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. 

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Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful places in the world. So many of us live here because we enjoy spending time in the water – whether it’s surfing, swimming, diving or paddling. It’s something we all share. 

This year our community lost an incredibly kind and talented person, Marcie Kjoller, an accomplished waterwoman who supported Heal the Ocean for many years. In memory of her life and love for the ocean and this community, friend and local marathon swimmer Rachel Horn has created a relay team, "Marcie's Mermaids" (Heather Royer, Chelsea Jones, Hilary McAvoy, Emily Case, Liz Boscacci) who will be swimming 19 miles across the Santa Barbara Channel on September 19, 2019 in an effort to raise funds for Heal the Ocean in Marcie’s memory. Marcie's Mermaids will swim from Santa Cruz Island to Oxnard Beach, braving the cold water and the 10+ hour swim without wetsuits. 

All of the ladies doing this swim love the ocean and spend most of their free time in our local waters year round. They are tough, awesome women and want everyone to remember Marcie’s life and celebrate her love of the ocean. They will be accompanied by a support team for their safety, and are aiming to raise $10,000 to support Heal the Ocean’s work to keep our waters clean for all the people and animals who live and love this place we call home.

On Wednesday, August 14, 2019 at Topa Topa Brewing Co. HTO will be hosting a “Crossing the Channel” Film Screening + Q&A with Rachel Horn and filmmaker Ryan Slattery. It will be a fun night with great beer and an opportunity to learn more about this event! Please join us!

Check out the fundraising page to learn more or donate by clicking the button below!

Heal the Ocean’s Annual Celebration

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Save the date, and join us for an evening of good cheer and company as we celebrate another year of Heal the Ocean achievements on Saturday, October 19, 2019! There will be great food, an amazing live auction, an ocean-themed photo booth, a DJ, and dancing to fun music.

Sponsorship are available now! Click here to become a sponsor or to donate!

For event or sponsorship information, please call or email the HTO office:
(805) 965-7570

Past HTO Events

Current Job Openings

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