Ocean and Coastal Economic Studies

The California Ocean Protection Council seeks to maximize the effectiveness of funding spent to protect and conserve coastal resources and to further our understanding of the value that coastal and ocean resources contribute to our local, state and federal economy.    The following studies were supported by OPC to meet these two goals:

Additional Related Documents
California’s Ocean Economy Report (July 2005, The National Ocean Economics Program)

The Southern California Bight Nutrient Loading Study

The coastal zone of Southern California is a highly built-up urban environment. Development in this region has been shown to significantly alter both the timing and rate of runoff releases to coastal waters and can affect water quality through addition of sediment, toxic chemicals, pathogens, and nutrients.  These nutrients provide ideal conditions for algal growth, which cause an increase in algal cells or a ‘bloom.’ Some algae contain harmful toxin which at high concentrations during algal blooms can have harmful impacts the ecosystem and the coastal economies; these are referred to as harmful algal blooms (HABs).

In 2008, the OPC provided $440,000 to the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project  (SCCWRP) to assess the magnitude and effects of anthropogenic and natural nutrient loadings in the Southern California Bights.   Funds for this  project are being used to sample and analyze nutrient loading from a variety of sources,  including gliders supplied by the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (SCOOS).  This information will serve to more thoroughly evaluate coastal processes that affect nutrient budgets and bloom responses in particular areas.   In particular, the project will evaluate the influence of nutrient sources on algal bloom events, particularly harmful algal blooms (HABS) that negatively impact the environment, human health, marine wildlife and coastal economies.  The study can offer important information about how to effectively monitor and combat chronic or sporadic nutrient loads throughout California’s waterways and can be used by state regulators and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine if and how nutrient discharges to the oceans need to be more tightly controlled.

Project Partners
Southern California Coastal Waters Research Project (SCCWRP)
Southern California Ocean Observing System (SCOOS)
California Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring and Alert Program (HABMAP)


Staff Recommendation (Nov 2008)
Second Regional Workshop on Harmful Algal Blooms in California Coastal Waters Workshop Proceedings (July 2010)

The California Shoreline Mapping Project

Rising sea levels of up to 1.4 m by 2100 will have significant impacts on California’s coastline. While bays and estuaries are expected to experience the most dramatic modifications in the coming century, changes will be felt far inland from the immediate shoreline zone. Elevation of the land surface is a critical data set needed to help estimate the magnitude of sea level rise impacts.
The California Shoreline Mapping Program will create a modern elevation map of the state’s coastline (shore to 10 meters in elevation) to help coastal communities understand and prepare for sea level rise and severe storms. By integrating newly collected seafloor mapping data, California will soon be able to create a seamless, onshore-offshore high-resolution elevation map of the state’s 1,100-mile coastal zone from Oregon to Mexico.
  • INNOVATION This project will produce the most detailed map of the California coastline ever created, combining state-of-the-art remote sensing technologies such as LiDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) and very high resolution digital orthophotos to produce a detailed 3-dimensional picture of the coast.
  • USES Baseline information to measure everything from the impact of climate-related rising oceans, to beach erosion, to flooding risks from large winter storms.
  • PARTNERSHIPS Furthering the partnerships of the Seafloor Mapping Program, this highly collaborative project is another excellent example of state and federal agencies working together to provide cost-effective, useful, science-based information to aid in important decision making
This project builds from a multi-agency OPC-organized meeting on December 18, 2008, to assist in planning the California Coastal LiDAR Project (CCLP). The meeting gathered agency needs for a LiDAR dataset, discussed technical and geographic specifications, and determined how to obtain the most widely accessible and useful dataset.  A summary report on the meeting can be found below.

Council Documents
Staff Recommendation for $2,750,000 of OPC funding for Coastal LiDAR mapping (Sept 2010)
Summary report of the California Coastal LiDAR Project (Dec 2008)

OPC Staff Contact:
Abe Doherty
(510) 286-4183

California Sea Grant and UC Marine Council Fellowships

California Sea Grant Fellowships

The California Sea Grant State Fellowship Program provides a unique educational opportunity for graduate students who are interested both in marine resources and in the policy decisions affecting those resources. The program matches highly motivated and qualified graduate students with “hosts” in California state agencies for a 12-month paid fellowship.  California Sea Grant Fellows have been assigned to the California Ocean Resources Management Program, California Ocean Protection Council, California Ocean Science Trust, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Coastal Services Center, West Coast Regional Office, and CALFED Science Program, among others.

The OPC has hosted numerous Sea Grant Fellows and many of them have continued to work in the field at OPC and at partner agencies.  The OPC has contributed funding for the fellowship program  since 2007.

UC Marine Council Fellowships

The UC Marine Council (UCMC) was established within the Office of the President to coordinate marine policy, research, education and public service, and promote responsible stewardship of the state’s marine resources throughout the University of California system. In 2000, the UCMC developed a California Coastal Environmental Quality Initiative, (CEQI) which offers graduate fellowships to research topics that of priority for state marine management such as climate change and invasive species.

In 2007 and 2008, the OPC contributed $60,000 to the program to support fellowships.