sand dunes will leave both us and the environment better prepared and protected as we brace for the impact “Godzilla” El Niño and climate change traipsing down our beaches this winter.



The Governor’s office has been busy over the last few weeks reviewing nearly 1,000 bills that reached his desk after making it through the California legislature this year. While he focused on pressing public policies issues, like healthcare and criminal justice, he also weighed in on several environmental issues, including climate change, oil spills, and water.

Here’s a quick round-up of the bills that became law in the areas of water and coastal environmental protection, many of which Heal the Bay weighed in upon throughout the session. For the full list of bills that were both signed and vetoed, visit the Governor’s website.

Plastic Pollution  AB 888 (Assemblymember Bloom)  bans the sale of personal care products that contain plastic microbeads in California, starting in 2020. Microbeads are currently used in shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, and exfoliating beauty products. Microbeads have become a major source of pollution in waterways, and have become ubiquitous in both the Los Angeles River and Pacific Ocean. This is a huge product stewardship bill that will hopefully set the stage for the elimination of microbeads in other states and products that reach beyond the U.S.

MPA Enforcement  AB 298 (Assemblymember Gonzalez) gives enforcement personnel the authority to cite people that are illegally fishing in marine protected areas (MPAs) with an infraction or a misdemeanor, ensuring that lawbreakers are held accountable without placing a burden on the courts. All Marine Protected Area (MPA) violations were previously misdemeanor crimes and often prosecuted without priority. Heal the Bay worked with partners to successfully pass this legislation that will strengthen enforcement of our state’s MPAs. This law will help enforcement agencies to combat poaching and illegal fishing in the MPAs off California’s coastline by issuing violators with a ticket – akin to a traffic violation – to enforce restrictions.

Oil Pipeline Rig CaliforniaOil Spill Response  SB 414 (Senator Jackson) helps make oil spill response faster, more effective, and more environmentally friendly by creating a program for fishing vessels to voluntarily join in oil spill response and place a temporary moratorium on the use of dispersants within state waters. Catalyzed by the devastating Plains All American oil spill in Santa Barbara earlier this year, the Governor remarked that together SB 414, SB 295, and AB 864, will improve planning for and prevention of oil spills in California.

Oil Pipeline Safety  AB 864 (Assemblymember Williams) requires oil pipeline operators located near environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas near the coast to use the best available technology to protect state waters and wildlife. This includes automatic shut-off valves, leak detection technology, and requires pipeline operators to document the best available technology used in their oil spill contingency plan.

Oil Pipeline Testing  SB 295 (Senator Jackson) requires the State Fire Marshal to annually inspect all intrastate oil pipelines, and hydrostatic testing of pipelines over five years of age to be tested every two-to-three years. It also requires high-risk pipelines to be tested annually.

L.A. River Restoration  AB 530 (Assemblymember Rendon) establishes a local working group tasked with updating the Los Angeles River Master Plan to develop a revitalization plan for the Lower L.A. River, which is a priority for the new Speaker. Substantial work has already been done to restore the Upper L.A. River within the boundaries of the City of Los Angeles, and this bill establishes a framework for restoration efforts also to be dedicated for the Lower Los Angeles River. 

Water Auditing  SB 555 (Senator Wolk)  Requires water retail suppliers to audit their systems for water loss and report these losses annually to the State Water Resources Control Board. This bill is aimed at reducing the billions of gallons of water that are lost each year from leaks in aging pipes and municipal water systems. It also requires the State Water Resources Control Board to set standards on acceptable leak rates by July 1, 2020. Previous leak rates were required to be reported every five years.

Drought Landscaping  AB 1164 (Assemblyman Gatto) prohibits cities and counties from passing or enforcing rules to ban the installation of drought-tolerant landscaping or artificial turf on residential property.

Low-income Water Rates  AB 401 (Assemblymember Dodd) directs the State Water Resources Control Board and Board of Equalization to develop a plan for establishing and funding a low-income water rate assistance program. In his signing message, Governor Brown also foreshadowed a potential battle at the ballot box next year. “While the plan called for in this bill will provide a path for modest, additional steps, we already know that Proposition 218 serves as the biggest impediment to public water systems being able to establish low-income rate assistance programs.  Proposition 218 similarly serves as an obstacle to thoughtful, sustainable water conservation pricing and necessary flood and stormwater systems improvements. My administration will work with the Legislature and stakeholders next year to address these problems, while maintaining rate payer protections.”

California Wind Renewable EnergyMandated Renewable Energy  SB 350 (Senator De Leon) aims to create a green energy transformation in the state. Building on AB 32, this law requires California to produce half its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030, while doubling energy efficiency in homes, offices, and factories.

Green Transportation  SB 767 (Senator De Leon)   allows the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to seek voter approval for a tax increase for transportation projects. Voters would be allowed the opportunity to weigh in on a resulting measure on the ballot geared towards reducing traffic and improving transportation throughout Los Angeles. Heal the Bay has been tracking development of the transportation measure to advocate that it also have water quality benefits.

Climate Change Adaptation  AB 1482 (Assemblymember Gordon) expands the Strategic Growth Council’s mandate to oversee state and federal agency coordination on climate change adaptation, promoting integration of climate adaptation into planning and investment decisions around natural resources protection and infrastructure.

Climate Change Policy  SB 246 (Senator Wieckowski) creates Climate Action Team to coordinate the state’s climate change adaptation policies, including facilitating development of regional and local adaptation plans. It also requires the Office of Planning and Research to establish a clearinghouse for climate adaptation information.



Staff scientist Dana Murray reports on our ongoing efforts to inform the public about the value and beauty of our local Marine Protected Areas.

Call them a sign of the times. Heal the Bay staff travelled along our local shorelines last week to help install informational displays about our fledgling Marine Protected Areas in Southern California.

Over three years in the making, the public signage informs beachgoers about the creation and importance of formally designated marine safe havens along the coastline — from San Diego to Santa Barbara, including our local MPAs in Malibu and Rancho Palos Verdes.

These beautiful and informative interpretive signs include maps, underwater images and bilingual descriptions of these underwater parks. California lays claim to the only statewide network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), where ocean wildlife can thrive with less disturbance from humans. Southern California’s MPAs have been in effect since 2012, following years of hard work by Heal the Bay and other coalition partners to implement them through the Marine Life Protection Act.

Illustrating the collaborative nature of MPA implementation, the sign project included a wide array of stakeholders and partners. Since 2012, Heal the Bay’s been working together with state agencies such as the Ocean Protection Council, Department of Fish and Wildlife, State Parks, and the Coastal Commission; Los Angeles MPA Collaborative members such as USC Sea Grant and Los Angeles Waterkeeper; cities such as Malibu and Rancho Palos Verdes; landowners such as Paradise Cove and L.A. County Beaches and Harbors; and other partner organizations such as the California Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Natural Resources Defense Council.

These organizations worked together to identify strategic sign locations, designed the content of the signs and provided Spanish translation, and procured landowner permission and coastal development permits to install the displays. All this work culminated in planting these signs in the sand late last week.

The first interpretive signs were installed Thursday at one of the world’s most popular coastal destinations — Malibu’s Zuma and Westward Beach, which is part of Point Dume State Marine Reserve and Point Dume State Marine Conservation Area. These beaches attract millions of visitors each year. The MPAs here encompass Point Dume’s rocky headland peninsula and deep sea canyon offshore, El Matador State Beach’s iconic rock arches, and a wide array of marine wildlife. Migrating gray whales often stop off and feed along Point Dume, and the reserve’s kelp forests, submarine canyon, and tide pools teem with octopus, anemones, and crabs. Historically, Point Dume’s kelp forest has been one of the largest in Southern California, providing food and shelter for a variety of sea life, including sea lions, lobster, grunion, and spawning squid.

Two years ago, we installed the first MPA regulatory signs in Los Angeles County along access points in Malibu and Palos Verdes, which simply reflect the new fishing regulations that accompany these MPAs. The newly designed educational signs installed this week will serve as a helpful public education tool, highlighting the importance of underwater parks and showing scenic underwater photos of the protected habitats and wildlife. Public education about our MPAs is imperative to help foster stewardship and advance MPA compliance.

Heal the Bay’s MPA Watch program surveys show that most people are respecting the new MPAs. However, a few hotspots exist where people are still fishing in reserves. Educational signs at key access points will help inform the public about where they can and cannot fish, while providing the important context as to why MPAs are beneficial to our coastal environment.

Earlier this year, Heal the Bay worked with partners to successfully pass new legislation that will strengthen enforcement of our state’s MPAs.

Beginning Jan. 1, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’ AB 298 will allow Department of Fish and Wildlife officers and other law enforcement agencies to combat poaching and illegal fishing in the MPAs off California’s coastline by issuing violators with a ticket – akin to a traffic violation – to enforce restrictions.

MPA violations are currently misdemeanor crimes and often prosecuted without priority. AB 298 gives officers the discretion to cite people that are illegally fishing in MPAs with an infraction or a misdemeanor, ensuring that lawbreakers are held accountable without placing a burden on the courts. AB 298 passed both the Assembly and the Senate on unanimous votes, and enjoyed widespread support from law enforcement, user groups and environmental organizations, including WILDCOAST, Heal the Bay, Monterey Bay Aquarium, San Diego Council of Divers, CA Fish and Game Wardens Association, California MPA Collaborative Implementation Project, and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

To join the statewide celebration of our MPAs, search your local MPA shoreline for these new interpretive signs, snap a picture, and post your photo on social media with #mpaswork and #healthebay.

To help with monitoring our local MPAs, join our upcoming MPA Watch training this October.

         Staff scientist Dana Murray, center, helped install new signs in Malibu.

Marine Protected Area

A group of Los Angeles high schoolers stoked about their MPAs! 



A completely subjective list of when Heal the Bay has shone the  brightest.

 After 30 years of achievement, Heal the Bay can sometimes be taken for granted. Many Angelenos view us as they do their utilities – always on, always working, not requiring a lot of thought. So as we begin our fourth decade, here’s a crash-course reminder of how we’ve continuously healed the Bay.

 

1. SPAWNING A MOVEMENT

Heal the Bay founder Dorothy GreenMeeting in her Westwood living room in spring 1985, housewife Dorothy Green and schoolteacher Howard Bennett mobilize a small squad of grassroots activists to conquer ongoing pollution in Santa Monica Bay. Brilliantly taking its mission as its name, Heal the Bay is officially born later that year.

 

2. FIRST FIGHT

Hyperion wastewater treatment plantThanks to intense lobbying from Heal the Bay and a federal consent decree, Hyperion Treatment Plant agrees in October 1986 to stop dumping partially treated sewage into Santa Monica Bay.  Sewage pollution levels in the Bay have since decreased by more than 90%.

 

3. THE FISHBONES

Heal the Bay's first fishbones logoVolunteers Gabrielle Mayeur and Sherry Johannes unwittingly create one of L.A.’s great brands in October 1987.  Their evocative and provocative fishbone logo creates instant recognition for the fledgling organization.  Whether it’s slapped on a skateboard or a Prius, the fish remains a powerful marker for L.A.’s tribe of ocean lovers.

 

4. MAKING THE GRADES

Heal the Bay's Beach Report CardAiming to protect the health of millions of ocean users, Heal the Bay publishes its first Beach Report Card in 1992, giving A-to-F grades to local beaches based on levels of bacterial pollution. Developed by outspoken executive director Mark Gold, the grading program shines a bright light and eventually helps secure $200 million in state funds to clean up chronically polluted beaches.

 

5. MINDS IN THE GUTTER

Stormdrain stencilThe first storm drains stenciled for our Gutter Patrol Program in October 1992 reminded would-be litterers that “This Drains to the Ocean.” Volunteers paint more than 60,000 catch basins with our message and logo over two years, connecting residents throughout L.A. County to their watersheds and our work.

 

6. TAKING IT TO THE LIMIT

Outflow drainpipe TMDLArguing that impaired water bodies in Los Angeles and Ventura counties are not being adequately remediated, Heal the Bay files an intent to sue the EPA in December 1997. A settlement compels the EPA to create 92 “Total Maximum Daily Load” limits over 13 years. With these measurable benchmarks in hand, Heal the Bay can now pressure dischargers to reduce pollution levels or meet stiff fines. The new TMDL model is copied nationwide.

 

7. SCALING UP

Heal the Bay's Santa Monica Pier AquariumHeal the Bay gets into the aquarium business by acquiring UCLA’s Ocean Discovery Center in March 2003 for the princely sum of $1. The rechristened Santa Monica Pier Aquarium becomes a beachhead for our youth education programs. We’ve since inspired more than 1 million guests to become better stewards of our local ocean and watersheds.

 

8. BANKING ON THE FUTURE

Ahmanson Ranch MalibuAfter years of pressure from Heal the Bay, Washington Mutual agrees in November 2003 to sell Ahmanson Ranch at the headwaters of the Malibu Creek watershed to the State of California.  The coalition of environmental advocates, scientists and celebrities successfully preserves 2,300 acres of open parkland and 20 miles of streams, thereby reducing pollution and protecting several threatened species.

 

9. YOSEMITES OF THE SEA

Marine Protected AreasEnsuring a vibrant local ocean for generations to come, Heal the Bay’s policy staff leads an often contentious process with the state and anglers to create 52 Marine Protected Areas along the Southern California coast in January 2012. Our most biologically rich underwater habitats get a reprieve from human pressures, allowing depleted stocks in such areas as Malibu and Palos Verdes to recover and thrive.

 

10. IT’S IN THE BAG

Los Angeles Plastic bag banHeal the Bay’s programs and policy staff spearhead a plastic bag ban in Los Angeles, which in January 2014 becomes the largest city in the nation to take on Big Plastic. The unanimous City Council vote triggers a nationwide debate about sustainability and catalyzes other bans throughout the country.

 

 

Help us win 30 more years of victories.



June 24, 2015 — Brittany Hoedemaker is a summer intern for Heal the Bay’s MPA Watch. She is currently an Environmental Studies student at the University of Southern California. Here, she writes about her first time conducting an MPA Watch survey and her observations of those mysterious oil blobs that have since been confirmed to originate from the Refugio Oil spill in Santa Barbara.  

As an intern at Heal the Bay working on the MPA Watch program, I’m spending my summer completing fieldwork along the beautiful beaches in Los Angeles’ marine protected areas. With miles of Southern California’s beaches covered with the mysterious oil blobs that first made their appearance along Manhattan Beach in late May, it could not have been a better time to be out there surveying our coastlines. 

After getting trained on how to complete MPA Watch surveys, I headed out with my fellow interns to Westward Beach to conduct an MPA Watch survey in the Point Dume State Marine Reserve (SMR). There, we practiced identifying consumptive (fishing) and non-consumptive activities (surfing, tidepooling) occurring within the Point Dume Reserve. Some activities we observed included sunbathing, swimming and even rock climbing. We were happy to see our fellow Angelenos enjoying the marine protected area while also keeping it clean and respecting its wildlife. 

Our field training continued from the beach up onto the bluff at Point Dume, where we learned to identify different types of boats and to gauge the three nautical mile distance from the shore that marks the boundary of state waters and the MPAs. To everyone’s delight, our boat-watching turned into whale watching, as three gray whales—including a calf—surfaced right below our vantage point on the bluffs. This incredible sight was a reminder of the importance of our MPAs, and a confirmation of the strategic establishment of the Point Dume SMR. The SMR encompasses an upwelling zone and a submarine canyon, providing food for the whales on their path to the Arctic.

The field training also reminded us of why our work and our MPAs are so important, as a contour of oil blackened the mean high tide line. MPA Watch interns and volunteers have been tasked with documenting and reporting the extent of oil blobs on our beaches–and we’ve already seen quite a bit. Heal the Bay will continue to provide updates from the oil spill at Refugio Beach and the connection to the recent spike in oil on our L.A. beaches. 

As we walked away from Point Dume with tar on our shoes and clipboards in hand, we felt a renewed drive to heal the Bay. We can’t do it alone, though.

If you see oil blobs on the beach, please call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

If you see an oiled animal or wildlife in distress, call the OWCN response hotline at 1-877-823-6926.

Also, take pictures (with an item in the frame for size reference) and post to Instagram with a geotag and #healthebay.

And remember: Please don’t touch the oil!

Westward Oil Blobs

(Clockwise from left: Tar on Westward Beach; Oil blob on Santa Monica beach; Tar on Santa Monica Beach looking toward the pier)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 SM Pier Oil Blobs SM Pier Oil Blobs



UPDATE as of Tuesday, June 30, 8:01 P.M. –  Heal the Bay staff, along with environmental partners and dozens of community members, attended and testified at the California Senate Select Committee on the Refugio Oil Spill last Friday in Santa Barbara. The hearing featured testimony from Plains All-American Pipeline, which spilled over 100,000 gallons of crude oil into the environment, reaching beaches here in Los Angeles County. This is the largest coastal oil spill in California over the last 25 years.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), chair of the Senate Select Committee on the Refugio Oil Spill, Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Carpinteria), and Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) held the joint oversight hearing to examine the causes, response to, and impacts of the Plains All-American Pipeline oil spill at Refugio.

During testimony from Plains All-American, a timeline of the initial response was revealed. The oil company did not alert the National Response Center about the spill until an hour and a half after company officials confirmed the pipeline rupture (and several hours after unusual pipeline activity was discovered). At the hearing, Mark S. Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said the Texas-based oil company did not meet state guidelines for reporting an oil spill, which should have occurred within 30 minutes of detecting the spill. A 911 call from the public, responded to by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and State Parks, triggered the initial contact to the National Response Center and oil spill response efforts.

Representatives for Plains All-American Pipeline came off as evasive and unprepared at the hearing, and avoided answering most of the questions from Sen. Jackson and Assemblymembers Williams and Stone. One of the expert panelists at the hearing, Janet Wolf, chair of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, criticized Plains All-American and response officials for insufficient communication to the County and public about the spread of the oil and release of oil testing results and fingerprinting analyses. Discussion also centered on the lack of best practices, such as automatic shut off valves, employed at the pipeline.

Recent documents have been uncovered describing what firefighters described the oil spill as gushing from the coastal bluffs onto the beach like a firehose “without a nozzle.” The documents also revealed that initially Plains All-American suggested the spill was too big to have come from their pipeline. Plains has reported that about 21,000 gallons of crude oil reached the ocean from the pipeline burst, but no one has confirmed that number, and we are among many who fear that the volume reaching the environment was much larger. Homeowners in Santa Barbara have also sued Plains All-American for the oiled beaches and unsatisfactory clean-up efforts near their homes. Criminal and civil investigations into the oil spill are underway by the state Attorney General.

Thanks to the many community members and environmental groups from throughout Southern California that came out to raise concerns and to comment at the hearing. Heal the Bay staff testified about linkage between oil deposits littering Los Angeles beaches and the Plains spill. We requested a throughout investigation also be conducted of all oiled beach reports in Southern California, so responsibility can be assigned.

Although reports are less frequent than in late May and June, we are still receiving documentation of unusual oil deposits at local beaches. If you do encounter oil along the beach, please report it to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802

UPDATE as of Monday, June 22, 3:13 P.M. –  Official testing results from three Manhattan Beach oil samples confirm our suspicion: Oil from the May 19 spill outside of Santa Barbara traveled over 100 miles to foul South Bay beaches. Now that the oil fingerprinting analyses have been authenticated, we are calling on regulators to assign responsibility and secure proper compensation for the environmental damages caused by Plains All American Pipeline.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) collected samples from the oil that washed ashore in Manhattan Beach on May 27, 2015. Physical and chemical analyses conducted by OSPR and an independent peer review indicated that the oil in the South Bay matched a source sample taken from the Plains All American spill at Refugio State Beach. Plains All American also took samples from Manhattan Beach and has now confirmed that two of those samples originated from the Plains All American spill as well.

Although Santa Barbara has taken the hardest hit, the spill’s impacts are being felt throughout Southern California. Heal the Bay is working with a coalition of environmental groups in calling for steadfast action to aid in the oil spill response efforts and enforcement against Plains All American.

Below are the three primary outcomes we hope to realize in the wake of this tragedy:

  1. Document full extent of the oil’s reach. Surfrider Foundation and Heal the Bay are working with authorities to see that all post-spill sightings of oil outside of Santa Barbara are being investigated. Since the initial report of oil on South Bay beaches on May 27th, oiled beach reports have come in from Oxnard, Leo Carrillo State Beach, El Matador, Zuma Beach, Surfrider, Sunset surf spot, Santa Monica, Venice, the entire South Bay, Long Beach, San Clemente and Laguna Beach. Long Beach and 7 miles of South Bay beaches experienced closures at the beginning of peak summer season. We encourage the public to remain vigilant and continue reporting unusual tar or oil sightings to the National Response Center: 1-800-424-8802.  
  2. Hold the polluter responsible. It is critical that Plains All American be held responsible for fouled beaches, oiled wildlife and damaged habitats from Santa Barbara to the southernmost reach of their oil pollution. Heal the Bay and a close-knit coalition of environmental groups are working with authorities to ensure that the documentation of the Plains All American Oil Spill is comprehensive so that strong legal action can be taken by state and federal agencies against this polluter.
  3. Protect our coast by passing new oil regulations. A coalition of environmental NGOs are calling for passage of key legislation to improve oil spill response and management in California:
    • SB 414 (Jackson) would help make oil spill response faster, more effective and more environmentally friendly by creating a program for fishing vessels to voluntarily join in oil spill response and place a temporary moratorium on the use of dispersants within state waters.
    • SB 788 (McGuire) would close the loophole in state legislation that allows for oil and gas extraction in state-owned submerged lands in the California Coastal Sanctuary if those lands are being drained from producing wells upon adjacent federal lands. In particular, it would protect Santa Barbara’s marine protected areas from offshore oil drilling.
    • AB 864 will require an operator of an oil pipeline along environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas near the coast to use the best available technology to reduce the amount of oil released in an oil spill. This includes automatic shut-off technology, and requires a pipeline operator to document the best available technology used in their oil spill contingency plan.

UPDATE as of Thursday, June 11, 2:41 P.M. – It’s been 2 ½ weeks since oil has been observed washing ashore in the L.A. region. Although official beach closures in the South Bay and Long Beach have been lifted, Heal the Bay remains concerned about public health and safety. We’re still patiently awaiting the fingerprinting analysis to determine the source of the oil.

Oil and tar samples from L.A. area beachesOur policy team has appealed to a number of public health and spill response agencies to install warning signs along oiled beaches advising beachgoers to avoid contact with oil. We’re also pushing for more thorough testing to determine beach safety. Heal the Bay scientists are currently processing oil, sand and water samples taken at a number of L.A. beaches (see picture at right). 

Listen: HtB marine scientist Dana Murray on NPR’s Morning Edition

The oil cleanup and response is still underway in Santa Barbara, led by the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Unit and the U.S. Coast Guard. As of Tuesday, June 9, 2015, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network reported 161 dead birds and 87 dead marine mammals, with 60 oiled birds and 46 oiled marine mammals rescued and undergoing treatment and care.

With a warm weekend ahead of us, Heal the Bay urges beachgoers to:  

Stay away from oiled sections of beach. If you come in contact with oil, remove it immediately (baby oil, mineral oil and olive oil are all helpful in removing tar and oil deposits from skin)  

Report abnormal amounts of oil to the National Response Center: 1-800-424-8802  

Report oiled wildlife sightings to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network: 1-877-UCD-OWCN.

Take a photo of oil on the beaches and post to social media with the hashtag #healthebay along with your location (it helps to include something in the photo that indicates scale)

UPDATE as of Monday, June 8, 8:11 P.M. – Revised animal casualty figures related to oil impacts: 67 dead marine mammals and 136 dead birds. The Long Beach coastline has now been re-opened following cleanup of four mile stretch of oil-strewn beaches.

UPDATE as of Thursday, June 4, 9:31 A.M. – Reports of oiled beaches in Southern California grow every day: Four miles of the Long Beach coastline is now closed as cleanup crews begin to remove blobs of oil on the beach. We are still awaiting official results from the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA on initial oil sample sourcing to confirm whether the oil spreading from Ventura to Orange County is from the Refugio oil spill or a different source. Oil in the ocean is weathered by wind and waves and broken up into smaller tar balls which can spread for hundreds of miles in the ocean. In the meantime, Heal the Bay has deployed our staff scientists to collect samples and document the oil on our L.A. beaches, which we hope to send off for chemical testing to aid in source identification.

In addition to beach closures at Long Beach, Refugio, and El Capitan, 138 square miles of fishing grounds have been closed indefinitely off the Southern California coastline.

Heal the Bay has been fielding reports from our MPA Watch volunteers, surfers, and beach-goers in Southern California with oiled beach reports coming in from: Oxnard, Leo Carrillo State Beach, El Matador, Zuma Beach, Surfrider, Sunset surf spot, Santa Monica, Venice, the entire South Bay, Long Beach, San Clemente and Laguna Beach.

We are concerned that some L.A. beaches remain open where oil deposits have been documented. The oil may be hazardous to human health. As a reminder, beachgoers should avoid oiled stretches of beach. If they do encounter oil, they should remove it quickly with baby oil, olive oil or coconut oil.

Official clean-up crews in L.A. have been focused on removing oil from Zuma, Manhattan, Malibu (general area), and Hermosa beaches. Hundreds of bags of oil have been cleaned up from Manhattan and Hermosa Beaches. We are asking the public to report oil sightings to the National Response Center and to please take and post photos with location to Instagram with #healthebay hashtagged. Please, do not handle any oil you find!

While we await official results about the source of the oil deposits, Heal the Bay staff has been collecting its own samples from various affected areas of the L.A. coastline. We will remain vigilant about tracking the source of the spill. If the oil comes fron non-natural sources (highly likely at this point), then we will advocate for stiff penalites for the parties held accountable.

Meanwhile, up in Santa Barbara, over two weeks have passed since the Refugio Beach spill, but the wildlife death tol continues to rise, as has the spread of oil. As of today, almost 300 oiled animals have been recovered. This includes 173 oiled seabirds–including 20 different species–115 dead, 58 alive. 100 oiled marine mammals have been recovered (58 dead, 42 alive), including 12 dead, oiled dolphins. Although the numbers are unknown, the impacts have likely been much larger to other animals such as fish, lobster, abalone, and crabs that live in tidepools and kelp forests along the spill zone. Heal the Bay’s marine scientist will be joining a small research dive team in Isla Vista to document oil underwater in the Campus Point marine protected area next week.

On the policy front, Heal the Bay is working with the West Marin Environmental Action Committee and a coalition of environmental groups to help pass SB 788 – a bill to ban future oil drilling into California state waters from federal land. The bill passed throught the State Senate yesterday and is now moving onto the Assembly.  If you haven’t already, please sign the petition and pass it on!

More on the Santa Barbara spill can be found here.

UPDATE as of Tuesday, June 2, 9:46 A.M. — We just got word that crews have been deployed in Redondo, Manhattan and Zuma beach to complete additional “visual” surveys of the beaches, while additional personnel are actually cleaning up oil at Venice Beach. USCG are still testing the “fingerprint” of the oil blobs that have washed up all over the Southern California coast, and we’re hopeful that we’ll soon know the origin of the invading oil.

Blobs, globs and pucks of oil have been reported from San Clemente to Ventura County, and we’re thankful for our citizen-scientists for sending in pictures and details of oil sightings. Click the mosaic below for some images submitted by our activist network.

Reminder: If you see oil blobs or “pucks” on the beach, please call the National Response Center: 1-800-424-8802. If you see an oiled animal or any wildlife in distress, call the OWCN response hotline: 1-877-823-6926.

Citizen-Scientists Photos

UPDATE as of Saturday, 8:35 A.M. — At 6:30 p.m. last night, the Coast Guard deemed safe the nine-mile stretch of beach between El Segundo and Torrance and reopened it to the public. While this may come as a relief to weekend beachgoers, Heal the Bay urges an abundance of caution. Despite continued testing of the oil blobs and the removal of 40 cubic yards of the mysterious gunk, we still don’t know the source, and thus can’t determine the extent of harm to humans.

If you’re committed to heading to South Bay beaches this weekend, we ask that you use common sense: If you see oil blobs or tarry messes on the sand or in the water, tell a lifeguard and stay clear of the material. If you come in contact with the material, it may cause irritation and other negative health effects: Remove it promptly with baby oil, olive oil or coconut oil. If irritation or other adverse effects continue, contact your doctor. 

At the end of the day, Heal the Bay values beachgoer health above all. If something seems off, please don’t compromise your health for a good break or skimboarding session! 

UPDATE as of Friday, 11:35 A.M. —  The Coast Guard announced at a press conference this morning that beaches from El Segundo jetty to the Redondo-Torrance border will remain CLOSED to swimmers until further notice and testing of the blobs, water and sand is complete. Beachgoers are safe behind lifeguard towers, but are advised to avoid wet sand and the water.  

UPDATE as of Thursday, 5 P.M. — Sarah Sikich, Heal the Bay’s vp and longtime staff scientist, spent the entire day on South Bay beaches checking out conditions and talking to authorities.  Here’s her eyewitness report of the latest news.

·  Thanks to ongoing cleanup, there are fewer oil globs on Manhattan Beach shorelines, but small tar balls remain scattered throughout the wrack line. Hermosa Beach had larger and more dense oil globs south of the pier. There appear to be very few globs in the wash zone and waves this afternoon, so less seemed to be washing ashore.

·  Closures are still in effect from the El Segundo Jetty to the Redondo-Torrance border. Enforcement of the closure varies along the beach. A few surfers were in the water earlier in the day at El Porto, but no one could be seen this afternoon.
 

·  Manhattan Beach north of the pier was desolate, and lifeguards patrolled the beach. South of the MB pier and in Hermosa Beach, lifeguards cruised the beach in trucks, talking to waders and discouraging them from playing in the water.
 

·  Authorities are considering opening the beaches tomorrow morning if the water samples test clear. Heal the Bay has concerns about opening the beaches and even allowing people on the sand between the lifeguard towers and water. It’s nearly impossible to walk along the beach in that area without encountering a small oil glob, and from a human health perspective, exposure through skin contact is a concern.

·  Heal the Bay recommends that the beaches stay closed until all the oil is cleaned up. We also recommend regular testing of the sand until it’s clear. (Kids are at risk of putting oil contaminated sand in their mouths).

·  Test results to determine the source could take a few days to several weeks. Testing at this point has indicated that the petroleum product washing ashore has moderate hazardous characteristics and is slightly flammable.

· Clean up crews have collected about 30 cubic yards of oil globs so far. That’s spread over one full industrial dumpster and three partially filled ones.

·  Heal the Bay is also concerned that people displaced from closed beaches will journey to nearby beaches that may also be impacted by oil/tar blobs. Small tarball/oil globs have been found along the wrack line in Playa del Rey. Granted, it’s nothing like what we saw in Manhattan Beach yesterday, but people walking or running along the wet sand could easily encounter oil.

· People should avoid any beaches where they notice oil (in the sand or sea) until we have more information about where this substance is coming from and its extent.

UPDATE as of Thursday, 10 A.M. — Beaches are still closed from the El Segundo Jetty to the South Redondo Beach border, while professional clean-up crews continue to remove oil globs from the beach. Beachgoers are encouraged to stay away from the wet sand, and not go seaward of the lifeguard towers. Contact with the oil may cause skin irritation, headaches from the odors, and other negative health effects. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said that as of this morning, no wildlife issues have been reported. Water and beach samples are being taken of the oil product for identification. All potential sources are being investigated, including the local refinery and marine terminal, the Refugio oil spill, and natural sources. Authorities are doing aerial flight surveys, and two oil response vessels were in the water this morning.

UPDATE as of Wednesday, 8:11 P.M.Via L.A County Dept. of Public Health: A beach closure has been declared for the area from El Segundo Jetty to the North and the Redondo Beach city limit to the South, due to a release of petroleum effecting the area. Beach users are advised to avoid contact with the material washed on shore, the water, and wet sand. Contact with oil may cause skin irritation and long-term health effects.

ORIGINAL POST May 27, 2015 — Los Angeles’ Department of Public Health officials have closed a wide swath of South Bay beaches after an unusual and heavy concentration of oil globs washed ashore this afternoon.

A roughly 2-mile stretch of shoreline between 34th Street in Manhattan Beach and Longfellow Avenue in Hermosa Beach is now off limits while authorities begin cleanup efforts and investigate the source of the large clumps of oil and tar. The sand along the tideline is peppered with thousands of thick globs ranging in size from a baseball to a football.  Many of these globs are visible in the shallows of the ocean and in the surfline.

While many observers might think that this unfortunate incident is directly related to the recent oil spill in Santa Barbara, it is simply too early to tell where the oil came from. It is unknown if the oil is from natural seepage or from an oil spill from a local refinery or pipeline located nearby.

Initial reports do not indicate that any local wildlife visible on the shore has been harmed.

The oil was first spotted offshore around 10 a.m., came onshore around noon, and Heal the Bay started getting notifications from surfers and the general public around 1:30. The U.S. Coast Guard is coordinating cleanup and investigation efforts with state and local agencies, including the L.A. County Lifeguards and Fire Department, the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, L.A. Beaches and Harbors, and the L.A. County Office of Emergency Management.

Cleanup and testing is underway, but no source has been identified yet. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard have taken samples and will continue efforts to identify the source, including the possibility of nearby oil refineries and transportation facilities, natural oil seeps, and the Refugio spill.

In addition, NOAA is re-running its oil spill and ocean current models related to the Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara. At the time of this posting, we are not aware that any other oil has been detected along the Malibu coastline or elsewhere in Santa Monica Bay.

For now authorities say that they do not need volunteers, but that could change. If you would like to help with any cleanup efforts that may arise, you can send your name, phone, and email information to: info@healthebay.org. We will provide you with updates and engagement opportunities as they arise.

Heal the Bay staff scientists are traveling to the affected areas and will be providing us updates through the evening and tomorrow.



 

Dana Murray, Heal the Bay’s senior coastal resources manager, taps her network to provide us with the latest news from the oil spill at Refugio Beach.

UPDATE as of Tuesday, June 30, 8:01 P.M. –  Heal the Bay staff, along with environmental partners and dozens of community members, attended and testified at the California Senate Select Committee on the Refugio Oil Spill last Friday in Santa Barbara. The hearing featured testimony from Plains All-American Pipeline, which spilled over 100,000 gallons of crude oil into the environment, reaching beaches here in Los Angeles County. This is the largest coastal oil spill in California over the last 25 years.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), chair of the Senate Select Committee on the Refugio Oil Spill, Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Carpinteria), and Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) held the joint oversight hearing to examine the causes, response to, and impacts of the Plains All-American Pipeline oil spill at Refugio.

During testimony from Plains All-American, a timeline of the initial response was revealed. The oil company did not alert the National Response Center about the spill until an hour and a half after company officials confirmed the pipeline rupture (and several hours after unusual pipeline activity was discovered). At the hearing, Mark S. Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said the Texas-based oil company did not meet state guidelines for reporting an oil spill, which should have occurred within 30 minutes of detecting the spill. A 911 call from the public, responded to by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and State Parks, triggered the initial contact to the National Response Center and oil spill response efforts.

Representatives for Plains All-American Pipeline came off as evasive and unprepared at the hearing, and avoided answering most of the questions from Sen. Jackson and Assemblymembers Williams and Stone. One of the expert panelists at the hearing, Janet Wolf, chair of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, criticized Plains All-American and response officials for insufficient communication to the County and public about the spread of the oil and release of oil testing results and fingerprinting analyses. Discussion also centered on the lack of best practices, such as automatic shut off valves, employed at the pipeline.

Recent documents have been uncovered describing what firefighters described the oil spill as gushing from the coastal bluffs onto the beach like a firehose “without a nozzle.” The documents also revealed that initially Plains All-American suggested the spill was too big to have come from their pipeline. Plains has reported that about 21,000 gallons of crude oil reached the ocean from the pipeline burst, but no one has confirmed that number, and we are among many who fear that the volume reaching the environment was much larger. Homeowners in Santa Barbara have also sued Plains All-American for the oiled beaches and unsatisfactory clean-up efforts near their homes. Criminal and civil investigations into the oil spill are underway by the state Attorney General.

Thanks to the many community members and environmental groups from throughout Southern California that came out to raise concerns and to comment at the hearing. Heal the Bay staff testified about linkage between oil deposits littering Los Angeles beaches and the Plains spill. We requested a throughout investigation also be conducted of all oiled beach reports in Southern California, so responsibility can be assigned.

Although reports are less frequent than in late May and June, we are still receiving documentation of unusual oil deposits at local beaches. If you do encounter oil along the beach, please report it to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802

UPDATE as of Thursday, June 11, 2:41 P.M.

The oil cleanup and response is still underway in Santa Barbara, led by the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Unit and the U.S. Coast Guard. As of Tuesday, June 9, 2015, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network reported 161 dead birds and 87 dead marine mammals, with 60 oiled birds and 46 oiled marine mammals rescued and undergoing treatment and care.

Report abnormal amounts of oil to the National Response Center: 1-800-424-8802  

Report oiled wildlife sightings to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network: 1-877-UCD-OWCN.

The oil cleanup and response is still underway in Santa Barbara, led by the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Unit and the U.S. Coast Guard. As of Tuesday, June 9, 2015, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network reported 161 dead birds and 87 dead marine mammals, with 60 oiled birds and 46 oiled marine mammals rescued and undergoing treatment and care. – See more at: https://healthebay.org/blogs-news/updates-about-mysterious-oil-blobs-la#sthash.B9lkGKB0.dpuf

UPDATE as of Thursday, June 4, 11 A.M.

Over two weeks have passed since the initial spill of oil at Refugio Beach, but the wildlife death toll continues to rise, as has the spread of oil. As of today, almost 300 oiled animals have been recovered. This includes 173 oiled seabirds, including 20 different species (115 dead, 58 alive). Equally sad, 100 oiled marine mammals have been recovered (58 dead, 42 alive), including 12 dead, oiled dolphins. Although the numbers for others animals are unknown, the impacts have likely been much larger to such populations as fish, lobster, abalone, and crabs that live in tidepools and kelp forests along the spill zone. Heal the Bay’s marine scientists will be joining a small research dive team in Isla Vista to document oil underwater in the Campus Point marine protected area next week.

Meanwhile, reports of oiled beaches in Southern California grows every day, possibly due to the Refugio spill. Four miles of the Long Beach coastline is now closed as cleanup crews began to remove blobs of oil on the beach. We are still awaiting official results from the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA on initial oil sample sourcing to confirm whether the oil spreading from Ventura to Orange County is from the Refugio oil spill or a different source. Oil in the ocean is weathered by wind and waves and broken up into smaller tar balls which can spread for hundreds of miles in the ocean. In the meantime, Heal the Bay has deployed our staff scientists to collect samples and document the oil on our L.A. beaches, which we hope to send off for chemical testing to aid in source identification.

On the policy front, Heal the Bay is working with a coalition of environmental groups to help pass SB 788, which is one step closer to law, as SB 788 just passed out of California’s State Senate yesterday. Big thanks to the public for showing support via a petition we circulated the day after the oil spill! In addition, our coalition is submitting a letter to the Governor to restore the CA Coastal Act. When the Governor issued a Proclamation of a State of Emergency, which is beneficial in that it provides necessary funding and resources to respond to an emergency such as this oil spill, the Governor’s proclamation also suspended the California Coastal Act, which may have its own repercussions. There are other science and policy actions in play, and we’ll keep you apprised.

UPDATE as of Tuesday, June 2, 12:20 P.M.

 Via the Refugio Response Joint Information Center: Nearly 300 volunteers have been trained as oil spill responders and more than half of those were deployed for beach cleaning activities. Volunteers contributed more than 1,700 hours and removed 205 bags of oily waste.

Refugio Mammals and Birds Affected

 

 

 

**The graphic at left is OWCN’s latest tally of oiled animals. It’s a sad milestone: For the first time since the oil spill, today’s report has more dead wildlife recovered than alive.

Heal the Bay will continue to keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

 UPDATE as of May 27

 It’s been a week since the oil spilled along the Santa Barbara coast at Refugio Beach, and many questions are still rolling in, some more easy to answer than others. Heal the Bay is sending staff up to Santa Barbara to help with the cleanup efforts this week, so we’ll be sure to share our eyewitness accounts. In the meantime, here’s an update on the latest developments.

What will the impacts be to California’s wildlife?

As the oil spill oozes along our coastline, globs of the viscous black goo are getting caught in the canopies of our kelp forests and in the nooks and crannies of rocky tidepools along the Santa Barbara coast. We’ve already seen the first wildlife victims of the oil spill. Brown pelicans who dive headfirst into the ocean to catch fish are some of the first animals to show up on beaches doused in black oil, as well as sea lions who swim through the oily surface of the water to take a breath or surf in black gooey waves to get to the beach to rest. It takes time to calculate an oil spill’s impact on wildlife. Scientists are just now documenting the mortality to dolphins due to oil in the Gulf of Mexico five years after the BP oil spill.

The Santa Barbara Channel is a unique area where warm water from Southern California converges with cold water from Northern California. So we see a mix of both northern and southern species living within giant kelp forests and rocky reefs along the Santa Barbara coastline and islands. Santa Barbara’s giant kelp forests are home to animals like the California spiny lobster, sea fans, and rockfish, as well as marine mammals like sea otters, seals, and whales. Many of these kelp forests, such as those at Naples Reef and Isla Vista, are part of California’s network of state marine protected areas (MPAs). Groups such as PISCO and Reef Check California have been monitoring marine life along the Santa Barbara coastline for years, so there will be a good baseline of pre-oil spill marine life to compare to post-oil spill marine life, which should give us an idea of how marine life populations change following this ecological disaster. With UCSB just down the coast, several faculty and researchers have jumped into action, helping with a variety of impact assessments from predicting the oil spread to evaluating wildlife impacts.

In addition to the oceanic impacts, beach wildlife downcoast from the spill are also starting to show impacts from oil. After washing up on beaches, kelp provides a food source for arthropods, which are in turn preyed upon by shore birds like snowy plovers and terns. Snowy plovers nesting and feeding along sands beach in Goleta have already been documented with oil on their feathers following the spill at Refugio. When small animals ingest oil they may die or get eaten by larger wildlife, with those oil toxins bioaccumulating up through the food chain. Toxins can directly affect the reproductive systems of animals, so ocean wildlife populations need to be monitored carefully to scout for oil spill related impacts.

How can I help save oiled animals?

Oiled wildlife, especially birds and marine mammals, are mobile and can move beyond the oil spill area. Oiled pelicans have already showed up dozens of miles south of the spill in Santa Barbara Harbor. Please report oiled wildlife to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926. Provide the best description you can of the animal and location so trained teams can rescue and rehabilitate the wild animal.

How can I help with cleanup efforts?

As of June 3, volunteers are no longer being requested to assist in the Refugio cleanup. Any change in volunteer needs will be posted on Cal Spill Watch’s page.

If you are visiting a beach and spot oil blobs, globs or unusual amounts of tar, please call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

With attention focused on Refugio Beach, it’s important for the public to monitor other beaches in Santa Barbara and Ventura County for signs of oiled wildlife or oil, as well as to help track movement of the oil slick and impacts of the spill. Our colleagues at Santa Barbara Channelkeeper have already developed a system to report the status of Santa Barbara beaches and help document spread. If you would like to help with this volunteer reporting effort, please take photos of oil impacted and non-impacted beaches from Gaviota to Santa Barbara. Landscape photos of the beach are most helpful to show the extent of oil accumulation or cleanliness of the beach. Send photos, the location, time and other relevant observations to ben@sbck.org.  This data is being compiled and shared with agencies to help inform cleanup efforts.

Will the oil make its way down to L.A.?

When the Refugio spill happened, government experts said preliminary projections indicated that it was unlikely that oil from Santa Barbara would make its way to Los Angeles County. After all, the much larger oil spill off Santa Barbara in 1969 reached Ventura but not Santa Monica Bay, according to maps from the time. However, the recent 7-mile closure of South Bay beaches now littered with oil patties has raised questions about possible connections between the two incidents. Definitive testing by the U.S. government is now under way but will take some time to be concluded.

Closer to home, a tanker-caused 21,000 gallon oil spill (the same amount estimated to reach the ocean during last week’s Refugio spill) that originated in El Segundo at the Chevron Marine Terminal in 1991 reached as far northwest as Malibu Lagoon, which is about 20 miles away. Though it’s still to be determined if we are seeing oil from the Refugio spill here in Los Angeles, oiled wildlife may show up on our beaches in the coming days and weeks. Any oiled wildlife should be reported to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network immediately.

You can rest assured that Heal the Bay will remain vigilant about watchdogging oil along the shores here in L.A. County and trying to make sure similar things don’t happen here to the best of our ability. You may recall that we helped lead the effort to defeat a ballot proposal to begin oil drilling underneath the seafloor in Hermosa Beach this year.

Can regulations be improved to prevent a similar spill in the future?

Oil spills are inevitable, no matter how strong the regulations are and advanced the technology may be. Unfortunately, a huge oversight gap has been identified in the management of the Plains All American Pipeline that caused the oil spill at Refugio. It’s critical that spill prevention, notification, and rapid response measures are in place and functioning to minimize the impacts associated with an oil spill. Regulatory oversight of the Plains All American Pipeline shifted from the federal to state level in the past few years, without any County control. This incident should be a crude awakening that both federal and state pipeline regulations should require emergency measures, such as shut-off valves and alarm systems to prevent massive spills in the future.

While the Refugio spill originated from an onshore pipeline, we urge you to sign a petition launched by our partners at the West Marin Environmental Action Committee to pass SB 788, banning future offshore drilling into California state waters from federal land.

Here’s a link to the petition–please sign and share!



Dana Murray, Heal the Bay’s senior coastal policy manager, provides an update on the spill and what can be done to prevent these kinds of disasters. For her, the fight is personal.

May 20, 2015 — Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara is just that – a coastal refuge teeming with sensitive wildlife. It’s a treasured and protected state beach park along California’s coastline and a culturally significant and historic Native American place – the Chumash named it “Qasil” meaning “beautiful.” Sadly, Refugio also will now be known as home to one of the largest coastal oil spills in California history.

Refugio oil spill photo by Lara Cooper/Noozhawk

On Tuesday afternoon, a ruptured pipeline spilled an estimated 100,000 gallons of oil along Refugio Beach over the course of a few hours. This number is sure to grow as we learn more. Although the pipeline, owned by Plains All American Pipeline, is inland on other side of the 101 freeway, the leaked oil spread to a culvert, which then spilled the oil onto the beach and into the ocean.

With ocean currents and winds blowing at 15 knots, the oil spill is spreading south toward Isla Vista and Santa Barbara–and the pristine Naples Marine Protected Area. The oil sheen covers over nine miles of the coastline and is expected to spread even further. With an oil spill of this magnitude, we are already witnessing impacts to coastal and marine wildlife along the Southern California coast, and can expect to see more over the coming days and weeks.

California State Parks has closed Refugio’s popular campground and beach indefinitely, and issued a warning for nearby El Capitan State Beach ahead of the busy Memorial Day weekend. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed fishing and shellfish harvesting in Santa Barbara County within one mile of Refugio Beach, effective immediately and remaining in place until the California Environmental Protection Agency advises that it is safe for fishing to resume.

California’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response has dispatched cleanup crews to Refugio Beach, clad in white jumpsuits, to attempt to scoop up oily sand into buckets. And California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network has been activated to rescue any oiled wildlife, with a focus on protecting snowy plover and least tern habitats. Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard has deployed crews and barges to use skimmers and booms to try and stop the spread of oil in the ocean and try to remove what it can.

Santa Barbara’s coastline has been struck by oil spills in the past, most notably in 1969 when a well drilling blow-out at an offshore platform spilled an estimated 4.2 million gallons of crude oil. Two hundred square miles of ocean and 35 miles of coastline were oiled and thousands of animals were killed. This oil spill and the public response helped spark the modern environmental movement and Earth Day in the United States.

The most common questions we receive after an ecological disaster like this are:

Refugio, before the spill: Dana's daughter Coral beachcombs as her dad Bryan surfs

What can we do to help?

When good-hearted people see images of the devastation, many want to volunteer and help rescue animals or remove oil. For now, public agencies overseeing the cleanup have not requested help from the general public. We will keep you posted if volunteer opportunities do arise.

And remember, if you do see oiled wildlife, do not pick up or try to rescue wild animals. Wildlife capture takes special training to prevent injury to the animal as well as the person. Instead, report oiled wildlife you see to (877) 823-6926 and trained experts will respond.

Oiled birds that show up on our shores are usually seabirds that don’t typically come to land, except when they are cold and tired, as the oil has impaired their ability to survive. If well-intentioned people attempt to capture oiled seabirds, they can inadvertently harm them further, or scare the wildlife back out into the water and cause them to get even more cold and tired.

More information on how to help oiled wildlife can be found at www.owcn.org.

How can we make sure that this doesn’t happen in Santa Monica Bay?

On the policy front, Heal the Bay is calling on all Californians to urge state politicians to pass the California Coastal Protection Act of 2015. This bill is also known as SB 788 and would close an oil drilling loophole in California’s Coastal Sanctuaries Act. This loophole allows drilling from federal lands into state waters, which is one of the last risks to Santa Monica Bay and other coastal areas in California.

Ultimately, the only way to prevent more devastating oil spills to our ocean and coastline is to say NO to more offshore oil drilling. Sign the petition to tell California legislators that we don’t want another Refugio:


California has already taken a position to intentionally forgo any revenue from new offshore oil development due to the unacceptably high risk of oil spills, and has instead focused on developing clean, renewable energy. California also passed the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999, which led to the establishment of marine protected areas in 2012, which are designed to protect and conserve marine life and habitat. SB 788 calls for the Coastal Sanctuary Act to be updated to reflect marine protection goals established in the MLPA, and close the oil drilling loophole.

The simple answer is no drill, no spill. Heal the Bay and our partners recently defeated another oil company’s plans to drill for oil in Hermosa Beach, just six blocks from the ocean. Even inland oil pipelines and drilling operations can lead to coastal oil spills. And as we have seen, oil spills have the potential to significantly impact marine life and habitats throughout the Southern California Bight because they can spread rapidly over great distances and can be difficult to detect and clean up. For example, an oil spill that originated in El Segundo in the 1990s reached Malibu Lagoon, and the infamous 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill spread along the coast for more than 35 miles. Furthermore, any oil spill is likely to have an impact on tourism and the coastal economy.

Our state and communities have made significant investments to protect and enhance marine and coastal habitats in California, such as establishing marine protected areas and restoring coastal lagoons and wetlands. Oil spills directly undermine these long-term efforts.

I once was fortunate enough to live just 10 minutes downcoast from Refugio while in grad school. As you can see in the photo above, I’ve surfed the waves at the point with my husband, conducted scientific surveys of underwater marine life and camped and tidepooled along the beach with my young daughter. (You can see my husband and daughter enjoying this special place in the photo above.)

It’s really hard to imagine that one of my favorite spots in California has now been smothered by crude oil.

I’m going to do all I can to prevent this from happening to other places in the future and I invite you to join me.

–Dana

Dana with daughter Coral

 

 

 

 

Sign the petition to end offshore oil drilling in California!  

Be sure to sign up for our email list for the latest spill updates and other ways you can help protect our coast and watersheds.

For the latest information on this and other California oil spills, like California Spill Watch on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

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Each time we go to a supermarket or restaurant we are faced with choices about what kind of seafood to buy. Health concerns and a growing desire to eat locally and sustainably have made these decisions harder than ever. But now…you have Nick Fash on your side! Starting this month, Nick, our Aquarium’s education specialist and Key to the Sea manager, will help you make informed choices at the seafood counter and your favorite local restaurant with his monthly seafood blog. As an added bonus, you’ll score one of his delectable recipes at the end of each blog.

Salmon? What exactly does this mean when you read it on a menu? The truth is that it could be farmed, or wild, or any one of six different fishes from two different groups from opposite ends of the earth. Not so simple anymore, is it?

There are two basic types of salmon: Atlantic and Pacific. The Atlantic salmon is in the genus Salmo and originally came from the Atlantic Ocean (I say originally as they are now farmed all over the world) and Pacific salmon is in the genus Oncorhynchus, which come from the Pacific Ocean.

Salmon are born in fresh water, travel to the ocean in their adult life and return to fresh water to lay eggs. They are a keystone species, meaning they play an important role in the nutrient-starved ecosystems where they spawn. When the Pacific salmon die, the nutrients in their body that they obtained from their lives out in the ocean are released into the Arctic, beginning the explosion of life that occurs during the spring and summer months. Without these nutrients the Arctic ecosystem would be unable to function properly.

Salmon are extremely sensitive to environmental changes in the ocean as well as on land. Their populations are suffering from logging, mining, pollution and changing ocean conditions. And salmon farming is the most recent major threat. Not only are salmon farms destroying the ecosystem with all of the waste they produce, they are spreading diseases and parasites to the wild salmon as they migrate out to the ocean. So we are not only destroying one of nature’s finest food sources, replacing them with highly inferior farmed salmon, we are also risking the ruin of an entire ecosystem.

Southern California does not have open pen aquaculture (salmon farms located just offshore along the coast), but we do have other problems that impact salmon populations: Pollution, coastal development and habitat destruction adversely affect our own local fisheries. By helping to establish Marine Protected Areas throughout California, Heal the Bay is working to counteract the effects of environmental degradation on our fisheries by creating no-take zones for fish stocks to recover and thrive.

Knowing where your seafood comes from is important! Fortunately, several local seafood suppliers are committed to sourcing the sea’s bounty in a responsible and sustainable way.  Check out the selections offered at Santa Monica Seafood, Wild Local Seafood, and Community Seafood for your next seafood purchase. 


Wild Alaskan Salmon (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 3lb Wild Alaskan Salmon filet, with skin on

Sauce

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange juice
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon honey

How to

  1. Preheat broiler. Line rack of broiler with foil and lightly brush with oil.
  2. Pat filet dry and check for bones by running finger along the filet. If you find any bones you can pull them out with a pair of clean pliers.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Broil 4-5 inches from heat for 7 minutes, cover with foil and continue to cook in the broiler for another 7-10 minutes.
  5. While the salmon is broiling, whisk together all sauce ingredients.
  6. Season with pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Chef Nick




April 2, 2015 — With Governor Brown’s drought restriction announcement yesterday we’re getting many inquiries about Heal the Bay’s position on desalination. Can it do some good? Is it a bad thing inherently? Like most water issues in California, it’s complicated.

We are following the issue through our work in vetting proposed local desalination facilities and weighing in with the State Water Resources Control Board as it develops its final desalination policy, which is expected later this year. We are now analyzing the draft policy and providing recommendations.

As an organization, Heal the Bay is not against desalination per se. We just don’t believe it’s a magic bullet that will solve all our water problems.

If done improperly, the process can cause a great deal of harm to our oceans and the animals that call it home. We believe that water conservation and reuse should be maximized before energy intensive desalination is pursued. If desalination plants are approved, Heal the Bay believes that they must use the best technology available to minimize marine life mortality and keep water quality clean.

Desalination permits should require the best available site and design to accommodate the best available technology in order to:

  • minimize the intake and mortality of marine life
  • minimize the adverse impacts of brine discharge to the marine environment
  • avoid conflict with existing environmental protections, especially recently adopted Marine Protected Areas
  • plan effectively for sea-level rise associated with climate change and disaster preparedness

It is critical that the State Board develop statewide standards for desalination that minimize the intake and mortality of all forms of marine life and maintain ecosystem functions. Regardless of industry’s proposed safety measures, we still have many concerns about what sucking millions of gallons of seawater can do to ocean health.

We promise to stay vigilant when desal projects are proposed and keep you informed about new developments.

Check out the multitude of responses to desalination prompted by our recent Facebook post.

We have also compiled a list of Desalination FAQ’s here.