February 23, 2012

Santa Cruz County’s NEW Plastic Bag Ban Takes Effect March 20!

Thank you, Santa Cruz County! When you bring your reusable bags with you, you are single-handedly protecting our ocean and cleaning up your community by stopping plastic pollution.

Are you ready for the end of single-use plastic bags in Santa Cruz County?

The bag ban begins on Tuesday, March 20, and only affects markets and retail stores in unincorporated Santa Cruz County.


  • Bring your reusable bags wherever you go! Leave a few in the car and by your front door.
  • Plastic bags will no longer be available. If you need a paper bag, there will be a 10 cent fee charged at checkout. Shoppers using WIC, food stamps or other public assistance are exempt from the fee.

Hundreds of FREE reusable bags will be distributed in our community on March 20!
  • From 12-2pm at Redwood Shopping Center on 41st Avenue.
  • And from 4-6pm, at Felton Fair Shopping Center, and Rancho del Mar Shopping Center in Aptos.
  • Deluxe Foods in Aptos will give away up to 200 reusable bags to customers, while supplies ask, just be sure to ask.
  • Safeway Markets in Felton and Aptos will give out 100 reusable bags a day for 2 whole weeks starting March 20!

  • Businesses are required to stop giving out plastic bags as of March 20. Restaurants are exempt from this ordinance.
  • Receipts must indicate number of paper bags provided and fees charged, and businesses should keep records of numbers of bags provided.
  • Shoppers using WIC, food stamps or other public assistance are exempt from fees.

Why ban plastic bags?
Plastic bags are a petroleum-based product of convenience, are not biodegradable, rarely recycled (less than 5% are EVER recycled!), harm marine life, and pollute the waterways and communities surrounding Monterey Bay.

Save Our Shores’ data shows over 34,000 plastic bags have been collected at SOS cleanups over the past 5 years. This plastic bag ban will further protect marine life, cleanup our communities, and save taxpayer’s money by decreasing litter removal costs.

Getting Prepared for the Ban:

On Tuesday, March 13, from 4-6pm, SOS will talk to shoppers about the upcoming bag ban at Safeway in Redwood Shopping Center on 41st Avenue, Rancho Del Mar in Aptos, and Felton Fair Shopping Center.

On Tuesday, March 20, SOS will hand out free, custom-made, reusable canvas bags to shoppers from 12-2pm at Safeway in Redwood Shopping Center on 41st Avenue, and from 4-6 pm at Safeway Rancho Del Mar in Aptos, and at Safeway Felton Fair Shopping Center in Felton.

Local Businesses doing it for the Sanctuary:
Threats of a lengthy legal battle from the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition led to the removal of restaurants from the ban. But that didn't stop SOS! We've been hard at work asking restaurants in unincorporated Santa Cruz County to voluntarily stop using plastic bags. See whose with us so far (and tell them Thanks! next time you stop in):
  • Betty Burgers
  • Pleasure Point Eatery
  • Davenport Roadhouse
  • Deli-Licious Cafe
  • The Farm
  • Cafe Sparrow

The Santa Cruz County plastic bag ban makes it illegal for retail outlets to give away disposable plastic bags and imposes a 10 cent fee on paper bags. The goal of the ban is to change behaviors toward reusable bag use.

February 17, 2012

The Marbled Murrelet Benefits from MPAs

Article by Gary Strachan

The marbled murrelet is a small seabird that breeds along the west coast of North America from the Aleutian Islands south to the Santa Cruz Mountains. This species is listed as both a federally and state endangered species and is a unique seabird due to the fact that it nests inland in old-growth redwood and Douglas Fir forests.

The Santa Cruz Mountains population of the marbled murrelet is thought to be the smallest geographical population of this species, in the range of 500 birds utilizing the nearshore coastal areas to forage for small fish.

Murrelets forage by diving in shallow waters between 20 and 80 meters in depth. They dive for small inshore fish, like juvenile rockfish, sand lance, smelt, Pacific herring, and a number of invertebrates.

In the last decade researchers have gained a good understanding of the relationship between marbled murrelets, their foraging habitat and prey species. Año Nuevo State Marine Reserve, a local Marine Protected Area, holds the largest concentrations of marbled murrelets in the central California population as well as high concentrations of its prey.

Scientists have found that Año Nuevo Bay is one of the most important marine habitats for murrelets to forage and loaf, and is an excellent location for adult murrelets to teach juveniles how to forage for fish and prepare them to be independent. Researchers estimate around 200 birds visit Año Nuevo Bay during the breeding season.

Scientists agree that the number of marbled murrelets in the Santa Cruz area is decreasing, though the cause remains unknown. The creation of MPAs in areas where marbled murrelets occur, such as the Año Nuevo SMR, offer some protection to their prey species. We're hopeful the outcome will be that fish populations increase dramatically in these protected areas, and the availability of more juvenile fish will benefit the endangered marbled murrelet.

These kinds of secondary and tertiary benefits from MPAs are just beginning to be realized. By creating these "networks" or "strings of pearls" of MPAs along the coast, many species may directly or indirectly benefit along the coast of California.

And this is great news.

Article by Gary Strachan
On behalf of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation

February 16, 2012

How to Help the EPA Document the TRUE State of the Environment

By guest blogger and former SOS intern Sara Cannon

Interested in helping the EPA document the
true state of our environment?

Over the past weekend, I was lucky enough to help my friend, Christopher Chin (executive director and founder of the Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research and Education) represent his nonprofit at the Shark Days event at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. One of my favorite things about volunteering at these types of events (whether it be for COARE or for Save Our Shores, as I volunteer with both of them pretty regularly) is getting to interact with such a huge variety of people; seasoned ocean advocates, young children, or tourists who may not have much experience in conservation issues but are eager to learn more. I have always come away from these experiences feeling optimistic about the myriad of challenges the conservation movement faces, and every time I’ve made contacts that I know will be meaningful to my future involvement in future efforts.

Shark Days at the Monterey Bay Aquarium was no different; among the many people I talked to, I spent some time speaking with an employee from the Environmental Protection Agency about a project they’re working on to document the true state of the environment all around the world.

The project, called the State of the Environment Photo Project, is based on a similar project they conducted 40 years ago called Documerica, which had the goal of documenting environmental problems and every day life across America by asking the public to submit photos. To me, it seems like an exciting way to involve the public in bringing attention to the diverse environmental concerns facing different locations around the world.

One concern that the employee had mentioned was that people were sending in nothing but GOOD pictures. Of course, the world is a beautiful place, and the EPA certainly wants to recognize all the wonders there are to behold through this project. However, if the submitted photographs are only showing the beautiful things and ignoring the bad, it’s a pretty inaccurate view of the state of the environment. I happen to know for a fact that a number of COARE and SOS supporters have taken stirring photographs that could be invaluable contributions to the project (I know because I’ve seen some of them myself).

The EPA is going to pick a number of photos from the submissions to exhibit across the country once the project is over. I hope that this project may be a way to reach an entirely new audience; if enough people send in pictures showing plastic pollution, threats to marine life, or other depictions of the environmental challenges we fight against, it’s possible that we can motivate them to get involved.

So, are you interested in helping the EPA document the true state of our environment, as things really are, and hopefully motivating more people to get involved in conservation efforts?

The EPA will pick a number of photographs out of the submissions to be featured on their webpage, their Facebook page, and to be exhibited all across the country after the project ends. The information you need to participate, including ideas for what to post, can be found on the project’s website here and their Flickr page here.

A photo I submitted of animals eating trash left on the beach, taken July 5 morning in Santa Cruz, by Sara Cannon