For Humboldt County residents Kate Shea Ortiz and Amelia Burroughs, participating in Saturday's 27th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day was as much about cleaning up one of their favorite beaches as it was a teaching moment for their children.

”It's so important to have this discussion with the kids and involve them,” said Ortiz as she watched her two young daughters play with Burroughs' two daughters in the sand along the north jetty under a cloudless sky. “Today we are teaching them about what goes onto the beach and what doesn't.”

Education is one of the most important components of Coastal Cleanup Day, said Humboldt Surfrider Chapter Secretary Debbie Topping. The statewide cleanup -- put on in Humboldt through the coordination of the North Coast Environmental Center -- took place Saturday morning at a handful of local beaches, rivers, bays and estuaries. Last year, an estimated 1,000 Humboldt County volunteers participated, removing over eight tons of trash and one ton of recycling.

”We are hoping to beat those numbers this year,” Topping said.

As volunteers showed up to scour the dunes and beach sand for trash, Humboldt Bay Keeper Outreach Coordinator Vanessa Vasquez handed out gloves, data cards to tally the amount of trash collected and bags for trash and recycling. She also directed volunteers to special cartons to collect discarded cigarettes brought by Tabacco Free Humboldt Coordinator Jay McCubbrey. 

”This is a great day for the cleanup; it's beautiful out,” Vasquez said as she pulled down her baseball cap to keep the sun out of her eyes. “We are seeing a really good turnout this morning.”

For Topping, the most important part of the day was getting the word out and getting people involved in the cleanup effort.

”This is a one-day event, but cleanup should happen year round,” she said.

The two largest sources of trash Topping has noticed on Humboldt beaches are cigarette butts and plastic shards.

”I am always amazed at the handfuls of little shards of plastic I find,” she said. “The problem is they just break up, they don't break down.” 


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It is bittersweet to announce that our Executive Director, Pete Nichols, has been promoted to the new Western Regional Director of the Waterkeeper Alliance, Humboldt Baykeeper's parent organization.  His new position at Waterkeeper will take him around the western United States to help other Keepers with logistics, funding, and programs. 

His new promotion is outstanding for him and Humboldt Baykeeper because we will have an excellent local resource to work with on our future programs. Stay tuned for more information on the changes happening at Humboldt Baykeeper and thank you for your continued support - we are very lucky to have such a wonderful community to call home!


The Tigris River is one of the most important bodies of water in the Middle East, but years of extensive toxic dumping and gravel mining have severely compromised its ecosystem. We’ll speak with Humbolt Baykeeper Executive Director Pete Nichols and Nature Iraq founder Dr. Azzam Alwash about efforts to clean up the river and the newly founded group, Upper Tigris Waterkeeper.

Listen to the radio interview from WNYC here.


One morning last September Pete Nichols of Humboldt Baykeeper was up early working, listening to the radio in the background. Something on the BBC news caught his attention.

“I heard an interview with this Iraqi, Azzam Alwash, talking about his [river] restoration work for an organization called Nature Iraq.” Nichols recalled. “It was this fantastic story of restoring the wetlands that were supposedly the Garden of Eden.”

He decided to learn more. Now, six months later, Nichols is catching a plane to the Middle East — destination Iraq. He leaves this week to go meet Azzam Alwash in person.

Nichols established Humboldt Baykeeper seven years ago as part of the larger Waterkeeper Alliance, an advocacy organization started 15 years ago by Robert Kennedy Jr., initially bringing together likeminded groups on the East Coast. “The Hudson Riverkeeper group was the genesis of it all; that was started by commercial fishermen in the ‘60s,” said Nichols. “There are 192 groups right now, nationally and internationally.” And the next may be Waterkeeper Iraq.

Since Nichols serves on the Waterkeeper board, he’s among those responsible for what are known as site visits, basically checking out new chapters before they are brought into the fold. One such visit took him to China two years ago; this one is a bit different.


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The Safe Kids Humboldt Fund was designed to ensure that all kid's in Humboldt County have access to functional, Personal Floatation Devices (PFD's or 'lifejackets'), bike helmets and bike safety gear, and car seats.  In addition, the Fund will support outreach and educational activities designed to educate Humboldt County residents and visitors alike about water safety on North Coast waterways.
For more information, or to contribute to the fund, contact the Humboldt Area Foundation (HAF) at (707) 442-2993.