Ocean and Coastal Ecosystems

Ocean and Coastal Ecosystems

Life in the oceans goes on mostly unseen. But just because we can’t see what goes on “down there” doesn’t mean it’s not critically important to our daily lives.  California’s ocean and coastal ecosystems support a multitude of human uses.  Although management of activities that exploit or affect California’s ocean and coastal ecosystems has improved, existing unsustainable uses have reduced their capacity to provide goods and services.  Such goods or services may range from the enjoyment of going whale watching to commercial or recreational fishing as well as supporting coastal communities.  California’s marine ecosystems benefit from several laws that provide tools to support human use of wild plants and wildlife consistent with long-term economic and ecological values, including the Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) and the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA).  Meeting the challenges of the future will require understanding both the potential and the limits of our ocean resources.

Objectives of Ocean and Coastal Ecosystems Section of the 2006 – 2011 OPC strategic plan:

Objective 1:  Marine Life Protection Act Central Coast MPAs

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are areas of the ocean where some types of human activity are restricted.  MPAs protect habitat, maintain and restore biological diversity and commercially valuable species, provide recreational opportunities, and allow for scientific research.  The MLPA Initiative, launched by the Schwarzenegger Administration in 2004, will launch the first statewide network of MPAs in the U.S.  The OPC supports this endeavor through MPA monitoring projects throughout the coast and collaborative fishery research projects.

Objective 2:  Marine Life Management Actkelp.clairefackler

The Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) mandates several significant changes in the way California’s marine fisheries are managed and regulated.  Its primary goals are to ensure the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of California’s living marine resources.  The MLMA requires that fishery management plans (FMPs) form the primary basis for managing the state’s marine fisheries.  The OPC supports implementation of the MLMA, in coordination with the Department of Fish and Game, through funding projects that improve the development, implementation, and enforcement of high priority FMPs.


Objective 3:  Invasive Specieszebramussels

Invasive species of plants and animals can swiftly undermine efforts to maintain the diversity and productivity of ocean and coastal ecosystems.  The invasive alga Caulerpa taxifolia made a virtual desert out of much of the Mediterranean Sea and threatened to do the same in Southern California lagoons before it was stopped by concerted federal, state, and local governmental efforts and those of private organizations.  In San Francisco Bay, a host of foreign organisms have displaced native flora and fauna.  Native cordgrass Spartina foliosa is being replaced by an eastern invader, Spartina alterniflora, and has begun to destroy much of the region’s mudflats, a critical foraging area for many bird species.  This invasion has been slowed by a state-led consortium, but many battles remain to preserve native species and habitats.  The OPC is working on several fronts to stop invasions into California.  This includes funding and staffing completing the California Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan and also establishing a California Agency AIS Team (CAAIST) which is dedicated to implementing the state plan and to improving California’s approach to reducing AIS introductions and detecting and responding to those that are introduced.

Objective 4:  Market-Based Fisheriesfishing boat

Commercial fishing is an important part of California’s history, economy and culture but has suffered a severe decline in the last 30 years.  This decline has made it difficult for many fishermen to make a living and discourages new investment and new business initiatives.  OPC supports innovative approaches to fisheries management by working cooperatively with fishermen and their communities and applying market-based approaches.  OPC funds projects that examine other strategies such as promoting limited entry, quota-based fishery management systems, or vessel buy-backs.

Objective 5:  Encourage Sustainable Economic ActivityCINMS_ClaireFackler_NMS

According to a 2005 National Ocean Economics Program report, California’s ocean economy contributed $43 billion to the California state economy in 2002 through a variety of activities including coastal tourism, port operations, and other activities.  California’s 1,100-mile coast hosts dozens of large and small coastal communities that have come under increasing pressure to support ocean dependant businesses while maintaining economic growth. For example, shifting commercial capture fisheries that once depended on high-volume, low-value exploitation to low-volume, high-value fisheries will require new kinds of port and harbor infrastructure.  The OPC encourages new and emerging economic activities or technologies that can boost California’s ocean economy in a sustainable manner.

Initiatives and Funded Projects:

  • Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) support

Categories: Sustainable Fisheries and Marine Ecosystems