California has an enormous environmental and economic stake in how we care for our ocean. It is responsible for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the seafood we eat, and for unparalleled recreational experiences. Our ocean economy was estimated at $43 billion in 2000, and that economy is largely dependent on the health of our ocean. We must protect and manage our marine resources and fisheries, maintain good coastal water quality, and devise ways to meet the challenges of climate change – particularly sea level rise – that threaten our coastal communities.
One of the principal goals of the Ocean Protection Council is to evaluate the way California protects and conserves the state’s ocean and coastal ecosystem resources and to recommend legislative or administrative changes. The OPC is working to coordinate governance and stewardship of the state’s ocean, identify priorities, bridge existing gaps, and ensure effective and scientifically sound approaches to protecting and conserving the most important ocean resources.
Governance Objectives of the 2006 – 2011 OPC Strategic Plan
Objective 1: Funding:
Numerous state agencies receive public funds to protect ocean and coastal resources. These agencies regulate how these resources are used, regulate activities that impact these resources, and purchase coastal resources and place them in the public trust. The OPC is tasked with analyzing state agency spending in order to maximize the efficiency of public fund expenditures.
Objective 2: Inter-agency Coordination and Collaboration:
A patchwork of state and federal statutes and accompanying regulations govern the management of California’s ocean and coastal resources. These laws were drafted over the last several decades, during which time no concerted effort was made to evaluate how well each agency discharged its duties. The OPC works towards improving coordination and management of state efforts to protect and conserve the ocean and to identify changes in federal law and policy necessary to better protect ocean resources. The OPC also works to ensure that resource managers and decision makers have access to the best available science to inform their decisions through advice from the California Ocean Science Trust and the OPC Science Advisory Team.
Objective 3: Enforcement:
California’s environmental laws are enforced by a number of federal, state, and local regulatory authorities, each of which may have its own enforcement unit. While it would be impractical and unwise to try to place all enforcement authority in one agency, enforcement efforts can and should be better coordinated between agencies.
Objective 4: Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM):
Ecosystem-based management is an integrated approach to management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans, when making decisions. The goal of ecosystem-based management is to maintain an ecosystem in a healthy, productive, and resilient condition so that it can provide the services humans want and need. OPC supports the development of ecosystem-based management pilot programs in several regions throughout California.
Objective 5: Federal Influence.
By engaging federal government support for California’s priorities, the OPC looks to encourage cooperative management with federal agencies in order to protect and conserve representative coastal and ocean habitats and the ecological processes that support those habitats.
Objective 6: Regional Coordination.
OPC supports increased regional coordination between California, Oregon and Washington, focusing on measures to improve ocean and coastal management.
In addition to specific objectives listed in the strategic plan, the strategic plan also calls for the creation of a Science Advisory Team (OPC-SAT) to ensure that the best available science is applied to OPC policy decisions. The OPC-SAT is composed of leading scientists from all major ocean and coastal scientific disciplines including the social and human sciences. The Advisory Team works with OPC staff to ensure that all staff recommendations and projects proposed to OPC are based on the best available science.
Initiatives and Funded Projects:
Inter-agency Coordination and Collaboration:
- California Ocean and Coastal Law Inventory
- Ocean Protection Council Science Advisory Team (OPC-SAT)
- Coastal and Ocean Climate Action Team (CO-CAT)
- California Marine Renewable Energy Working Group
- Marine Life Protection Act Memorandum Of Understanding
- Marine Spatial Planning Resolution
- Coastal and Marine Geospatial Data
- Department of Fish and Game – State Water Resources Control Board Memorandum Of Understanding
Ecosystem Based Management: