Heal the Ocean focuses on wastewater infrastructure – sewers and septic systems – as well as ocean dumping practices that have contributed to ocean pollution. We are focused on Santa Barbara County, but our methods are now serving as a model for other coastal communities across the country. 

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Heal the Ocean (HTO) was formed in August 1998 in Santa Barbara, California, in response to the closing of local beaches due to bacteria. Its original organizers are Hillary Hauser, a journalist who has covered marine topics – both internationally and in Santa Barbara – for over 40 years, and Jeff Young, a practicing attorney in Santa Barbara who once owned an oyster farm that was polluted out of business in the late 1980s. It is a citizens’ action group that began with Hauser’s newspaper editorial, published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on August 9, 1998, called “Another Day at the Beach?” The piece prompted a huge outpouring of emotional support and calls for action within the community. In response, a public demonstration took place at the Santa Barbara County administration building on August 27, 1998 in support of clean waters and clean beaches, with this community outcry giving rise to Heal the Ocean.

In our early years HTO tackled the septic systems at Rincon, a world class surfing area in Santa Barbara County. We were the first environmental organization in the county to do DNA testing in the environment in order to identify the origins of contamination. While bureaucrats and the public alike argued about the sources of pollution at Rincon, HTO raised $36,000 for this DNA study, and the results were conclusive…the pollution in the Rincon Lagoon was attributable to humans.

After countless hours of advocacy and support by Heal the Ocean at key stages of the project over fifteen years, the South Coast Beaches Communities Septic to Sewer Project is complete, meaning that seven miles of Santa Barbara coastline are now free of septic systems. 

Visit HTO at Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival!

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Heal the Ocean will have a booth at the annual Earth Day celebration in Alameda Park on Saturday and Sunday April 27-28, 2019 so please stop by to say hello, and to shop our Heal the Ocean gear—t-shirts, coffee mugs, hats, sweatshirts, and reusable straws! Come learn about our most recent projects, chat to HTO volunteers and staff, and hear about all the ways you can help the ocean.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook (Heal the Ocean) and Instagram (@healtheoceansb) to stay updated on our ocean work and Earth Day details.

Past HTO Events

Current Job Openings

There are no job openings/internships currently available. Please check back soon for new openings!