Frequently Asked Questions

Easy! Join us at Nothin’ But Sand at 10am every third Saturday of every month except December*. Each month we hit a different beach, so it’s also a great way to get to know our coast. Check out our Take Part page for more information.

*Due to COVID-19, all public events have been cancelled until further notice.

Yes please! You can Adopt-a-Beach. We also encourage everyone to leave our coast and neighborhoods cleaner than when they found it, whether or not they participate in a Heal the Bay cleanup.

Absolutely! Large community groups are welcome to attend our monthly Nothin’ But Sand cleanups*. Want to host a private beach cleanup? Get involved with our Suits on the Sand. We have virtual options too and more ways to Take Part.

*Due to COVID-19, all public events have been cancelled until further notice.

Volunteers of all ages are welcome to our cleanups. People under 12 must be accompanied by an adult, and volunteers under 18 must have their required safety waiver signed by a grown up (parent or guardian).

We strongly encourage you to sign up in advance for our monthly Nothin’ But Sand beach cleanups, so we can provide enough supplies. However, bringing your completed safety waiver will reduce your time in the registration line.*

*Due to COVID-19, all public events have been cancelled until further notice.

You can always count on a Nothin’ But Sand cleanup to be held at 10am on the third Saturday of every month except December*. Learn more and RSVP on our Events calendar

*Due to COVID-19, all public events have been cancelled until further notice.

Prepare your group—especially the kids—for the elements: Bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, plenty of water (in your reusable water bottle, of course), a snack, close-toed shoes, and lightweight clothing with layers as temperatures can change on the beach. To help us reduce costs and environmental impact, bring your own trash bucket and garden gloves. We also recommend bringing your completed safety waivers.

Unfortunately, free parking is not available at our beach cleanups. If you’re driving, expect to pay anywhere from $9-15. We recommend public transit, biking, or carpooling.

Every Friday, Heal the Bay analyzes water quality data at over 450 California beaches, grading each beach on an A-to-F scale based on the relative health risks of swimming or surfing at each location. Separate grades are given for dry and wet weather because of the higher incidence of harmful bacteria occurring within three days of a storm. Check out the Beach Report Card website.

All county health departments are required to test beach water quality samples for three types of indicator bacteria at least once a week. Heal the Bay compiles the complex shoreline data, analyzes it, and assigns an easy-to-understand letter grade. Find grades and more detailed information for over 500 West Coast beaches at We also have an app for Android and iPhone!

We don’t do independent sample testing, but you can find the grades for hundreds of locations up and down the coast of California at or on our Android and iPhone app.

We also test freshwater in popular LA County recreation areas during the summer on our River Report Card.

Grades for dry weather are calculated for days of no rain and at least 3 days after it stops raining. Grades for wet weather pertain to data from samples collected on days that experience rain, including the following three days. This is because water quality significantly drops during and immediately after a rainstorm, but often rebounds to previous levels within a few days.

Swimming in polluted water can increase your risk of gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses, infections, and skin rashes, but following some basic rules and checking our Beach Report Card can reduce your risk. Here are the Big Four: Wait at least 72 hours after it rains before you go swimming. 2) Swim at least 100 yards (the length of a football field) away from flowing stormdrain outlets. 3) Never play or wade in standing water or puddles near stormdrain outlets. 4) Get the grades before you head to the beach at or on our Android and iPhone app.

Fish caught off the coast of L.A. and Orange counties may contain DDT, PCB, and other harmful chemicals. Never eat white croaker, barred sand bass, barracuda, black croaker, or topsmelt caught off the coast of LA Health advisories may vary, so familiarize yourself with these recommendations before your fish and learn more.

That’s a very kind question. Thanks for considering us.

Heal the Bay relies on the generosity and commitment of its supporters every day. Grants, sponsorships, partnerships, and donations make it possible for us to pursue our important mission of making the coastal waters and inland watersheds safe, healthy, and clean. Learn more.

Yes. We are a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization and your donation is tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S. law. To claim a donation as a deduction on your U.S. taxes, please keep your email donation receipt as your official record. The Tax ID is 95-4031055

For all press-related inquiries, please contact our Communications Department.

Yes please! We love talking about our work. View our staff directory and send an email directly to the staff member you’d like to interview. Please try to give at least a week’s notice for interview requests. If you need some more help, Contact Us.

Common question! “Heal the Bay” refers to the Santa Monica Bay in Los Angeles, which is bordered by Malibu’s Point Dume to the north and the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the south.

Our primary service area is Los Angeles County, but we’re frequently involved in regional and statewide environmental campaigns in California. Our main office is located in downtown Santa Monica, and we also operate the Heal the Bay Aquarium directly under the Santa Monica Pier.

Not typically, but we do occasionally partner with and endorse the work of other environmental organizations. You will see us advocating for  federal and global environmental policies with direct local impacts. And we also coordinate Los Angeles County’s annual Coastal Cleanup Day, which is part of a larger international event.

Not yet…

Field trips to Heal the Bay Aquarium are fee-based. Limited subsidies are available. Learn more about field trips.

We do offer teacher trainings and professional development–learn more on our Education page.

Yes! You can request a Speakers Bureau member to present to your group. We currently offer a virtual option too!

In a pinch, you can always call 311 if you’re in the Los Angeles area, and here’s a comprehensive list of pollution hotlines organized by city.

Yes! An estimated 60-80% of all marine debris is plastic, with the vast majority coming from land-based sources. Shockingly, it’s estimated that plastic pollution in the ocean could outweigh fish by 2050. Plastic does not biodegrade in the ocean; instead, it breaks down into smaller pieces called nurdles, which pose a significant threat to marine life and the entire food web. Plastic pollution isn’t only impacting our coastline, it is also wreaking havoc on our neighborhoods.

Trash in the ocean and in our neighborhoods, especially single-use plastic waste, negatively impacts public health, water quality, our food supply, marine ecosystem health, and our carbon footprint.  Plastic is made from fossil fuels, and toxic pollution from its extraction, development and manufacturing disproportionately impact People of Color and low-income communities. ⁣

Around the globe, we produce 300 million tons of plastic annually, 50% of which is used for disposable items. That number is only expected to jump, as Big Plastic pushes their agenda and pumps up plastic production to make up for fuel price losses during COVID-19. ⁣Learn more about the plastic pollution problem.

While we’ll keep doing cleanups to pick up the plastic pieces that have already made their way into our environment, a better solution is to shift away from single-use and move toward a thriving culture of reuse.

The best solution to single-use plastic waste is to shift to a thriving culture of reusables. Join our Reusable LA coalition.

Urban runoff flowing through our stormdrain system and into the ocean is the biggest source of pollution in the Bay. During and after any rainfall, flowing water takes trash and pollutant through stormdrain channels and empties out into the ocean–unfiltered and untreated. Not only do these pollutants impact public health and harm marine life, it’s a tremendous waste of a precious resource: local water! A 1” rainfall can create one billion gallons of stormwater, or 120 Rose Bowls’ worth. Heal the Bay is working on solutions to capture and recycle this resource rather than let it continue to be wasted.

We don’t. See the question below for who to call if you encounter an injured, distressed, entangled, or dead marine animal in the Los Angeles area.

If you find an injured or distressed animal, try to determine its species and condition, but make sure to stay at least 50 feet away. Do not touch it, pick it up, pour water on it, call to it, or feed it: These actions will only stress the animal and could put you in danger. Contact one of the organizations below for help:

  • To report ANY dead, injured, or stranded animal in the Los Angeles area, call: California Wildlife Center: 1-310-458-WILD
  • To report a dead, injured, or stranded marine mammal in the Los Angeles area, call: NOAA: 1-866-767-6114 OR California Wildlife Center: 1-310-458-WILD
  • To report an entangled marine mammal anywhere on the West Coast, call: 1-877-SOS-WHALE or hail the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16
  • To report discarded fishing gear anywhere on the West Coast, call: NOAA: 1-855-542-3935

The Heal the Bay Aquarium is located under the carousel at the Santa Monica Pier. Its address is 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

Heal the Bay Aquarium is open daily Monday to Sunday 12:30-5pm.*

*Due to COVID-19, all public events have been cancelled until further notice.

See our current prices.

There are parking lots on the north and south sides of the Pier, and you can expect to pay between $6-15 depending on the season. Learn more.

With 11 permanent exhibits and engaging staff and volunteers to answer all your marine science questions, we recommend visiting for at least an hour.

Locals only! Our Aquarium is home to more than 100 species of marine animals and plants found in the Santa Monica Bay.

At least three weeks, but we recommend three months advance booking. Submit a Birthday Party request.

In 2003, Heal the Bay began running and operating the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, which was previously operated by UCLA and known as the Ocean Discovery Center. In 2019, the name was changed to Heal the Bay Aquarium.

Whether it’s a one-day beach cleanup or an intensive MPA Watch training, there’s a volunteer opportunity for everyone at Heal the Bay. Cruise over to our Take Part page and see what speaks to you. We also encourage all prospective volunteers to attend a Volunteer Orientation.

It’s often the small things that make all the difference. Here are some ideas:

Where We Live

  • Pick up trash around your neighborhood
  • Ditch single-use plastic and switch to reusables at home
  • Remove any hardscape or lawn on your property and replace it with a vegetable garden or drought tolerant native vegetation
  • Start or join a community garden
  • Sign up for Green Power or install solar panels
  • Reduce your energy needs
    • Turn off lights, unplug unused electronics, and swap out old lights with LEDs (once the bulbs burn out)
    • Bring in a professional to insulate your home, or find simple swaps around the house like adding thick curtains around your windows
    • Set your thermostat for maximum energy savings, or regulate temperature without a thermostat by opening/closing windows and using those thick curtains
    • Wash clothes in cold water, and hang dry rather than using the dryer
  • Decrease your water usage

How We Commute

  • Telecommute if it is an option
  • Choose public transportation
  • Walk or skateboard for shorter distances
  • Ride a bicycle
  • If you must drive
    • Carpool
    • Invest in a hybrid or electric vehicle
    • Use car sharing services with electric vehicles
    • Make sure your vehicle is in tip top shape for optimal efficiency (secure gas cap, inflate tires, etc.)

What We Eat

What We Learn

How We Vote

  • Vote in local, statewide and national elections!
  • Support just and equitable environmental policies in support of:
    • Climate resiliency
    • A tax on carbon
    • The end of fossil fuels
    • Regenerative agriculture
    • Renewable energy
    • A reduction in plastic waste
  • Be an advocate
    • Attend local City Council meetings and town halls
    • Send a letter to your local representatives so they know climate action is important to you
    • Participate in public demonstrations and rallies
    • Sign petitions
    • Give public comments
    • Take part in the Census 2020
    • Create climate inspired art and share it with the world
  • Join existing efforts by Heal the Bay and partner groups to demand climate action now

Yes. See our current Volunteer opportunities on our Take Part page.

Heal the Bay is Southern California’s water watchdog. Our staff scientists, policy analysts, community organizers, and educators are experts in their fields, working on reducing water pollution, protecting fragile coastal and watershed habitats, and improving water quality throughout greater Los Angeles. Learn more about our impact and meet our team.

Heal the Bay was founded in 1985 by Dorothy Green and a group of Los Angeles residents who were fed up with pollution in the Santa Monica Bay. Together they successfully brought an end to Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant’s dumping of semi-treated wastewater into the Bay, and their grassroots legacy lives on in our work.

For three decades, we’ve been a strong and trusted advocate for the ocean. But a healthy Bay requires a healthy LA. Envisioning thriving oceans, healthy watersheds, and smart water, we’re working toward increased equity, safety, and access for all. Our core focus is on: demanding climate action, protecting public health, and banning single-use plastic. Learn more.

Desalination is not a cure-all. Treating saltwater is energy intensive, expensive, and harmful to marine life. You can find all of the reasons we’re wary of desalination.