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History of Save Our Shores


Whereas 2013 was a year of expansion at Save Our Shores, 2014 was a year of intention. A lot of time and energy went into strategic planning and analysis of programs, in order to ensure the effectiveness of the organization. In doing so, SOS was able to identify needs and create solutions. Examples include targeting 10 Hot Spots as part of the cleanup program, increasing marine science education in under-served schools, hiring a Communications Specialist in order to better publicize Save Our Shores’ programs and events, condensing the Sanctuary Stewards training program, and increasing clean boating awareness in three counties. SOS plans to build on this foundation in the coming year, continuing to strengthen its programs with the goal of better serving the community.

Read our 2014 Annual Report.


This was a year of expansion for Save Our Shores. We started the new Beachkeepers Program, expanded more into San Jose and Monterey areas, and worked on advocacy issues for the whole Central Coast of California.

Our new Beachkeepers program is empowering local ocean lovers to keep their favorite beaches clean by partnering with Save Our Shores. We now have 48 Beachkeepers who have posted about their findings through our blog, Facebook and data cards a total of 196 times. This data has even lead to the installation of 3 new cigarette butt receptacles or “Bait Tanks” by Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz. We will continue to work on expanding this program in 2014 and collecting data to make change in our community.

Plastic pollution advocacy continued to have a huge effect in our community in 2013. We helped to pass 18 single-use plastic bag bans in Belmont, San Carlos, Half Moon Bay, Cupertino, Foster City, Colma, Portola Valley, Los Altos, Palo Alto (expanded to retail and food establishments), Brisbane, Burlingame, Campbell, East Palo Alto, San Mateo, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Bruno and Los Gatos. This is a strong step in stopping pollution at the source and spreading awareness about reusable bags.

SOS has been working for two years to pass the San Jose Polystyrene take-out container ordinance and it was passed in September of 2013 and will take effect on January 1, 2014. This was a major victory for plastic pollution prevention since San Jose is the third largest city in California with over 900,000 people. San Jose now has a plastic bag ban and a polystyrene take-out container ban in place. SOS staff even organized a river cleanup at Coyote Creek with environmental organizations in San Jose to show the impact the polystyrene has on their local watershed.

In 2013, SOS started the Xstream Cleanup Program to tackle some of the more challenging and inaccessible beaches in Santa Cruz. The program started at Davenport Beach where SOS volunteers cleaned the beach on a monthly basis during the off season and weekly during the summer. We then expanded the program into Panther Beach and will start implementing cleanups at this location starting in January 2014. Both of these beaches are known to get very high traffic in the summer months because they are rarely patrolled which leads to big parties and large amounts of trash. We have seen a decrease in the amount of trash at Davenport Beach from an average of 142 pounds per cleanup from January to June to an average of 113 pounds per cleanup from July to December. We hope for the same result at Panther Beach in 2014.

Our third year of regular beach and river cleanups in Monterey County was a huge success with 48 cleanups and 1,816 volunteers. We expanded our work in Moss Landing’s Elkhorn Slough to address the illegal dumping that has been occurring along this beautiful refuge. In 2013 we ramped up our efforts and lead six cleanups in Elkhorn Slough and surrounding areas. In just those six cleanups, SOS volunteers picked up 9,106 pounds.
Along with the 182 beach and river cleanups in Santa Cruz, we completed a total of 284 beach and river cleanups which prevented a total of 34,032 pounds of trash from entering the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. We couldn’t have run all of these cleanups without our volunteers and Sanctuary Steward Docents. We had a total of 19,400 volunteer hours donated and of those hours, 42 Sanctuary Steward Docents logged over 700 volunteer hours

SOS volunteers have been collecting data on our cleanups since 2007. In 2013, our top 5 items collected were: 81,617 Cigarette butts, 40,390 Plastic Pieces, 24,382 Plastic Food Wrappers, 18,193 Glass Pieces and 17,237 Paper Pieces. Since 2008 we have seen a decrease in plastic bags from 65 bags per cleanup in 2008 to just 9 bags in 2013. We have seen the same pattern with polystyrene take out containers; in 2008 we were finding an average of 12 containers per cleanup and only 4 per cleanup in 2013. Items such as cigarette butts and polystyrene pieces have decreased slightly but are still persistent in our environment.

The Dockwalker Program spreads awareness about oil spill prevention to protect our fragile sanctuary. Dockwalker volunteers distributed 69 clean boating kits and reached 143 boaters in all four harbors of the Monterey Bay. In 2014 we will be expanding this program and performing a full program evaluation to make sure our outreach is effective.

Educating local students creates a brighter future for conservation. In 2013, SOS presented to over 7,000 students in 137 class presentations and assemblies. Our curriculum covers a wide variety of conservation awareness but focuses on plastic pollution, marine protected areas, recycling and taking action to be a part of the solution.

Lastly, SOS expanded the sponsorship program for corporations by offering beach cleanup as a team building exercise for large companies. In 2013, SOS hosted 18 cleanups with 16 corporations and over 500 employees including Cisco, Intuit, PG&E, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Flexera Software and Citrix Systems. Flexera Software was a group that was forever changed by the beach cleanup. After their cleanup they made it a policy to remove all plastic bottles from their vending machines and replace them with aluminum cans instead. They were able to make a positive change for their entire company because they learned the impact that plastics have on our environment. This is the reason SOS has taken a stand to work with multiple groups throughout the Central Coast, the more outreach we can provide, the more positive change we can create.

SOS is looking forward to 2014 as a year of reflection and focus on our dirtiest beaches and river sites, advocacy to increase the use of reusable materials in the place of plastics and renewed education to increase our impact.


2012: Plastic pollution advocacy started a domino effect with the passage of seven single-use plastic bag bans in Watsonville, Carmel, City of Santa Cruz, Mountain View, Daly City, Capitola and Sunnyvale. This is a great way to stop pollution at the source and spread awareness about reusable bags! Styrofoam take-out container ordinances were expanded in Capitola, Santa Cruz County and the City of Santa Cruz to include the banning of the sale of Styofoam cups, coolers, plates, bowls, plates and packing peanuts. This ordinance is the first of its kind in the county and is now gaining traction in other parts of the state. Our second year of beach cleanups Monterey County was a huge success with 45 total cleanups and 1,906 volunteers from Monterey.

Volunteers collected a total of 8,659 pounds of trash and recycling, the most common item collected was cigarette butts at 14,548.Beach and river cleanups in Santa Cruz County remained strong and effecting with 183 cleanups and 7,117 volunteers. Volunteers collected a total of 18,075.7 pounds of trash and recycling, the most common item collected was cigarette butts at 47,473.Sanctuary Stewards logged over 300 volunteer hours in 2012, and SOS was able to recruit over 9,100 total program volunteers. The Clean Boating Program distributed 76 DockWalker kits and reached 172 boaters. Meanwhile, over 2,000 students benefited from the SOS Marine Education Program. A total of 27,080 pounds of pollution were prevented from entering our Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 2012 alone.


2011: Advocacy efforts hit a stride with passage of single-use plastic bag bans in Santa Cruz County and the City of Monterey! Plastic water bottles were banned in City of Santa Cruz offices, and Styrofoam take-out containers were banned in the cities of Salinas, Marina, and Half Moon Bay – huge wins in the advocacy arena! Our first full year of monthly beach cleanups in Monterey County was a huge success, and 28 Adopt-a-Beach Groups continue to protect SC County beaches.

Sanctuary Stewards logged over 320 volunteer hours in 2011, and SOS broke it’s own record by rallying over 11,500 total cleanup volunteers. The Clean Boating Program distributed 133 DockWalker kits, and 242 boaters were reached, meanwhile 5,065 students benefited from the SOS Marine Education Program. A total of 34,926 lbs. of pollution were prevented from entering our Sanctuary in 2011 alone.


2009: SOS introduces the Adopt-a-Beach program for Santa Cruz County. SOS coordinates their first rock climbing creek cleanup in Aptos Creek with 13 dedicated rock climbing volunteers who collected over1,200 pounds of trash and recycling in just 4 hours! SOS coordinates 3,802 volunteers on Annual Coastal Cleanup Day at 50 cleanup sites in Santa Cruz County. 9,012 pounds of trash and 3,903.5 pounds of recycling were collected by volunteers on beaches, rivers, kayaks on kelp beds and underwater from scuba divers under the Santa Cruz Wharf. SOS coordinates a pollution prevention on July 4th passing out over 1,200 garbage bags to beach goers and held a beach cleanup on July 5th where 115 volunteers collected over 2,300 pounds of trash from 7 beaches in Santa Cruz County.


2008: SOS Celebrates 30 years of successful marine conservation in the Monterey Bay. SOS coordinates 3,015 volunteers on Annual Coastal Cleanup Day at 45 sites in Santa Cruz County. 10,200.5 pounds of trash and 4,050.5 pounds of recyclables were collected by volunteers on beaches, rivers, kayaks on kelp beds and underwater from scuba divers under the Santa Cruz Wharf. The innovative DockWalker program is relaunched. SOS coordinates a beach cleanup on July 5th and coordinates 282 volunteers and collected over 2,000 pounds of trash and 857 pounds of recycling.


2007: SOS coordinates 3,100 volunteers on Annual Coastal Cleanup Day at 39 sites in Santa Cruz County. Over 10,000 pounds of trash were collected by volunteers on beaches and rivers, kayaks on kelp beds, and underwater from scuba divers under the Santa Cruz Wharf. SOS Marine Visitors Center opens at the Santa Cruz Harbor. SOS supports efforts to encourage the Department of Fish and Game to approve 29 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the California Central Coast. The MPAs were made official on April 13th.


2006: SOS forms the Clean Beaches Coalition with Surfrider Foundation, Ecology Action, and Pack Your Trash to conduct joint monthly beach cleanups and encourage year-round stewardship for clean beaches.


2005: Save Our Shores expands its work with the Spanish speaking population by making presentations on marine policy issues to youth and adults at central coast community centers, promoting and delivering an interactive, bilingual puppet show with ocean conservation messages and sponsoring interpretive beach clean-up activities.


2004: Save Our Shores is instrumental in achieving the installation of permanent bilge-pump facilities at each of the regional harbors. The pumps are offered free of charge to boaters to pump oily bilge water and dispose of it appropriately, thus preventing a serious pollutant from entering Sanctuary waters.


2003: 1,641 students (grades K-12) and 168 parents from five surrounding counties participate in Save Our Shores Sea Lion Steward Marine Education Program. In this unique program, a trained (rehabilitated) sea lion serves as ambassador for the ocean, teaching students the importance of marine protected areas, adaptations of marine mammals, impacts of plastics and marine debris on wildlife, importance of recycling and what they can do to help protect our local and global oceans.


2002: SOS hosts the first Central California Fisherman’s Forum on Marine Protected Areas in March, 2002. Attended by 170 local fishermen, marine scientists, environmental organizations, marine resource managers, and government decision-makers, this premiere conference equipped central coast fishermen to better participate in the region’s ongoing MPA decision-making processes.


2000: In collaboration with NOAA and key stakeholders, SOS begins participation in an extensive Sanctuary Management Plan Review to identify and address a variety of vital issues that affect Monterey Bay, Gulf of the Farallones, and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries.


2001: SOS chairs the Conservation Working Group (CWG) for the MBNMS Advisory Council. CWG makes 13 consensus-based environmental recommendations to the Sanctuaries Joint Management Plan Review.


1999: SOS expands its educational activities in Spanish for Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties.
SOS creates the DockWalker program, designed to educate boaters about oil spill prevention and clean boating. The program was quickly adopted by the California Coastal Commission and taken state wide.


1998: In colaboration with NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard, the shipping industry, and other stakeholders, SOS co-authors the recommended vessel traffic management system for Central California.


1997: SOS initiates a new volunteer program, the DockWalkers, to provide information and tools to boaters, helping them to safely discard their oil and waste products. To this day, DockWalkers serves as a model for harbors and marinas throughout California.


1995: SOS launches the first Sanctuary Stewards course. SOS prevents the highly controversial Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate (ATOC) experimental project from being implemented in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
1996: SOS helps strengthen the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act. SOS mobilizes the community to renew the Outer Continental Shelf Moratorium on offshore oil development. SOS receives the 1996 Sanctuary Currents Award from the MBNMS in honor of our ongoing support of the Sanctuary.


1994: The Association of Monterey Bay Area Government’s MBNMS Award is given to SOS as “Organization of the Year.”
SOS works with the City of Santa Cruz to set a state-wide legal precedent by requiring that the City of Santa Cruz control illegal sewage outflow into the Sanctuary.



1988-1992: 4,000 citizens attend public hearings and submit comments of support for a marine sanctuary.
1992: President George H.W. Bush creates the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary with the boundary supported by SOS and EWG. *Dan Haifley, the ED of SOS at the time, believes President George H.W. Bush would not have created the Sanctuary had there not been such a large support and public mobilization for it.* SOS launches the Sanctuary Watch Hotline which begins ringing on Day One.

history_flowerpow_335x2151988: U.S. Congressman Leon Panetta secures congressional authorization to start planning a National Marine Sanctuary in the Monterey Bay Area. The momentum against Offshore Oil Drilling that SOS helped generate provides the support for a marine sanctuary. Dan Haifley represents SOS on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as Co-Chair. He advocates for the best boundary for the proposed Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
1988 – 1992: By organizing over 300 slide-show presentations to local governments, schools and service clubs, SOS and the EWG build a ecological case and gather public support for the best boundary for the proposed Marine Sanctuary.


1985 – 1988: Save Our Shores staff travel all over California asking cities and counties to prohibit Offshore Oil Drilling Companies from constructing onshore facilities. The trips culminate in 26 cities and counties from San Diego to Humboldt passing anti-oil zoning bans.
1987: The City of Santa Cruz along with several other municipalities and counties survive a lawsuit from the Western Oil and Gas Association for its laws pertaining to offshore oil drilling facilities.


1985: In response to SOS’ successful 7-year history of organizing citizens, the City of Santa Cruz decides to partner with Save Our Shores and generate public support for a statewide ban on Offshore Oil Drilling. SOS hires Dan Haifley as Executive Director.


1981: SOS organizes the first coastal cleanup along the North Coast of Santa Cruz County.


1978: Concerned individuals founded Save Our Shores, an all-volunteer grassroots organization, to protect the marine environment throughout California’s Central Coast.

history_beachprotest_325x214_0011970s: Members of the Santa Cruz community banded together in the late 1970’s to fight the placement of offshore oil rigs along the Central Coast. They won the battle in 1978 and the all-volunteer grassroots group decided to create a citizen-action organization to protect the Monterey Bay from future threats. This is the story of how Save Our Shores began.