It’s official: South Bay protected by bag bans

Last night, the Milpitas City Council voted unanimously to ban disposable plastic shopping bags. This means less throwaway plastic in our lives and less pollution in our creeks and the Bay. After several years of delay, the council finally adopted a ban, filling the last gap in the ring of bag bans that protects South Bay habitats and wildlife.

The ordinance will apply to all retailers in the city starting January 1, 2016. Grocers, hardware stores, clothing stores, and others in the city will no longer hand out plastic bags at the checkout stand, and will instead make reusable and paper bags available for a minimum of 10 cents each. As in other cities, customers can easily avoid paying for bags by bringing their own.

Between now and January, City of Milpitas staff will work with businesses to ease the transition and will continue handing out reusable bags to residents.

The data on bag bans speaks for itself: Three years after San Jose implemented its bag ordinance, that city reports that plastic bag litter decreased by 71 percent in local creeks and 62 percent in city storm drains.

Five years ago, Save The Bay reported that more than a million plastic bags were flowing into the Bay every year. We’re happy to say that we no longer use that statistic, because more than 80 percent of Bay Area residents now live in a city that has banned plastic bags. The more cities that follow in Milpitas’ footsteps, the more we can report positive statistics about the health of the Bay.

6 Bay Recreation hotspots

At Save The Bay, we believe the best way to stay inspired to protect the Bay is to enjoy it.
Here are a few of our favorite spots:

IMG_1797-minAngel Island! There are few places where you can get a 360 degree view of the Central Bay. It’s amazing to be in a natural, protected area while viewing city skylines and learning about the region’s immigration history.”

— Allison Chan, Clean Bay Campaign Manager

Photo: Rene Rivers

“More than anywhere else in the Bay, China Camp State Park is where my passions come together. It is one of the best places to mountain bike near the Bay, with a fun rolling Bay shore trail for beginners and some more challenging technical stuff further from the road. Trail running here is fantastic too, from the narrow singletrack loop near the shore to a climb that reaches a former Nike missile silo with expansive Bay views. And the wetlands here are some of the most publicly accessible tidal marsh in the Bay Area, exactly the kind of habitat Save The Bay fights to preserve and protect every day.”

— Cyril Manning, Communications Director

2015-07-26 11.55.06

“I love to ride the ferry across the bay! Whether it be to visit a tourist destination like Alcatraz or Angel island or to indulge in a more leisurely commute- the ferry is a great way to experience new views of the bay. My favorite thing to do is order a beer in the evening and watch the sun go down on our glorious bridges.”

Jessie Olson, Nursery Manager

San Leandro Bay-min
“Biking along the Bay from San Leandro down to Hayward by Eden Landing.  It’s a beautiful place to bike.”

Vinnie Bacon, Salesforce Specialist

Looking west toward the South Bay from the top of Mission Peak.
“As much as I love to be near water, the view of the South Bay and nearby salt ponds from Mission Peak in Fremont is well worth the steep climb to the 2,516 foot summit.  On a clear day you can even see the San Francisco skyline and other regional landmarks.”

Vivian Reed, Communications Assistant

“If you’ve ever crossed the Dumbarton Bridge, you’ve definitely seen Coyote Hills Regional Park in Union City—those tantalizing grasslands that rise up from the glassy waters just north of the freeway. Spend a couple hours on two wheels and you can cut through lush inland marsh, traverse steep, rocky ridges on dirt trails, trace a gentle paved path along the sinewy hillsides, and follow the levy loop way out into the Bay itself. Along the way you’ll see a ridiculous diversity of stunning birds: we’re talking raptors, egrets, herons, pelicans, avocets, black-necked stilts, and about a million others. (Yes, that’s why this is part of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge.) Want more? The park connects right up to the Alameda Creek trail—a paved path stretching 12 miles to Niles Canyon without a single street crossing, and one of the few places in the Bay where I’ve come up close to a golden eagle.)”

Cyril Manning, Communications Director

Show us where your favorite spot is to hang out by the Bay! Tage your Bay recreation pics on Instagram and Twitter using #MyBayPhoto.

Guest Post | Know Your Fisherman

Captain Adam Sewall
Captain Adam Sewall is a local fisherman who spends his days between the Berkeley Marina and just outside the Golden Gate. Photo credit: Michael Santiago

Captain Adam Sewall of the Sunrise Fish Company spends long days fishing halibut from his one-man fishing boat in the San Francisco Bay and along the Marin coast. Take a journey in his boots for a day and learn more about why he throws back so much of what he catches.

When my alarm goes off my first thought is that it’s the middle of the night, there must be some mistake. But no, it’s 4AM and my phone is telling me that it’s time to get up. I put the kettle on and take one last look at my tide charts and weather report, it all looks promising.  I sip my strong black coffee as I load my gear and fuel into the truck.

As I steam out of the Berkeley Marina by myself in my 25’ open fishing boat, adrenaline and excitement kick in along with the caffeine. The bay is beautiful and flat this morning. The sun is just rising behind me. I speed past the city, under the Golden Gate Bridge, through a pod of porpoises corralling anchovies at Baker Beach, past Seal Rocks, to my fishing grounds on 14 fathom bank.

Casting off

When I arrive, I slow the boat and look for where to begin my day. I see a place where the sea is purple and black with a thick shoal of anchovies, their mass like a continent on a map. Birds are diving as salmon push the anchovies to the surface, and I notice the spout of a whale making her way towards the commotion. This is a good place to start.

I rig my rods and reels with heavy lead weights and herring. I send the herring along with the weight down to the sandy bottom, where the lead bounces along the ocean floor. I set six rods this way and tend them carefully. I watch the rods bend and tap rhythmically along the washboard texture of the sea floor. It’s not long before one of the rods buckles under the weight of a large fish. I scramble for the gear and start cranking. As I fight the fish I reach over the open console of the boat to steer carefully so the lines don’t tangle. My lead weight comes into view, and a few feet below it the silhouette of a large halibut. I reel the lead ball up to the rod tip and gaff the halibut into the boat. It’s a good fish, 17lbs.

Fishing outside the industry

When most people think about fishing, this is what they imagine. In reality, I am part of a very small fleet of passionate guys who fish by ourselves with rods and reels in small boats. Most of us couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

The overwhelming majority of the fish in our markets however arrives through a very different process.  For seventy-odd years, freezer ships have plundered our oceans, and more recently aquaculture has monocultured and stifled our coasts. It’s almost a misnomer to me to call what I do fishing, when the industry is dominated by these goliaths of the sea.

At the fish market, my local line caught California halibut lays in the cooler next to Atlantic salmon, a fish transplanted from its north Atlantic home where it is all but extinct, to massive fish farming operations choking the bays and inlets in Chile.

Next in the cooler are steaks of swordfish, labeled “local” but caught by boats that migrate thousands of miles in search of the pacific’s last stock. These boats lay hundreds of miles of baited hooks, laying waste to huge numbers of oceanic predators that are unfortunate enough to eat the bait intended for the elusive swordfish.

It’s hard to tell my halibut from the local dragger-caught halibut as it’s often labeled the same. These large boats with their massive nets plow and scrape the sea floor, destroying any creature funneled into its purse. In an effort to maintain the health of our California coast, the government has tried to buy back the permits to operate these vessels, but their hefty offers have been refused. Dragger fishing is just too profitable.

One catch at a time

By the end of my day, I have released salmon, thresher sharks, and a bat ray back to the ocean alive, and kept 17 Halibut weighing a total of 150lbs. I steam back under the Golden Gate Bridge as the last rays of orange light bounce against the San Francisco skyline. I unload at Fisherman’s Wharf. My catch today will be enjoyed by patrons at some of the finest restaurants, fish markets, and even tech start-ups in the bay area. Tomorrow, I’ll ice my fish and bring it instead to the Tuesday Berkeley farmers market where I enjoy selling directly to my community.

It’s almost 10:00PM by the time I get back to the Berkeley Marina. I clean up my boat, pack up my gear, and get home to my apartment in Oakland. It’s been a long day, and my alarm will go off in less than six hours, I better eat some dinner.

– Captain Adam Sewall

Born and raised a true Mainer, Captain Adam Sewall comes from a long line of shipbuilders and fishermen. Adam bought his own halibut boat and started the Sunrise Fish Company in 2015.  He now plies the waters around the San Francisco Bay and the Marin coast in search of the freshest catch before selling at market in South Berkeley. Come by to swap fish stories and pick up the catch of the day.”

3 Reasons to connect with us on social media

Wetlands and social media icons
Save The Bay’s social media sites serve as a hub for the exchange of ideas, photographs, and stories about the people and wildlife who call the Bay Area home. It’s no secret that our lives and our communities are all connected to the Bay, so why not connect online with an organization dedicated to protecting and restoring our region’s most beloved natural resource?

Here are 3 reasons to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn

  1. Stay in the know:

    Living in a beautiful region like the Bay Area comes with great responsibility to be aware of the issues that impact our Bay and lifestyle. Follow us on social media for the latest news updates about our region. Learn about local Bay Heroes, current and future threats to our home, and the many ways to make the Bay Area better. Our social media feeds feature thought-provoking blogs highlighting climate change and regional population boom, breaking news about San Francisco Bay, and new volunteer and job listings. Plus, you’ll be inspired by the striking images of this place we all call home.

  2. Your voice matters:

    Save The Bay is an environmental advocacy organization that encourages thoughtful discussion about the issues that matter to you most. Social media is a great way for us to learn more about you! Tell us what you think by responding to our posts, voicing your concerns, or asking us questions about the region’s most pressing environmental issues using #AskSaveTheBay and we’ll address them on Facebook and Twitter. We also encourage you to share your kodak moments by the Bay with us on Instagram using #MyBayPhoto and we’ll feature them on our feed.

  3. Take a stand:

    Making a positive impact in your community is a lot easier than you think. Whether you’re passionate about getting the Bay to zero trash or restoring our shoreline, it only takes one click to take action on the issues that matter most to you. Take action online or sign up to get your hands dirty at our community volunteer restoration events.

We depend on the Bay as much as the Bay depends on us to stay informed, ask questions, and support actions that help keep it thriving for years to come. There’s only one Bay Area and one San Francisco Bay. Show the Bay some love by following us on social media.

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Saving the Bay: From Rescue to Restoration


What’s that stinky creek out there,
Down behind the slum’s back stair,
Sludgy puddle, sad and gray?
Why man, that’s San Francisco Bay!
– “Seventy Miles” by Malvina Reynolds and Pete Seeger, 1965

Looking out on the majestic beauty of San Francisco Bay in 2015, it’s hard for many younger and newer residents of the Bay Area to believe that just fifty years ago, Malvina Reynolds and Pete Seeger were shocked enough by its condition that they memorialized it in song as a “Sludgy puddle, sad and gray.”

Yet, it’s true – half a century ago, the Bay was choked with raw sewage and industrial pollution, and plans were to fill in 60 percent of its remaining area, leaving only a narrow shipping channel in its place.

Fortunately, in 1961, Save The Bay’s founders set out to rescue the Bay from destruction, and helped give birth to our nation’s grassroots environmental movement. Mobilizing thousands of Bay Area residents into action over the course of the decade, these three remarkable women led landmark victories including a moratorium on Bay fill, the closure of more than 30 shoreline garbage dumps, an end to the release of raw sewage, and establishment of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission to regulate shoreline development and increase public access to the Bay.

For 55 years, Save The Bay has been occupied primarily with successive versions of our founders’ initial mission to protect the Bay from damaging shoreline development. Along with dedicated local groups, we’ve defeated numerous, hugely destructive plans including: the Santa Fe Railroad Company’s Bay fill scheme to build Berkeley three miles out into the water; David Rockefeller’s surreal fantasy of building a new Manhattan in the Bay with fill from chopping off the top of San Bruno mountain; Mobil Oil’s blueprint for massive development on Bair Island; and SFO’s ill-conceived effort to pave the Bay for runway expansions.

Now, with Cargill’s Redwood City Saltworks proposal on the ropes, and plans to develop Newark Area 4 likely to be rejected by BCDC and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, these last threats to the largest remaining tracts of unprotected, restorable Bay wetlands may soon be overcome.

The next phase of saving the Bay

The first phase of our organization’s history, focused on rescuing the Bay, is now drawing to a close; the next phase of our history, focused on restoring the Bay to full health, is beginning in earnest; and the scale of our challenges and the importance of our work are as enormous as they have ever been.

While Bay restoration has always been integral to Save The Bay’s mission, only now, after many years’ effort, do we have a real opportunity to achieve it on scale and realize our founders’ ultimate vision.

In 1999, a consortium of estuary scientists published the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals, which established that San Francisco Bay needed 100,000 acres of wetlands to restore and sustain its health. At the time, less than 40,000 acres of Bay wetlands remained, but thanks to the efforts of Save The Bay’s many partners, a similar number of restorable acres had been protected from any further development. Local efforts have managed to restore 5,000 acres of wetlands since then, but the vast majority of protected Bay wetlands are still awaiting restoration.

The biggest challenge has been the lack of sufficient, reliable funding to pursue large scale restoration. With scant annual federal funding – on the order of $5 million per year – and state support limited to one-time injections of bond funds, the price tag of $1.43 billion to restore the acres under protection has been too steep, and efforts to secure additional funding from existing sources have yielded little.

Faced with the quandary of having thousands of acres of restorable wetlands under public ownership without an appropriate source of funds to restore them, Save The Bay moved to change the equation.

Funding Bay restoration on scale

In 2007, we published Greening the Bay, a strategy for financing Bay restoration by establishing a regional special district that would allow the Bay Area to raise the local share of wetlands restoration costs, which could be used to leverage increased state and federal funding to cover the remainder.

That publication and the organizing around it led directly to creation of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, a regional public agency charged with raising the local funds and managing the grants necessary to implement the many restoration projects in the pipeline and begin the long overdue work of restoring the Bay’s wetlands.

Unfortunately, at its very start, the Authority was stalled out by the stark reality of the Great Recession. In the grips of that extraordinary economic downturn, the same Bay Area voters who had consistently and overwhelmingly supported the goal of improving the Bay for both people and wildlife proved unwilling to pay even a small amount in additional taxes to fund the local share of restoration efforts.

Today, the Authority is preparing to propose a small parcel tax to voters in all nine Bay Area counties, to enhance our environment and strengthen our economy at the same time.

  • The June 2016 ballot measure would generate $500 million in new funding for projects to restore thousands of acres of tidal marsh, making the Bay healthier for fish, birds, seals and other threatened marine life. Parcels would be assessed $12 each year for 20 years.
  • The funding would accelerate projects that prevent flooding of residential communities and economic infrastructure, reduce pollution in the Bay, and improve trails for public
  • An April 2015 survey found that a supermajority of Bay Area voters will make an investment to ensure the Bay is clean and healthy. After hearing arguments for and against, 70% would vote in favor of a $12 parcel tax to improve the Bay – more than the 2/3 necessary for passage.

A recent op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News by Save The Bay’s Executive Director, David Lewis, and prominent business leader Andy Ball made the case and the call: Act now to protect San Francisco Bay!

We can make this breakthrough, and restore San Francisco Bay for all the generations to come, but only if Save The Bay’s supporters lead the way, as we have throughout our organization’s history.

We know our supporters are up to the challenge, and in the weeks ahead we’ll be letting you know exactly what you can do to help. Thank you, as always, for all you do to Save The Bay!