OPC Releases State Agency Sea-Level Rise Action Plan for California, A Roadmap for Planning and Implementation Coastal Resilience 

August 18, 2022 Update: OPC Releases the Final State Agency Sea-Level Rise Action Plan for California

At its February 23 Council meeting, OPC presented the State Agency Sea-Level Rise Action Plan for California (Action Plan), a first-of-its-kind, highly coordinated effort to outline a roadmap toward coastal resiliency for the state of California. Developed through intense collaboration from the 17 state agencies that make up the State Sea-Level Rise Leadership Team, the Plan is a living document that fosters accountability and collaboration for planning and implementing sea-level rise (SLR) action over the next five years. It builds on Senator Atkins’ landmark legislation, Senate Bill 1, which was signed into law by Governor Newsom in 2021 and drives California’s efforts to achieve coastal resilience in the face of rising seas.

Sea-Level Rise (SLR) Leadership Team 

The SLR Leadership Team is made up of 17 California state agencies who work collectively to achieve coastal resilience for the entire coast of California. These agencies hold jurisdiction over the coastal region through authorities that regulate, develop, and implement local, regional, and state policies. Following the development of the SLR Principles in 2020, the SLR Leadership Team was tasked with the creation of an actionable plan to implement SLR resiliency.

These principles are listed here:  … read more

United Nations Adopts Historic Resolution to End Plastic Pollution

Today, after a week of debate, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) in Nairobi unanimously approved a resolution to end plastic pollution, setting the stage to create a legally binding treaty by 2024 to prevent and reduce global plastic pollution.

Microplastics image courtesy NOAA

Plastic production has risen exponentially in the last decades with 11 million metric tons estimated to end up in the world’s ocean each year.

The landmark agreement commits to addressing the full lifecycle of plastics and calls for enhanced international collaboration to advance solutions and circular economy approaches – to reduce the impact of plastic pollution from its source to the sea.

The resolution aligns with the Statewide Microplastic Strategy adopted by the Ocean Protection Council on February 23, 2022, recognizing: … read more

MPA Statewide Leadership Team Releases Work Plan, Key Tool in MPA Management Program

By Elyse Goin, Sea Grant Fellow

Proving that many heads are better than one, The Marine Protected Area Statewide Leadership Team (Leadership Team) released its 2021-2025 Work Plan and it is a must read for anyone interested in California’s network of marine protected areas.

Leadership Team Overview

The Marine Protect Area Statewide Leadership Team is an advisory team that collaborates on interests pertaining to California’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network, which was completed in 2012 through the Marine Life Protection Act. Established in 2014, the MPA Statewide consists of representatives from state and federal agencies, California Native American Tribes and non-governmental partners. The Leadership Team enables communication across our large state in which different regions have varying priorities, ecosystems, deep-time histories and immediate threats. 

Work Plan Contents

The Work Plan was implemented using guidance from The California Collaborative Approach: Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan and the MLPA Master Plan to outline successful actions and outcomes in alignment with the MPA Management Program. Drawing from these Plans and stakeholder input, the Leadership Team outlined goals pertaining to four key areas of focus. Those areas include:

  1. Outreach and Education,
  2. Research and Monitoring,
  3. Enforcement and Compliance and
  4. Policy and Permitting.

As one reads the Work Plan, they will see overarching goals, strategic priorities, key actions and outcomes attached to each of the four focal areas. It is important to note that the contents of this Work Plan are specific to MPA management throughout fiscal years 21/22- 24/25 and stand alone to the contents of the Decadal Management Review forthcoming in February 2023. The Work Plan does not predict any recommendations or outcomes of the Decadal Management Review.  … read more

California Takes Decisive Action to Reduce Microplastics Pollution: State Adopts a First-in-Nation Approach to Protecting Ocean and Human Health 

Trash at Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA. Photo by Shira Bezalel, San Francisco Estuary Institute.

SACRAMENTO, CA – In response to increasing concern about pervasive and persistent pollution caused by microplastics, the California Ocean Protection Council yesterday approved the first comprehensive microplastics strategy in the nation. This leading-edge Statewide Microplastics Strategy identifies early actions and research priorities to reduce microplastic pollution in California’s marine environment. Worldwide, an estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. Without any intervention, this amount is anticipated to triple by 2040. Over time, plastics break down in aquatic environments into pieces of ever-decreasing size, with those less than 5 mm in size known as “microplastics,” which are easily ingested by ocean life, causing harm such as tissue inflammation, impaired growth, developmental abnormalities and reproductive complications.

Microplastics have also been found in human stool, lung, and placenta samples, and within soils and plants. Research in California has identified tire and road wear, synthetic textiles, cigarette filters and single-use plastic foodware as among the top sources of microplastics in California bay and ocean waters, sediment and fish tissue. Precautionary management of microplastic pollution and upstream source reduction are the most effective response to this crisis.

“Microplastics are poisoning the ocean, both across the planet and off the California coast,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “We must take action, and this strategy shows us how. By reducing pollution at its source, we safeguard the health of our rivers, wetlands and oceans, and protect all of the people and nature that depends on these waters.”

“Some solutions, like stormwater infiltration projects and better compliance with nurdle discharge prohibitions, can reduce microplastics immediately”, said OPC Executive Director, Mark Gold. “But we can not dramatically reduce microplastic pollution without leadership from the textile industry and tire manufacturers to produce consumer products that don’t add to the growing problem.”

This Statewide Microplastic Strategy provides a multi-year roadmap for California to take a national and global leadership role in managing microplastics pollution by utilizing a two-track approach to manage microplastic pollution. … read more

Landmark Statewide Microplastics Strategy Recommends Early Actions and Research Priorities to Reduce Microplastic Pollution

In response to increasing concern about pervasive and persistent pollution caused by microplastics, California has prepared a first-of-its-kind Statewide Microplastics Strategy that recommends early actions and research priorities to reduce microplastic pollution in California’s marine environment. The Strategy follows the direction of Senate Bill 1263 (Portantino), which was signed into law in 2018 and is scheduled for adoption by the Ocean Protection Council at its Wednesday, Feb. 23 meeting. 

University of Toronto / Tsui, N.

Essential to California’s Microplastic Strategy is the recognition that decisive, precautionary action to reduce microplastic pollution must be taken now, such as taking comprehensive action to reduce single-use plastics and other top sources of marine litter, while scientific knowledge and understanding of microplastics sources, impacts, and successful reduction measures continue to grow. Plastics are ubiquitous in both our daily lives and in the environment. Worldwide, an estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, and without any intervention, this amount is anticipated to triple by 2040. Over time, plastics break down in aquatic environments into pieces of ever-decreasing size, with those less than 5 mm in size known as microplastics.  

Microplastics are easily ingested by marine life, causing harm such as tissue inflammation, impaired growth, developmental anomalies, and reproductive difficulties. Microplastics have also been found in human stool, lung, and placenta samples, indicating the potential for human health impacts, and within soils and plants.

Research in California has identified tire and road wear, synthetic textiles, cigarette filters and single-use plastic foodware as among the top identified sources of microplastics in California bay and ocean waters, sediment, and fish tissue.

The Statewide Microplastics Strategy sets a multi-year roadmap for California to take a national and global leadership role in managing microplastics pollution. The Strategy outlines a two-track approach to comprehensively manage microplastic pollution: the first track lists immediate, no regrets actions and multi-benefit solutions to reduce and manage microplastic pollution, and the second track outlines a comprehensive research strategy to enhance the scientific understanding of microplastics in California and inform future action.  

Photo courtesy National Science Foundation/SCR #193528


  • Pollution Prevention: Eliminate plastic waste at the source (products or materials from which microplastics originate). 
  • Pathway Interventions: Intervene within specific pathways (ex: stormwater runoff, wastewater, aerial deposition) that mobilize microplastics into California waters. 
  • Outreach & Education: Engage and inform the public and industries of microplastic sources, impacts, and solutions. 

Science to Inform Future Action 

  • Monitoring: Understand and identify trends of microplastic pollution statewide. 
  • Risk Thresholds & Assessment: Improve understanding of impacts to aquatic life and human health. 
  • Sources & Pathways Prioritization: Identify & prioritize future management solutions based on local data. 
  • Evaluating New Solutions: Develop and implement future solutions.  

The public is invited to participate in the Feb. 23 meeting. Agenda and instructions on joining can be found here.

Preliminary Findings From First-Ever Study of Offshore Wind Development on Coastal Upwelling Now Available!

Wind Turbine

Photo by Andy Dingley

In California offshore waters, sustained northwesterly winds have been identified as a key energy resource which could contribute substantially to California’s renewable energy mandate (Senate Bill 100). These winds drive the upwelling of deeper, cool, nutrient-rich waters that sustains a thriving ecosystem. The development of large-scale offshore wind energy projects has the potential to reduce the wind stress at the sea surface, which could have local and/or regional implications on California wind-driven upwelling, nutrient delivery, and ecosystem dynamics.

This preliminary study, with funding from the California Energy Commission and OPC, evaluated the effects of offshore wind turbines in the Morro Bay, Diablo Canyon, and Humboldt Call Areas. The study is ongoing and in preparation for peer-review. The preliminary findings for Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon found that modest changes to wind speeds are found in the lee of wind farms (approximately 5 percent reduction), which leads to an a decrease in upwelled physical volume transport to the coastal zone. However, the Diablo Canyon Call Area is no longer being pursued so the findings are not applicable to the current Morro Bay Call Area. Since the effect of this decrease on the ecosystem was not evaluated in this study, no conclusions on ecosystem effects can be drawn from the modeled physical changes.

While changes are also observed near the Humboldt Call Area, they are substantially smaller than those seen near Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon. Future work will explore impacts to upwelling under various turbine configurations, layouts and turbine densities, while also evaluating upwelling impacts from offshore wind development in the face of climate change.

New Report Details How Rising Sea Levels Will Reshape U.S. Coastlines Over Next 30 Years

Coastal flooding across the United States coastline will increase significantly over the next 30 years, according to Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States, a new report by an interagency sea level rise task force including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other federal agencies. The report forecasts sea level rise to the year 2150 and projects that sea levels along U.S. coastlines will rise between 10 to 12 inches on average above today’s levels by 2050. The Ocean Protection Council will use this latest science to update California’s 2018 Sea Level Rise Guidance in 2023.

The report offers four key takeaways: 

  1. The Next 30 Years of Sea Level Rise: Sea level along the U.S. coastline is projected to rise, on average, 10-to-12-inches in the next 30 years, which will be as much as the rise measured over the last 100 years (1920 – 2020). Sea level rise will vary regionally along U.S. coasts because of changes in both land and ocean height. 
  1. More Damaging Flooding Projected: Sea level rise will create a profound shift in coastal flooding over the next 30 years by causing tide and storm surge heights to increase and reach further inland. By 2050, “moderate” (typically damaging) flooding is expected to occur, on average, more than 10 times as often as it does today, and can be intensified by local factors. 
  1. Emissions Matter: Current and future emissions matter. About two feet of sea level rise along the U.S. coastline is increasingly likely between 2020 and 2100 because of emissions to date. Failing to curb future emissions could cause an additional 1.5-to-5 feet of rise for a total of 3.5-to-7 feet by the end of this century. 
  1. Continual Tracking: Continuously tracking how and why sea level is changing is an important part of informing plans for adaptation. Our ability to monitor and understand the individual factors that contribute to sea level rise allows us to track sea level changes in a way that has never before been possible (e.g., using satellites to track global ocean levels and ice sheet thickness). Ongoing and expanded monitoring will be critical as sea levels continue to rise. 

Fortunately, California is investing to protect our most vulnerable communities, save our beaches and build coastal resilience: 

  • Sea Level Rise California: Find out more about how sea level rise is expected to impact California at the California Natural Resources Agency’s “The Ocean is Moving In” website. 
  • Prop 68 Climate Resilience MiniseriesThis video series goes on location to tell the stories of where and how California is helping promote climate resilience on the coast in the face of rising seas. 
  • Making California’s Coast Resilient to Sea Level Rise: Principles for Aligned State Action: California state agencies with coastal, bay, and shoreline climate resilience responsibilities, including for coastal infrastructure and Californians’ safety, have endorsed a set of Principles for Aligned State Action. These Principles will guide unified, effective action toward sea-level rise resilience for California’s coastal communities, ecosystems and economies. 

Find the Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States and accompanying FAQ here, and explore the Interagency Sea Level Rise Scenario Tool here. 




Marine Protected Area Long-Term Monitoring Reports Released

Hot off the presses! Results from the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network long-term monitoring programs are now available online in seven technical reports. These projects represent collaboration between California researchers, the Ocean Protection Council (OPC), California Sea Grant, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

Reef Check divers swim along a transect. Photo credit: Helen Brierley.

California’s MPA Network is a global example of a stakeholder-driven process to connect 124 protected areas. After a decade since Network implementation, the State is in the process of evaluating the MPA Network and progress towards meeting the goals of the Marine Life Protection Act. To prepare for this first-ever decadal management review of the MPA Management Program, OPC has invested significantly in both baseline and long-term monitoring projects to track changes in California’sMPA Network over time. These monitoring projects are only one component of the management review; CDFW will look to several other sources to inform the review report, including long-standing MPA partners and California Native American Tribes. The Decadal Management Review report will be released publicly in January 2023 and presented to the Fish and Game Commission in February 2023.

To stay informed about the decadal management review of California’s MPA Network, please visit CDFW’s Decadal Management Review webpage. If you have questions or would like to submit a comment about the Review, please contact the MPA Management Program.

Shorebirds and kelp wrack on a winter morning at Campus Point SMCA. Results of baseline beach surveys showed a clear connection between kelp wrack and the abundance and diversity of shorebirds— one potential example of a beneficial spillover effect resulting from California’s MPA system. Photo credit: David Hubbard.

OPC’s Year in Review: Meeting Challenges, Advancing Equity, Protecting Our Ocean

“As we look to 2022, our goal at the agency is to… continue California’s global leadership, combating climate change, transitioning our economy, and protecting our people and nature in the meantime. I believe strongly that people are resilient and that nature is resilient. We can adapt and weather these changes we are experiencing right now, and we at the Natural Resources Agency and across state government are focused on strengthening the resilience of our communities, our residents, and of our natural places to these changes we are experiencing. I’m optimistic that we will work harder than ever before and make unprecedented process toward building this resilience.” – from California Natural Resources Secretary and Ocean Protection Council Chair Wade Crowfoot’s end of the year video message

As 2021 brought global challenges to the forefront, the state of California responded with bold, decisive actions to protect our coast and ocean. OPC staff led multiple projects designed to restore wetlands, improve water quality, prevent plastic pollution, respond to environmental justice inequities, promote sustainable fisheries, protect marine wildlife and build resilience to climate change.

Despite the many looming threats, we continue to find hope in the form of scientific solutions to the planet’s biggest problems and in the promising work done by our grantees on the front lines. Join us in celebrating specific achievements from the past year below: … read more

Draft Statewide Microplastics Strategy is Available for Public Comment

OPC is pleased to release the draft Statewide Microplastics Strategy, which outlines a statewide research strategy and recommended early actions to reduce microplastic pollution in California’s marine environment, consistent with Senate Bill 1263 (Portantino, 2018).

We welcome feedback on this draft Strategy.

Public comment should be submitted to OPCmicroplastics@resources.ca.gov by 5:00 pm on January 21, 2022.

 A revised draft, based on public comment, is anticipated to be released in February 2022 for consideration by the Ocean Protection Council at its February 23, 2022 meeting. Questions can be directed to OPC’s Water Quality Program Manager, Kaitlyn Kalua at Kaitlyn.Kalua@resources.ca.gov.