OPC is hiring a Policy and Communications Program Manager

The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) is hiring a Policy and Communications Program Manager (Staff Services Manager I, Specialist) to help advance OPC’s strategic priorities, with a specific focus on policy, communications, and community engagement. The Policy and Communications Program Manager will be responsible for legislative tracking and bill analyses, supporting policy development, leading communications, and community outreach efforts to elevate the work of the Council, and increasing equitable engagement on efforts to protect California’s coast and ocean. … read more

Now Accepting Applications: Ocean Protection Council Summer Internship

OPC is hiring up to five Student Assistants for its Summer Internship Program (Program). The purpose of the Summer Internship Program is to provide undergraduate college students with an opportunity to gain hands-on-experience with a small State agency focused on protecting and enhancing the state’s coastal and ocean ecosystems and ensuring easy, affordable access to and along the coast for all Californians. … read more

Draft Revised 2021 Proposition 1 Guidelines Now Available for Public Comment

The Ocean Protection Council (OPC) is pleased to announce the release of Draft Revised Prop 1 Grant Guidelines for public review and comment. Major revisions to the Prop 1 Guidelines include changes to OPC’s priority projects and to the scoring criteria. OPC’s priorities focus on projects benefiting communities entitled to environmental justice.  OPC will host a webinar on January 25, 2021 to present the guidelines and receive comments, and the deadline for written public comment is Tuesday, January 26, 2021. Comments may be submitted via email  to OPC_Prop1grants@resources.ca.gov. Please see the Proposition 1 webpage for more information.

 

Bid Submittal Extension: Communications Strategy for California’s Coast and Ocean

Due to Covid-19 and office closures, we will be announcing a bid submittal deadline extension and providing further directions on how to submit your bids electronically. An addendum will be posted early the week of December 14, 2020 with more information. At this time, we ask that you do not print any of your bid or mail anything to the Ocean Protection Council. The OPC Communications Solicitation and addendums can be found here: https://caleprocure.ca.gov/event/0540/0000017900

What if we get it right? Reflections on WSN 2020

Michael Esgro, OPC Marine Ecosystems Program Manager & Tribal Liaison

This past weekend, nearly 900 marine scientists convened online for the 101st Western Society of Naturalists (WSN) annual meeting. Against the backdrop of the U.S. presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a growing nationwide movement for racial justice, WSN 2020 felt different. The very fact that the meeting was held over Zoom, rather than in the packed auditoriums and meeting rooms that characterized WSN conferences of my grad school yearswas a reminder that science cannot be separated from human well-being. In addition, this year’s emphasis on diversity and inclusion (including WSN’s first-ever diversity plenary!) came as a long-overdue recognition of the link between social equity and environmental resilience, although it’s clear that we all have work to do when it comes to operationalizing some of the recommendations that were presented. 

Over the course of three days at WSNI eagerly devoured session after session of 15-minute talks, filling my notebook with new developments in monitoring technology, marine protected area science, fisheries ecology, restoration practice, and sustainable aquaculture. These findings will directly inform my work – in the coming weeks, for example, I’ll be following up with speakers who presented in two special sessions on kelp forest ecosystem resilience, to ensure that the most cutting-edge science is represented in OPC’s upcoming Action Plan for kelp research and restoration in California.  

A few moments that stood out for me: our partners at the California Ocean Science Trust highlighted key findings from a state-supported scientific working group that is exploring the role of California’s MPA network in providing climate resilience. At Saturday’s ocean-climate symposium, Dr. Kerry Nickols explained how kelp forests may help to mitigate ocean acidification at the local scale. I was excited to be part of a team that presented a new inventory of “de facto” marine protected areas on California’s central coast and their potential contributions to conserving critical deepwater habitat. And in yet another sign of the times, there was an entire session dedicated to innovative and creative ways of keeping field research moving during the COVID era. 

More than anything, however, I was struck by a comment made by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, an ocean hero whose areas of expertise include both marine ecology and community engagement. Her question to WSN’s attendees: “what if we get it right?” In other words, what does all this science mean for people? If we move beyond the Keeling Curves, grim IPCC reports, and news of environmental collapse, what is our positive vision for the future? What kind of world do we want to live in, and how do we build it together? 

I’m proud to live and work in Californiawhere we have a strong vision of what it means to get it right – our state’s leaders are striving to build a more equitable and resilient society, a “California for All.” I left WSN 2020 feeling fired up to continue that fight for California’s coast and ocean, and grateful for the opportunity to hear from a diverse group of scientists in this most unusual and pivotal of years. 

Invitation to Bid: Communications Strategy for California’s Coast and Ocean

The Ocean Protection Council is seeking bids for contract to develop and implement a Communications Strategy for California’s Coast and Ocean that will provide centralized access to California’s extensive coastal and ocean information, ensure unified messaging of the State’s coastal management and scientific efforts, and help to engage ocean stakeholders, key legislators, decision-makers, and the general public in the process.

Through updated media platforms, targeted outreach, annual State of the Ocean reports, development of an Ocean Health Dashboard and report card, and many more actions, the Communications Strategy will help OPC become a communications hub for the state, serving to share California’s progress towards meeting our ambitious Strategic Plan goals, objectives, and targets.

Please submit bids by 12pm on December 15th, 2020.

For more information follow this link: https://caleprocure.ca.gov/event/0540/0000017900

Upcoming Webinar Series: Microplastics Effects on Human and Ecological Health

The Ocean Protection Council, the State Water Resources Control Board staff, and numerous international experts will be participating in a webinar series starting on October 19 to characterize microplastics and human and ecological health effects. This webinar series is hosted by the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and the University of Toronto and is open to the public; more information on the webinar series and registration information is available here: https://www.sccwrp.org/about/research-areas/additional-research-areas/trash-pollution/microplastics-health-effects-webinar-series/

Microplastics on a petri dish

Photo Credit: Xia Zhu

OPC co-hosting virtual meeting on emerging contaminents

The Ocean Protection Council, the State Water Resources Control Board, and the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, are reconvening the Science Advisory Panel on Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in Aquatic Ecosystems (Panel) to review existing scientific literature and determine the state of current scientific knowledge on the risks of CECs impacting human health and the environment in freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems of the State. The panel will update recommendations submitted in 2012 to the State Water Board to improve the understanding of CECs to protect public health and the environment.

The Panel, will be hosting its initial series of public meetings via Zoom. The meetings are scheduled Monday through Thursday, October 12 – 15 from 8am to 10am. The meetings will include technical presentations for the Panel’s consideration and time is allocated for interested parties to provide input and feedback as part of the initiation of the Panel’s deliberation process. This meeting series is free and open to the public, and registration is available at: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_1yzijYkVTq6JQH-NYbVxzw

The agenda for the meeting series includes four parts that correspond to each day of the series including:

  • Part 1: Intended Use of Panel Products
  • Part 2: CEC Management Approaches
  • Part 3: Scientific Advances in the Field
  • Part 4: Stakeholder Input

For those that are interested but unable to attend, the meeting will be recorded and made available to the public for later viewing. This panel is updating information from a previous Science Advisory Panel from 2012, additional information on the previous Science Advisory Panel, including a link to the 2012 report, is available at https://www.sccwrp.org/about/research-areas/emerging-contaminants/cec-ecosystems-panel/.

 

photo of a wave breaking

Photo credit: Todd Teetzel

 

A Fighting Chance for North Coast Bull Kelp

Michael Esgro, OPC Marine Ecosystems Program Manager & Tribal Liaison

As a lifelong Monterey diver, I’ve been devastated to watch California’s once-lush kelp forests turn into “urchin barrens” seemingly overnight. I’ve also been deeply moved by conversations with my north coast diver brethren (both at public meetings in Sacramento and over beers in Noyo Harbor) about the devastating consequences that this ecological collapse has had on the economy, culture, and spirit of California’s north coast, where kelp declines have been the most severe. So when I was offered the chance to observe a new kelp restoration project in Mendocino County – a unique partnership between OPC, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Reef Check California, and local commercial fishermen – I threw a scuba tank in my truck and drove north without hesitation. And that’s how I found myself pulling on a wetsuit on a foggy Sunday morning, excited for an underwater tour of the Noyo Bay restoration site.

Alongside Tristin McHugh, Reef Check’s North Coast Regional Manager and my divemaster for this excursion, I dropped into the uncommonly clear water and soon came upon Pat and Grant Downie, a father-son team of commercial red sea urchin divers. Using only their hands and specially designed rakes, they were quickly clearing the reef of kelp-eating purple urchin, demonstrating a level of skill and efficiency that comes only with a lifetime of urchin diving. For reference, I participated in a recreational urchin removal event at Noyo Bay last summer, and I was proud of the 5 pounds I surfaced with. The Downies’ haul last Sunday? More than half a ton.

Diver

Commercial fisherman Grant Downie removing purple urchin from the reef at Noyo Bay. Photo: Tristin McHugh/Reef Check California

As Tristin and I made our way across the reef, I was impressed to see the progress that has been made since urchin removal operations started only a month ago. When I last saw this site, purple urchins were so dense that the ocean floor looked like a spiky purple carpet. Now, it was bare rock. And about halfway through the dive, I saw something I never thought I’d see at Noyo Bay again – several baby bull kelps growing on the newly cleared reef. I hovered over one for several minutes. This piece of algae was no bigger than my thumb, and it looked like such a fragile thing, especially compared to the towering forests that once stood here. But it also struck me as defiant, evidence of resilience in a changing ocean, new life in an environment that, up until a few weeks ago, seemed beyond redemption.

Kelp

Juvenile bull kelp growing on newly cleared reef. Photo: Tristin McHugh/Reef Check California

Back on the dock, as we watched divers hauling in basket after basket of purple urchin, I talked with colleagues about the sighting, and all of us (ecologists to the core) agreed we can’t yet say that urchin removal is directly responsible for kelp regrowth at Noyo Bay. That requires more data, and replication, and comparison with unmanipulated reference sites. In fact, it’s the central scientific question that we are trying to answer with this project. The image of that baby bull kelp stayed with me, though, as I drove home down Highway 1 and looked out at a coast that was once lined with thick brown tangles. We’re nowhere near the end of the story. But at a couple of spots in Mendocino County, we’re at least giving kelp a fighting chance.

Urchins

Landed purple urchins ready for processing and data collection. Photo: Mike Esgro/Ocean Protection Council

Divers

Dive team enjoying uncommonly clear and blue conditions at Noyo Bay last weekend. Photo: Tristin McHugh/Reef Check California