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Mark Gold, D. Env., President of Heal the Bay

Mark Gold, D. Env., President of Heal the Bay

Mark is President of the environmental group Heal the Bay, and was their first hire 20 years ago. Heal the Bay is an environmental group dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean. Mark received his Bachelors and Masters in Biology and his doctorate in Environmental Science and Engineering from UCLA. He has been inducted into the UCLA School of Public Health Hall of Fame, and has received the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award and the Aspen Institute Catto Fellowship.

Mark has worked extensively over the last 20 years in the field of coastal protection and water pollution. In particular he has worked on research projects on urban runoff pollution, DDT and PCB contamination in fish, and the health risks of swimming at runoff contaminated beaches. He created Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card, and has authored or co-authored numerous California coastal protection, water quality and environmental education bills. He served on the USEPA Urban Stormwater Federal Advisory Committee. Currently, Mark is a vice chair of the California Ocean Science Trust and the National Estuary Program’s Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.

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14 Responses

  1. December 23, 2010

    Hi Mark,

    Medscape (http://www.medscape.com) currently has this article on its home page (posted 12/22/10):

    The BEACHES Study: Health Effects and Exposures from Non-point Source Microbial Contaminants in Subtropical Recreational Marine Waters

    The original source is the International Journal of Epidemiology, 2010;39(5): 1291-1298; Oxford University Press.

    Steve Schlein

  2. Hello Mark,

    Thought that you and Heal the Bay would be interested in the Catalina Chamber of Commerce’s response to your report as it relates to Avalon Beach. The following excerpts are from a “fact sheet” that was sent to all their members urging them to have their employees give the “facts” to visitors to Catalina. I personally am quite pleased that the health of residents and visitors on Catalina is being well guarded by the scientists at the Catalina Chamber of Commerce. My own comments are after the quotes.

    From the “fact sheet” titled “Answers and Information on Avalon’s Water Quality Questions”

    “I’m sure you and your front line staff are receiving many questions from visitors about coming to Catalina, whether you can swim here, and the water quality in Avalon Bay. Here’s some information about the issue: Please share with your front line staff.”

    “Many of these tests have been positive for “indicator bacteria,” things in the water that may indicate the presence of bacteria, not the actual presence of bacteria.”

    – This might be news to quite a few people, such as the people who are doing the testing.

    “Avalon Bay is not closed to swimmers, and, in fact, many residents and visitors swim in the bay even when the warning signs are posted.”

    – ’nuff said

    “Parallel tests conducted by the City of Avalon (same day and time as the County test) in deeper water where people actually swim test negative for indicator bacteria.”

    – no worries about the most susceptible among us, the small children playing in the shallows

    “An additional $3 million has been spent on studies to identify the source of possible contaminants and to understand the relationship between people swimming in the bay and getting sick as a result of that activity. Preliminary results of that study indicate that there is NO correlation between people swimming when the beach is posted as possibly containing pollutants and those people getting sick as a result.”

    – I could be wrong but something tells me this won’t be the whole story from that study. Because of the delay in posting the beach after the day of testing it could in fact be true that swimming on posted days is not as unhealthy as one might expect (if there is rapid change in pollution levels day to day), however it seems unlikely that average risk of swimming in Avalon Bay would be similar to risk from swimming in less polluted locations (unless Avalon Bay has some magical other ingredient that protects people from infection).

    So it would appear that according to the Catalina Chamber of Commerce scientists, all the science that has associated water quality testing results with health outcomes worldwide is actually wrong OR Avalon Bay is magically different from the rest of the world (some added ingredient?). Guess Heal the Bay can now move on to talking about things that are more important!

    As a veterinarian involved in wildlife health and the disease interface between people, animals, and the environment, I applaud all the hard work that you and your organization put into bringing information to people about the coastal ecosystem and how it’s health affects our own.

  3. Dear Mark,

    I applaud your efforts to clean up the beach, but I have to say as a surfer and environmentalists that I disagree with you and your organization trying to ban plastic bags. I know I will receive a lot of heat and objections to this statement, but here I go. My background. I am in the process of finishing my degree at UCLA in enginering. I also have a contractors license and I am a candidate to get my architectural license from the state of California.

    I understand that plastic degrades much slower (much) than paper; however, banning a useful and productive product for all of our state is not the solution. Where do we draw the line if we start banning products because of ocean accumulation? Do we next ban balloons? I have seen a balloon or two in the water. Or what about straws? Or how about frisbees? Or how about beach toys? How about coated cups that degrade slowly in the ocean? You can see where I am going with this and I hope you have an open mind when reading this. Having our legislators micromanage our lives to address a problem that only some individuals create is nonsense. Why should the individual in Fresno not be able to use plastic bags? Are the plastic bags going to go from Fresno all the way to the ocean? We are extremely lucky to live in a free nation with personal rights. If ocean littering and debris is the problem, let’s focus on a solution that doesn’t limit peoples freedoms. Here’s a few solutions.

    1. Mandance all trash cans along the coastline to be self sealing and/or require a latch to open and close. I have seen many (MANY) birds open trash cans, spread litter across the beach which goes straight into the ocean.
    2. Focus on more stormwater filtration and debris mitigation. The LA river spews tons of garbage into the ocean. Require every connection to the LA river to be filtered or go to a sewer treatment center during off peak seasons. Divert as much flow as possible through hyperion or other treatment center.
    3. More education – every lifeguard tower up and down our coast is an opportunity to educate beach users. I have experienced and seen many kids litter, leave trash, etc on the beach which eventually ends up in the ocean.
    4. Instead of a beach clean up day. . . how about a beach education day. Have all of your volunteers walk up or down the beach talking with every person on the beach on a busy day encouraging more people to put their trash in the trash can and check when you leave the beach that you leave nothing left behind.
    5. I keep going back to the trash cans because we could be the cleanest country in the world, but if the birds or wind open the trash cans, the litter will scatter.

    I hope you can read this with an open and objective mind. I want a clean beach and I want an clean environment for ocean animals, I just don’t think this is the solution to accomplish that.

    Kelly Hamm

  4. […] most underutilized and underappreciated PSA in the history of ocean conservation. It was created by Mark Gold, the brilliant longtime leader of Heal the Bay in Santa Monica, California, and his brother who […]

    Mark Gold’s note: To clarify, the PSA was created by my brother and partner while at the advertising firm Chiat\Day. Heal the Bay was the client.

  5. Hello,

    Many people back in disbelief at some of the things they did in college. But right now, as a Freshmen I’m seeing that same sense of disbelief from current college students when they learn that their campuses are still powered by coal.

    This racy new video describes the situation pretty well: http://vimeo.com/7030698

    This is why University of Southern California is one of over 60 school trying to transition from dirty coal energy to renewable energy during the national launch of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign.

    Did you know that Los Angeles is still powered by 44% imported coal energy? USC wants to be the leader in L.A to transition the city towards renewable energy. Since the launch of the campaign in early September, we have been reaching out to students, campus groups, faculty, and media to build our campaign to move USC beyond coal to renewable energy.

    The campaign at continues throughout the fall – and we have plenty of actions, such as an upcoming “Coal-less Coalition BBQ” on campus. Our goal is simply to show USC administration we want to be leaders for a healthy energy future at USC and in all of Los Angeles by transitioning to renewable energy.

    Today, our national campaign efforts got published in the New York Times Greenwire, check it out: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/10/14/14greenwire-colleges-are-battlegrounds-for-coal-fight-78283.htm

    Please let me know if you have any questions!

    Kabir Kang (kabirkan@usc.edu)

  6. Hi Mark,

    I’m helping to organize a large event in LA for the Global Day of Climate Action that I thought you might be interested in knowing about.

    I’m including a media advisory below with all the event details. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!


    Natalie Gaber


    Contact: Brian Treanor (310) 338-3711 or Natalie Gaber (510) 334-4479

    University Students, Faculty, and Staff Rally for Climate Action

    WHAT: Teach-in and rally in support of global action on climate change. One of over 2500 similar events occurring worldwide. Featured events include a musical performance, peaceful demonstration, and notable speakers.

    WHERE: Los Angeles Federal Building, 11000 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024

    WHEN: Saturday, October 24, 2009, 10am-12pm

    WHO: University of California, Los Angeles and Loyola Marymount University students, faculty, staff, and community members, plus special guests Cara Horowitz (Executive Director Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA), Dr. John Dorsey (Chair of the Department of Natural Science, LMU), and Dr. Brian Treanor (Department of Philosophy, LMU).

    VISUALS: Great visuals available! Attendees will form a human “350” on the lawn of the Federal Building and create a large banner of “350 Reasons for 350”.

    Los Angeles, CA – On Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009, concerned students, faculty, staff, and community members from Loyola Marymount University and the University of California, Los Angeles will hold a teach-in and rally in conjunction with over 2500 similar events in more than 100 countries as part of the Global Day of Climate Action. The purpose of the event is to urge bold action on climate change with the long-term goal of returning levels of atmospheric CO2 to 350 parts per million (ppm) and to ensure that the United States goes to December’s UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen poised to lead the global response to the climate crisis.
    The event will begin with a musical performance by Four Way Free, followed by a peaceful demonstration with posters, signs, and banners expressing attendees’ concerns about climate change. At approximately 10:30am, several notable experts, including Cara Horowitz (Executive Director Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA), Dr. John Dorsey (Chair of the Department of Natural Science, LMU), and Dr. Brian Treanor (Department of Philosophy, LMU) will give short speeches. Finally, attendees will gather to form a massive “350” with their bodies on the lawn of the Federal Building, and there will be opportunities to photograph the display from high in the Federal Building.

    Throughout the event, participants will also be encouraged to contribute to the “350 reasons for 350” list, which will be a collection of reasons to care about climate change. This list will serve as a document of the event, and the resulting reasons will be collected and posted on the event website, as well as forwarded to the 350.org organizers.


  7. Mark – your article in the Contra Costa Times (Bay Area News Group) was well done.

    Kudos to you my friend.

    Please call me at 925-580-4480. I am helping in the fight to defeat the Peripheral Canal, but the real fight is to retire drainage impacted SJV lands, remove profiteering from water distribution by the SWP and CVP contractors, repealing the monterey agreement and all that stuff, etc.

    Obviously you know this well, and I would like to get the benefit of your perspective offline.

    I was with several groups at the capital until 11:30 Friday night lobbying to defeat the Bill and Bond package. There were so many lobbyists from Westlands, Kern, Friant, MET, etc. it was just stunning to see.

    at any rate, please call, ok? I promise I wont waste your time. I have been mentored by Michael Jackson (CSPA and C-Win), Bill Jennings and others.


    Robert Johnson, Jr.

  8. Hi Mark,

    I’m happy to announce that you have been selected to participate at an exclusive Webcast Press Conference based on your impressive social media profile, and acclaimed water activism.

    On Wednesday, September 2, from 11:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. EDT, you are invited to participate in a webcast press conference on ONEDROP.org from Star City in Russia, where Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil® and the ONE DROP Foundation, began to train for the first ever artistic and humanitarian mission carried out from space. During this press conference, he will unveil the details pertaining to the global event–organised on the occasion of the Mission, and will answer questions from media.

    The launch of the Soyuz TMA-16 next September 30, with Guy Laliberté on board, will mark the beginning of the Poetic Social Mission. He will fulfill the Mission during his 12-day stay aboard the International Space Station. The purpose: to raise everyone’s awareness of water-related issues by drawing inspiration from the ONE DROP Foundation’s dream, “Water for all, all for water.” The global event is part of the scheduled awareness activities and, ultimately, seeks to help advance the movement in favour of water for all.

    If you are interested in taking part in this exclusive press event, please get back to us by email as soon as possible in order to iron out the details of your involvement.

    We are looking forward hearing from you soon!


    Andres Restrepo
    Social Media Animator, on behalf of
    Cirque du Soleil and ONE DROP Foundation

  9. How thankful I am for this insight into what’s really going on in the water off our coast and the sources of pollution on land. I look forward to each of your posts.

  10. Inspirational

  11. Dear Mark,
    In your blog “Tourist Trap” you wrote that you met an old friend: Paul Ahuja.

    As I am studying and writing about the manta ray and I would love to get into contact with him personally.

    I have contacted him at Iemanya (not working wtih them anymore?!) and wrote twice an email to his hotmail address (without success).

    Hopefully you can help me out with supplying his correct contact details. Many thanks in advance. Best wishes for a rainy Holland.


  12. Mark,

    I write for Orange Coast Magazine. Are you an Orange County resident? If so, I would love to do an interview with you for our “Quotes” page for the November 2008 issue.

    We work three months in advance of publication, so I need to set this up right away. All it entails is that I talk to your for about a half hour to get some informative comments — and we need to take a full length photo of you.

    Please contact me at your earliest convenience.
    Deborah Paul
    949-862-1133, ext. 102 at Orange Coast Magazine
    310-547-9697 home

    It’s a fun, light hearted piece, but

  13. Great Blog!

  14. Mark,
    Let me know how best to provide you information about an important, unique environmental forum coming to UCLA (see below). You may have received information already, so I apogize for any duplication. It will be important for you (and others) to be in the audience with other NGOs, politicans, academics, etc.

    September 9 Seminar at UCLA Highlighting Transboundary Environmental Cooperation in the Middle East
    Dear David,

    Water scarcity. Air pollution. We are all incredibly aware of the environmental issues facing Southern California and how much more challenging the situation becomes when multiple municipalities, states, or even countries are involved. Imagine then how difficult the situation must be in the Middle East, where environmental challenges demand cooperation not only from neighbors but from historic enemies.
    Please join us on September 9 for an enlightening and inspiring program featuring environmental experts from Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority who have championed the field of trans-boundary environmental cooperation through the model of the ground-breaking Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (www.friendsofarava.org). Learn about how the Arava Institute has advanced the mission that “Nature Knows No Borders” and how the Institute’s successful model can be relevant to addressing challenges in our own region.
    At 5:00 p.m., join us for an in depth seminar at the UCLA School of Law, suitable for academics, researchers, policy makers, and beyond. We are pleased and privileged that this seminar will feature a key note speech from Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, who will discuss the relevance of Southern California environmental issues to the Arava Institute model. This seminar is being offered free of charge, but advance registration is appreciated, as space is limited to 175.
    For any questions on this program or to make an advance registration, please email david@friendsofarava.org.
    We look forward to seeing you on September 9.
    Best Always,

    Sonia Simon Cummings, Board Member, Friends of the Arava Institute
    Jonathan Leo, Board Member, Friends of the Arava Institute
    Sponsored by:

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