When Heal the Bay was founded in 1985, the Santa Monica Bay was in bad shape. Swimmers and surfers were contracting strange rashes and frequent respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses. There were dead zones in the bay, where no marine life could survive because of the lack of oxygen. Fish in the bay had fin rot, and local dolphins had tumors. Today, we’re happy to say that the bay has vastly improved. People can still get sick from swimming in runoff contaminated water, but the majority of our local beaches are clean during dry weather. We see significantly fewer animals with fin rot and tumors, and the dead zones have disappeared.
Unfortunately, while we’ve come a long way, Southern California’s marine ecosystems are still seriously imperiled. Our coastal and ocean environment remain threatened by polluted runoff, marine debris, habitat destruction, and overfishing.
You can help continue to protect Santa Monica Bay by making ocean-friendly choices in your own life: from the fish you eat, to the products you buy, and the way you enjoy your local beach. For more information, visit Ways to Heal.
Stretching from the Palos Verdes Peninsula north to Point Dume, the Santa Monica Bay is technically the submerged portion of the Los Angeles Coastal Plain, which is why it slopes relatively gently towards the open ocean. At its deepest point, the bay is about 265 feet deep, but it drops off into the Santa Monica Basin, which is more than 2,500 feet deep.
Within the bay, there are three submarine canyons (Dume, Santa Monica and Redondo) as well as Short Bank (which is the central plateau of the bay), and the Palos Verdes Shelf.
The Santa Monica Bay Watershed
The area of land that drains naturally to the bay, known as the Santa Monica Bay watershed, stretches from the Santa Monica Mountains, and the Ventura-Los Angeles County line to Griffith Park, extending south and west across Los Angeles to the area east of Ballona Creek and north of Baldwin Hills. The southern boundary of the watershed is south of Ballona Creek. This means that, theoretically, if you pour a glass of water on the ground anywhere in this area, it will ultimately end up in the Santa Monica Bay.
Watersheds work like giant filtration systems, collecting rainwater and funnelling it through streams, ground water reservoirs and soil before depositing it into the ocean. Unfortunately, when we pave over soil and vegetation, and line streams with concrete to guard against flooding, the filtration system is bypassed, and rainwater carries pollution directly to the beach. No matter where you live, you live in a watershed, and what you do directly impacts a nearby waterbody. For example, within the Santa Monica Bay watershed there are 28 smaller sub-watersheds, including Ballona Creek, Malibu Creek and Topanga Creek, you might live within the Ballona Creek watershed, which is also part of the Santa Monica Bay watershed.
Habitats in the Bay
The Santa Monica Bay is made up of different kinds of habitats, each home to specific plants and animals. Learn more about the habitats in the Santa Monica Bay here. You can also visit the animals that live in these habitats at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, where you can get up close and personal with some of the animals that live in the bay.