Coastal and Marine Geospatial Data

The OPC and other California state agency partners have made significant  investments in marine and coastal data collection,  including seafloor maps, shoreline maps, and ecological and socio‐economic data  to support marine protected area planning.  Improved access and sharing of this geospatial data can ensure that the best and most up to date information and science is available for informing regulatory decisions, as well as the planning, scoping, and stakeholder processes that lead up to these decisions. The following are a list of current OPC efforts to improve coastal and marine geospatial data:

The California Coastal and Marine Geospatial Working Group

The OPC formed the California Coastal and Marine Geospatial Working Group (CCMG-WG) to increase collaboration between agencies and the state’s Geospatial Information Officer (GIO).  The CCMG-WG has since become a formal subcommittee of the California GIS Council.   Membership in the CCMG-WG includes technical managers and users of coastal and marine geospatial data from the various California state agencies (see list of members).

California Coastal and Marine Geospatial Data Information Management System Scoping Study

The OPC and the CCMG-WG developed a scope of work and issued an RFQ in early 2011 to conduct a scoping study with the goal of outlining the coastal and marine geospatial data priorities of California agencies and the specific technical requirements for data management systems at the State that are needed to support these priorities.  See the Project Website for more information.


  • The Collaborative Geospatial Information and Tools for California Coastal and Ocean Managers Workshop (August 2009).  Download the workshop report HERE.
  • OPC Resolution on Coordination Geospatial Information and Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (2009). Download resolution HERE.


California Coastal and Marine Geospatial Information System Scoping Study

In April 2011, the OPC hired Kearns & West/UC Santa Barbara to conduct a scoping study on information management systems for California coastal and marine geospatial data.  The final scoping study was completed in October 2011. Below is more information on the study.

Scoping Study Goal:

To outline the coastal and marine geospatial data priorities of California agencies and to outline the specific technical requirements for data management systems at the State that are needed to support these priorities.

This project originated from comments about challenges to interagency data sharing in the state and is designed to be the first major step in addressing this challenge.

Scoping Study Objectives:

  • Consult with the state agency users of coastal and marine geospatial data to document the functional requirements of the users;
  • Learn from existing information management systems to assess approaches for interoperability. The existing systems and tools have advantages and disadvantages that can serve to inform the type of information system that California develops; and
  • Provide a summary of considerations for long term operational sustainability of the system.

Key Findings and Recommendations:

The primary focus of this effort was on state agencies’ needs. Key findings from the scoping study consultations include:

  • All agencies report the need for a commonly accessible coastal and marine Information Management System (IMS) through which to access geospatial information and no existing California-based web atlas or geospatial information management system evaluated during this study addresses the complete set of features and requirements identified;
  • The dominant use of geospatial information is by non-technical users using web mapping applications and Google Earth.  Web services and “out of the box” software solutions can provide essential functionality for visualizing and more easily sharing data across organizations and agencies as well as inter-operate with other IMSs and databases;
  • Previous experiences with distributed and centralized IMS architectures have shown strengths and weaknesses for each approach, depending upon data holder capabilities, and a hybrid approach could capitalize upon the strengths of both architectures; and
  • Long-term staff support and funding are required to support an effective IMS.  A Data Librarian and Data Diplomats could greatly enhance state inter-agency data sharing and maintenance of a coastal and marine IMS.

The resulting recommendations that emerged from these findings include:

  • A California coastal and marine geospatial IMS should be searchable and viewable through a dedicated web atlas, with the ability to view, overlay, print, and/or download geospatial data in several formats, including through GIS web services within ArcGIS Desktop;
  •  The architecture of the IMS should be organized with a hybrid approach, supporting both centralized and distributed data sources;
  • The IMS should have staff support through a data librarian and data diplomats; and
  • The IMS should be housed and funded in such a manner so as to enable it to be a long-term resource for California agencies.


Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard Webinars and Workshop

The Ocean Protection Council, in collaboration with NOAA and the Ocean Science Trust, hosted a webinar series and workshop in March of 2011 on the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS), a national effort to create a marine ecological classification scheme developed through a partnership between NOAA and NatureServe. CMECS provides a structure for developing and synthesizing data so that ecological units can be identified, characterized, and mapped in a standard way and at a variety of scales. The OPC is evaluating the potential of CMECS to address coastal and marine management needs in California.

The four webinars provided details about the individual components of CMECS. Following the webinar series, a one-day workshop was held in Oakland on March 30, 2011. The workshop discussion focused on evaluating the application of the CMECS framework in the context of California’s priority management needs and identifying essential criteria for a potential pilot project. The OPC intends to use the workshop to foster discussion on the best approach to integrate physical, biological, and chemical information to determine marine habitat type and understand the ecosystem processes that affect them.