Top

Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Venice Beach

As representatives of Heal the Bay, we often get asked: “Is the bay healed yet?” People know we’ve been at this a long time (more than 25 years). While the answer is a qualified “yes,” we still work every day to fulfill our mission to make southern California’s coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay safe, healthy and clean. Our tools?  Science, education, community action and advocacy.

Each year we discuss where we’ve been, where we’re headed and how we’re going to get there. It’s a valuable process requiring that we all know what our HtB colleagues are up to: whether we’re teaching school kids at our Aquarium, coordinating our next advocacy campaign or analyzing water samples in Malibu Creek.

Here’s what we came up with for our goals of 2013:

Science

Marine Protected Areas and Fisheries

In 2013, we plan to continue to build our MPA Watch program. We will review data collected by MPA Watch volunteers and interns, and share it with management, enforcement, and other monitoring agencies to help understand and evaluate how local Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are being used. We also plan to inform and evaluate the development of fisheries management plans for key southern California fisheries, including spiny lobster. Additionally, in 2013, we will work with local and statewide partners to advance the statewide sustainable seafood policy developed by the Ocean Protection Council (with Heal the Bay’s involvement) and local efforts to promote sustainable seafood. On the education front, we are playing a leadership role in creating new MPA curriculum for teachers with the Southern California Aquarium Collaborative.  

Stream Team

Heal the Bay will continue to develop our Stream Team program. We plan to begin evaluating watershed impacts associated with agricultural development in the Santa Monica Mountains, including vineyards. Additionally, we hope to inspire residents and recreationists in the watershed to become Creek Stewards, and help scout for watershed health impacts throughout these mountains.

Malibu Creek Watershed

We will educate local partner groups and management agencies about the findings of Heal the Bay’s State of the Malibu Creek Watershed report. We will also work with watershed partners and policymakers to prioritize and implement recommendations detailed in the report aimed at improving local stream and watershed health.

Predicting Beach Water Quality

Heal the Bay will continue our partnership with Stanford University in developing a predictive beach water quality models. The models will use oceanic and atmospheric factors (i.e. tides, waves, temperature, wind direction etc.) as inputs to forecast indicator bacteria concentrations at beaches, as means of providing early “nowcast” warnings of human health risks (our current methods take 18-24 hours to process, leaving the public with day-old water quality information). We plan to develop simple models for 25 different California beaches that will rapidly “predict” when beaches are in or out of compliance with water quality standards. Additionally, these models will be helpful in identifying and prioritizing beach cleanup and abatement priorities.

Education

Youth Summits

To take student learning beyond the classroom into community action and civic engagement, Heal the Bay will organize more youth summits. Students learn how to protect what they love through adjusting their own behavior, speaking publicly to businesses and governments and educating others in their local communities.  This year we will focus on scheduling these events quarterly, formalizing their structure, and expanding their reach throughout Los Angeles County high schools.     

Teacher Opportunities

Heal the Bay will expand our teacher education and professional development opportunities in 2013.  New workshops and field experiences will be offered to help increase teacher expertise in teaching environmental principles and concepts, marine and watershed science knowledge, and best practices for melding field and laboratory activities into their own classroom curricula. 

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

To further educate the 75,000-80,000 annual visitors to the Aquarium about water conservation, we plan to overhaul the Green Room, named after Heal the Bay’s founding president Dorothy Green, with a new exhibit in her honor. The education room will include interactive, bilingual exhibits on watershed education and the urban water cycle, as well as a space dedicated to Dorothy’s accomplishments and inspirational vision.

Classroom Enrichment

In 2013, we’ll expand our environmental education outreach to more low-income communities and to a wider range of age groups. Through our partnership with the Discovery by Nature program, we’ll be able to reach classrooms in underserved communities, where public education in the sciences — as well as field trip funding — are limited.

Advocacy

A “Yes” for Clean Beaches

In the new year, Heal the Bay will mobilize support for the Clean Waters, Clean Beaches funding measure, which will drive an extensive and multi-faceted water quality clean up and conservation program in Los Angeles County.  The proposed measure would address contaminated drinking water, polluted stormwater runoff as well as toxins and trash in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers, among other challenges.

Plastic Bag Bans

In 2013, we will take a leadership role in advocating for a strong single-use bag ordinance for the City of Los Angeles that is consistent with several other policies adopted by local governments in the area. We will work with partner groups and City Council offices to conduct outreach to the community about the pending ordinance, and ensure that a final policy is adopted that eliminates single-use plastic bag usage in the City at grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores, and greatly reduces paper bag distribution from these locations.

Community Action

Zero Waste Cleanups

In 2013, Heal the Bay plans to run all Nothin’ But Sand monthly beach cleanups as Zero Waste events.  Building upon the success of the 2012 Zero Waste cleanups in October and November, we shall focus this year on not generating excessive waste in the process of performing large-scale public volunteer events. The hope is that the public will witness our commitment to practicing what we advocate, by going reusable and minimizing trash.

Compton Creek

Heal the Bay, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Goldhirsh Foundation, will complete a project to build trash capture devices in the concrete portion of Compton Creek, just upstream of the earthen-bottom, riparian section. Compton Creek is the last major tributary that feeds into the Los Angeles River before it ultimately reaches the ocean in Long Beach. The devices ‑- adjustable metal racks that will be bolted into the channel bottom — will capture trash from dry weather urban runoff and low volume producing storm events and go a long way toward improving water quality.  

A Park in South L.A.

Heal the Bay is partnering with Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists (WAYS) Charter School to complete the construction of the WAYS Reading & Fitness Park on the site of 4,000-square feet of unused City land in 2013. This park, located at the intersection of McKinley Avenue and 87th Street in South Los Angeles, will be on the leading edge of green technology, recycling street water to irrigate its own landscape.

Help us reach our goals this year, donate now and keep the field trips, advocacy campaigns and water testing afloat!

Read more about Heal the Bay and how we work to fulfill our mission.



“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each year on the federal holiday marking Dr. King’s birthday, Americans celebrate his legacy by working together to serve our neighbors and communities, making the third Monday of January more than just a day of sales at the mall, but a national “MLK Day of Service.”

Come keep your community clean, by joining Heal the Bay this MLK Weekend on Saturday in Venice for our first Nothin’ But Sand beach cleanup of 2013. We are striving to go “Zero Waste” at our cleanups, so please bring your own reusable gloves, buckets or bags from home. And, if you didn’t know already, our monthly beach cleanups are perfect “get involved” opportunities for the ENTIRE FAMILY – an introduction to a lifetime of making a difference.

Nothin’ But Sand runs from 10 a.m.-noon, which gives you just enough time to get over to Heal the Bay’s  Santa Monica Pier Aquarium to celebrate Underwater Parks Day, 12:30-5 p.m. The annual event recognizes Marine Protected Areas (aka “MPAs”) and the aquatic life they safeguard. Visitors will receive a free canvas tote bag to decorate and have a chance to join various fun activities designed to teach ways to improve the ocean’s health.

With the new year, we encourage you to join Heal the Bay as a member. We are only as effective as the folks who band with us to solve local water quality problems. Help us protect our coastal waters and watersheds and join 12,000 other active members to help fund our education, science and advocacy programs. We’ll keep you up-to-date on work and you’ll enjoy member benefits, such as FREE passes to our Aquarium, Beach Report Card emails and other special offers.

Discover more ways to get involved with Heal the Bay.

The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.



Through a powerful collaboration between Holocaust survivors and teen filmmakers, Heal the Bay received a video gift that will definitely keep on giving.

Students produced It’s Not Just One, a public service announcement that vividly depicts the impact of littering on the health of our communities and ocean.

The PSA was created in a “Righteous Conversations Project” workshop held over the summer at Harvard-Westlake school aimed at students in 7th-11th grades from all over L.A.

These teens worked with Holocaust survivors to pinpoint injustices they wanted to confront together. Through the workshop they learned to harness the power of media messages, the ways video can be used to raise awareness and effect change.

Participating survivor Idele Stapholtz’s message was simple. “I was a child survivor,” she recalled sharing with the students. “To be a survivor in this world means that you need to understand and respect something precious, help save it and keep it pure.” 

It’s Not Just One was inspired by Harvard-Westlake freshman Michael Kellman’s love for the ocean. “I really wanted to do something about pollution in the ocean because the ocean is a huge part of my life,” he said. “I row crew in Marina del Rey every day and that’s my favorite thing in the world.”

Once the student filmmakers (Sarah McAllister, Kelly Morrison, Kyra Perez and Jordan Seibel) completed the PSA, they decided to gift it to Heal the Bay, which pleased Idele, a longtime supporter of Heal the Bay’s work. With her husband Ben, Idele spent years volunteering at what is now Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

“I thought It’s Not Just One was incredible. The result is so powerful,” she said.

Righteous Conversations launched in 2011 and is a project of Remember Us.  Harvard-Westlake’s Visual Arts and Film Chair Cheri Gaulke led the workshops.

Learn more about participating in the Righteous Conversation workshops.

Watch Heal the Bay’s videos, from mockumentaries to hip hop music videos and silent films.



The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and I reached an important milestone with the beginning of 2013 — we’re celebrating 10 years with Heal the Bay. When UCLA handed over the keys to this hidden gem beneath the Pier on March 1, 2003, I came with the building, along with scores of fish, invertebrates and other marine life   ̶ and three other “holdover” staff members.

After months of uncertainty following UCLA’s announcement, it could no longer afford to operate the Aquarium as the Ocean Discovery Center. It was a relief to know this little Aquarium beneath the Pier I’d come to love and feel such a part of would continue to exist. And not only would it exist, but it could become a showcase for all that Heal the Bay had accomplished in its 16 years of improving water quality in the Santa Monica Bay  —  and aspire to inspire thousands of visitors to become stewards of the ocean.

More than half a million visitors later, the Aquarium continues to evolve, introducing new exhibits, new animals and constantly flushing out new spaces for exhibitory and education within the confines of our 4,800-square-foot building.

So now, we celebrate! The 10-year theme will run throughout the year, with the month of March being the official birthday month (yes, there will be cake) and a fun-filled weekend beginning Friday, March 1, continuing through March 3 is in the planning stages. Stay tuned for details of 10th Anniversary activities, contests and special limited edition deals.

And expect to find nine more blogs in the weeks to come, touching on Aquarium highlights of the past 10 years and looking to plans for the future.

  ̶  Randi Parent, Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium Outreach Manager

If you haven’t already, come experience the natural beauties of the Santa Monica Bay at our Aquarium, located on the Santa Monica Pier, just below the carousel. Join us the first weekend of March to celebrate the Aquarium’s 10 year anniversary



On January 8, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the suit, Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council, which was initiated by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Los Angeles Waterkeeper in 2008. The suit focuses on the issue of liability for the discharge of toxic pollutants under the District’s municipal storm water permit (“MS4”). 

The Court ruled very narrowly on the case and remanded it back to the 9th Circuit Court. 

The good news is that the Clean Water Act’s enforceability has not been changed as a result of their decision.

For more information please see the NRDC and LA Waterkeeper’s press release and this blog post on the Center for Progressive Reforms Page.

Learn more about the Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure which would reduce harmful pollution from getting into our waterways.

Stay up-to-date on our clean water advocacy work, follow us on Twitter.



Veteran TV broadcaster Huell Howser passed away Sunday night. Here Communications Director Matthew King remembers his work with Heal the Bay.

If anyone could make plastic bags come alive, it’d be Huell Howser.   

As Heal the Bay’s newly hired Communications Director six years ago, I’d been grappling with how to engage the public about the environmental costs associated with society’s addiction to single-use plastic bags. I’d sent out press releases, assembled fact sheets and written earnest letters to the editors about Los Angeles County’s proposed bag ban. But something was missing. We needed some human interest.

So I sent a long email to Huell suggesting that California’s Gold spend a day on the beach taking an up-close look at what plastics were doing to our shorelines. To my surprise, he responded positively and quickly to my pitch. I’ve placed several Op Eds in the L.A Times and successfully arranged dozens of segments on local TV news programs since then, but Huell calling me back that afternoon and coordinating the filming schedule marked one of my greatest professional moments here.

Media relations professionals often lose perspective about the issues they pitch. Self-doubt naturally creeps in when success hinges on the mercurial interests of overworked journalists. Is this topic compelling to most people? Does anyone really care about this?

Huell served as bit of a gold standard. He had made a career of mining the profound in the mundane. So if he found plastic bags interesting, then by default they were interesting.

On the drive down the 405 freeway to the Manhattan Beach Pier, my colleague Kirsten James and I did our best Huell impersonations. I made a bet with Kirsten that I could get Huell to drawl the amount of plastic bags we use each year in L.A. County in dragged-out astonishment. “Noooooo, Kirsten! NINE BILL-YUN plastic bags??!!”  I won my bet.

Huell became a bit of a caricature to some jaded members of L.A.’s media community, with his beefy biceps and cornpone demeanor. But that sunny afternoon in the South Bay proved to me that his TV personality wasn’t some calculated act. Off camera, he bubbled with the same Southern charm and decency as shown on screen. It could’ve been model trains or an old mill, but on this day plastic bags inspired that sense of wonder and incredulity that marked his best work.

Huell never proselytized about environmental protection, letting the sheer beauty of California’s special places speak for itself. Before you can expect people to act, you have to inspire. And inspire he did. For that, environmental organizations up and down the state owe Huell a debt of gratitude.

In subsequent years, I’d occasionally suggest other ideas to Huell: looking for great white sharks in Santa Monica Bay or exploring Compton Creek. He didn’t take the bait, but he always made a point of calling me back personally to tell me why. Most journalists don’t respond to pitches, no matter how well-crafted and personalized, either by phone or email. You get used to the rejection, but it still grates. It’s a simple thing, but Huell’s calls showed class and consideration. He didn’t have to telephone, but he did.

My last phone call from Huell came a few months ago, declining an invitation to attend a Heal the Bay event in Santa Monica celebrating African-American surf culture in Southern California. He wanted to attend, he said, but would be traveling. As we chatted on a fading Friday afternoon, he seemed a bit tired. I said goodbye and wished him well.

Huell will be remembered as the champion of the obscure. But I think of him celebrating the essential: to be kind, to be curious, to be connected. California will miss him.



It’s been a long road – more than 12 years – but, California’s statewide network of coastal marine protected areas (MPAs) is now complete. As of Dec. 19, 2012, the final piece of the coastal MPA network (along the North Coast) is effective.

Our state’s marine life will now have safe haven along about 16% of our entire California coastline, lining our 1,100 miles of coast like a string of pearls, protecting habitats, ocean ecosystems, and marine natural heritage.

California’s state legislature enacted the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in 1999, directing the Department of Fish and Game to design and manage a statewide network of MPAs to protect marine life and habitats, marine ecosystems, and marine natural heritage. Heal the Bay was most actively involved in the effort to designate MPAs in southern California under the MLPA, and is now working with partner groups throughout the state to monitor and conduct outreach about these new underwater parks.

Through the phased “MLPA Initiative” process various interests ranging from fishing groups to conservationists designed 119 MPAs, which have been adopted off the CA coast- first in the Central Coast in 2007 and 2010, then along the Southern California coast, which entered into regulatory effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

This network of MPAs is designed to function together as an interconnected system.  California’s MPAs are being monitored by state and federal agencies, researchers, citizen science groups, and others.

The North Coast MPAs going into effect marks a historic moment to be celebrated – this is the first statewide network of underwater parks in the U.S. As an investment for future generations, this system of MPAs will lead to a stronger and more resilient marine ecosystem in California.

Dana Roeber Murray

Heal the Bay’s Marine & Coastal Scientist 

Want to do more to steward our ocean environment? Join Heal the Bay’s citizen science program, MPA Watch. Training begins January 30.



Today we celebrate how hard work does pay off. Nineteen marine protected areas (MPAs) will become effective December 19, completing the statewide network of MPAs in California’s coastal regions. Last year we rejoiced as the MPAs along the south coast became effective, and now the state will boast a suite of MPAs all the way up to the Oregon border.

Heal the Bay staff and partners worked for years to designate these MPAs, which protect entire ecosystems, allowing animals living in these areas to repopulate.

We extend our thanks to the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation for their ongoing support of our ocean conservation work, especially for establishing these Marine Protected Areas in Southern California!

In addition, we thank Sempra Energy and the Southern California Gas Company for their generous support of our Key to the Sea program and commitment to volunteerism. We are also grateful to the John W. Carson Foundation —established by Tonight Show host Johnny Carson in 1988  for their longtime support of our beach cleanup and educational programs

This week Heal the Bay staff got to ring in some festive cheer at our annual holiday party.  It was a day to celebrate each other and the hard work and dedication that goes into protecting Southern California’s coastal waters. 

Heal the Bay Holiday Party 2012

We had a wonderful time and it would not have been the rockin’ party it was without the help and generosity of some amazing people and businesses:

  • Huge thank you to our awesome board member Barry Gribbon who graciously let us use his home to host our party.  You rock, Barry!
  • Our party was so sweet thanks to the incredibly moist and delicious bundtinis from Nothing Bundt Cakes
  • Tru Protection not only continues to donate 15% of the proceeds from the Abel Art series of Iphone cases, but they also generously donated a few to raffle off to staff!
  • And finally, Alchemie Spa helped us feel pampered when one lucky staffer got to walk away with a gift certificate for an organic manicure. Come treat yourself for a good cause on December 18 when Alchemie throws a party for us, complete with food, drinks, mini-treatments and so much more. All of the proceeds from the evening’s $10 entrance charge, raffle tickets, silent auction and a portion of spa treatments will go to protecting what we all love…the ocean!

We’d also like to thank surfwear retailer O’Neill, which has offered a special edition Heal the Bay surfer t-shirt at their Santa Monica store since September 2011. We appreciate the ongoing support!

More: Visit the Heal the Bay holiday gift guide for the ocean lovers on your list. 

Want do more to protect the ocean? Heal the Bay offers myriad ways to get involved—from our citizen science program MPA Watch to beach cleanups.



It’s that time of year….

Gifts to buy, presents to wrap, crowds, parties, lines, stress, debt, more shopping, more wrapping, cooking, planning … and oh yes, giving back.

It’s that time of the season when you tell yourself: This year’s going to be different. This year, I’m going to remember the true spirit of the season. This year, I’m going to do something charitable.  I’ll serve meals at a shelter, I’ll make time to volunteer, I’ll adopt a family for Christmas …

And suddenly, you’re out of time. The holidays are over, and you haven’t had a chance to do a thing but shop, eat, drive, wait in line, wrap, eat, and stress more. You resign by saying, “Next year. I’ll make the holidays less commercial and more about love and giving — next year.”

Don’t give up. Heal the Bay is here, and we’ve made it easy for you to do it all. Shop, eat, drink, be merry AND be charitable without spending an extra penny.  When you shop, eat or drink at one of our holiday partners, a portion of your sale will be gifted back to Heal the Bay.  

Having a party? As much as you’d love another potted plant, tell your guests what you really want are donations for the bay. We’ll even give you games, supplies and a gift wrapped box to collect their “treasure.”

Looking for a special place for your party?  It doesn’t get any more awesome than the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium!  The décor is done! Kelp Forests in awesome neon! Entertainment? How many holiday parties have you been to that included petting a seastar, feeding a shark or communing with a moon jelly?

However you enjoy the holidays, remember a gift for you: give yourself a moment, an hour a day, to take in the splendor of the sea.

                                                                                –Nina Borin

Development Manager, Corporate Relations and Special Events

Send Nina an email if you want your business included in Heal the Bay’s holiday shopping guide or if you want to throw a HtB-themed holiday party.



Sustain the “doing good” momentum generated by the Giving Tuesday initiative and make a difference in your community. Not all giving needs to be material (although we appreciate the donations). Here are three ways this week that you can give back with Heal the Bay:

In case you are feeling material, our holiday shopping guide is up with all kinds of gift options for the ocean lovers in your life. The guide is also handy for sharing when someone asks what you want for Hanukkah or Christmas this year. 

Visit Heal the Bay’s calendar to discover more ways to get involved.