Updates from the October 6, 2022 Council Meeting

The October 6 Ocean Protection Council (OPC) meeting was an exciting and moving gathering. State and federal agencies, tribes, non-profit and business partners, and members of the public joined together with joyful tears and cheers in support of landmark decision-making in areas of tribal engagement and environmental justice as well as continued uplifting of the best available science to meet some of the state’s biggest challenges.

Numerous public comments across the agenda items showed overwhelming support and all items were passed unanimously by Council members, including:

  • $3.6M for the next 3 years to the Tribal Marine Stewards Network
  • Adoption of OPC’s first-ever Equity Plan and $1.3M in funding to establish an environmental justice small grants program
  • Funding for an assortment of new marine protected area outreach, compliance, and monitoring projects, with a focus on community partnerships
  • Support for the development of a statewide, ecosystem-based plan for kelp restoration and management

Maria Rodriguez, OPC’s Climate and Environmental Justice Program Manager, presented the Equity Plan and Small Grants Program for consideration by the Council. (Left to right) Liz Whiteman, Executive Director, California Ocean Science Trust; Jenn Eckerle, Acting Executive Director, OPC; Wade Crowfoot, California Secretary for Natural Resources and Ocean Protection Council Chair; Kristina Kunkel, Deputy State Controller for Environmental Policy and delegate for Betty Yee, State Controller); Assemblymember Mark Stone; Michael Brown, public member; (not shown but participating remotely) Katy Landau, delegate for CalEPA Secretary Yana Garcia.


OPC summer interns (left to right) Alyssa Jain, Gloria Jin, and Elizabeth Nguyen

There were other happy announcements at the meeting including the introduction of Sree Gopal, OPC’s new Coastal Habitats Program Manager, plus incoming Council Vice-Chair Yana Garcia, Secretary for the California Environmental Protection Agency, who took a moment to express her excitement to join the Council. There were also some goodbyes to OPC’s Senior Marine Protected Areas Program Manager, Tova Handelman and Executive Director, Mark Gold. Acting Executive Director, Jenn Eckerle, Chair Crowfoot, and others expressed their many thanks to Mark for his commitment, passion, and his willingness to “swing for the fences” to protect our ocean. This meeting also expressed thanks to State Controller Betty Yee and Assemblymember Mark Stone who are transitioning off the dais. Assemblymember Stone noted that he “will miss being a part of an organization that is so cutting edge.”

Last but not least a big thank you to this year’s summer interns – Alyssa Jain, Gloria Jin, Thai Le, Jas Martin, Elizabeth Nguyen, and Emily Zhao – for their exceptional work. Alyssa, Gloria, and Elizabeth flew into Sacramento to present at the meeting on behalf of the cohort. The OPC team is proud of and inspired by all of them and cannot wait to see the amazing things they accomplish in their careers!


View the full agenda and agenda items on the meeting webpage. The recording is also available:


After the meeting, the Tribal Marine Stewards Network celebrated its official launch. Tribal leaders spoke of progress and a time of healing while emphasizing the state’s responsibility to support tribes in reclaiming stewardship and management of ancestral territories.

Tribal leaders with leadership and staff from CNRA and OPC at the launch event for the Tribal Marine Stewards Network

Valentin Lopez, Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, presented OPC’s Acting Executive Director, Jenn Eckerle, with a statement of appreciation.

OPC Councilmember, Michael Brown (left) and OPC’s Senior Biodiversity Program Manager & Tribal Liaison, Michael Esgro (right)

(Left to right) Geneva E. B. Thompson, Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs, CNRA; Christina Snider, Tribal Affairs Secretary to Governor Gavin Newsom; Wade Crowfoot, California Secretary for Natural Resources and Ocean Protection Council Chair

(Left to right) Jenn Eckerle, Acting Executive Director, OPC; Megan Rocha, Executive Director, Resighini Rancheria; Kaitilin Gaffney, Ocean, Coast, and Fisheries Program Director, Resources Legacy Fund; Michael Esgro, Senior Biodiversity Program Manager & Tribal Liaison, OPC

Categories: Funding Opportunities and Updates, Kelp, OPC meetings, Strategic Goal 2: Equity, Strategic Goal 3: Biodiversity