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

California Biodiversity Day 2021 – Get Involved!

As a state, California boasts both the highest number of species total and the highest number of species that occur nowhere else. Our state’s animal and plant life is so varied that we’ve been named as one of 36 Global Biodiversity Hotspots by Conservation International. For California Biodiversity Day on Tuesday, Sept. 7, we’re turning our attention to what climate change means for ocean wildlife – and what we’re doing to protect the habitat those creatures rely on. (See the full line-up of California Biodiversity Day events here.)

Plenty of iconic ocean creatures can be seen from California’s shores including harbor seals, sea otters, elephant seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, sea turtles and whales. Our tide pools feature anemones, urchins, nudibranchs, limpets, mussels, crabs and many more animals uniquely suited to living in these constantly changing homes. Cormorants, osprey, sandpipers, godwits and pelicans are only some of the hundreds of species of coastal birds diving, soaring and nesting along our beaches. Dozens of types of flowers and other plants dot long stretches of undeveloped coastline. This all combines to create a fascinating and beautiful 1,100 miles along the Pacific Ocean. … read more

Rapid Assessments for Selected California Fisheries

As part of implementing the California Sustainable Seafood Initiative (AB 1217 (Monning), which requires California to design and implement a voluntary sustainable seafood program, the OPC tasked the California Ocean Science Trust (OST)  to conduct rapid assessments of 11 nominated fisheries (Table 1).  The 11 fisheries were selected with input from staff at the OPC, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), and the Fish and Game Commission and were chosen based on management interest, seasonal landings, economic value and likelihood of meeting sustainable seafood certification standards. … read more

North Coast Marine Protected Areas Baseline Program Request for Proposals now available

The North Coast Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Baseline Program Request for Proposals is now available on the California Sea Grant website. The North Coast MPA Baseline Program is a collaborative effort among the California Ocean Protection Council, the MPA Monitoring Enterprise, a program of the California Ocean Science Trust (OST), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), and California Sea Grant. Members of the North Coast community, including North Coast tribes, elected officials, scientists, ocean users, and interested members of the public, informed the development of this RFP. As in the other three regions (i.e., North Central Coast, Central Coast, South Coast), the OPC has authorized $4 million to support the North Coast MPA Baseline Program. … read more

San Luis Obispo Sustainable Fisheries Support

In 2006, the commercial fishing industry in San Luis Obispo County had been hard hit economically as a result of dramatic changes in government regulations and market forces. Increased competition from abroad and new regulations at home, including no-trawl fishing zones and the creation of marine protected areas, combined to threaten the future viability of the region’s fishing industry. In response, the Morro Bay and Port San Luis harbor departments, and the commercial fishermen that rely on their waterfronts, requested funding from the Coastal Conservancy and the Ocean Protection Council to assist them to transition to a more financially and environmentally sustainable future.

OPC provided a grant of $130,000 to the City of Morro Bay to prepare a business plan, develop and implement a marketing plan, and build and conduct sea trials of innovative low impact fishing gear to support the commercial fishing industry and revitalize harbors in San Luis Obispo County.

Morro Bay and Port San Luis Commercial Fisheries Business Plan (March 2008)

Related Projects

San Diego Sea Urchin Fishery Project

In 2006, OPC awarded a grant to the San Diego Watermen’s Association (SDWA) to assist the sea urchin fishery in San Diego in its efforts to build long-term sustainability.  The SDWA effort focused on three activities which were considered critical for developing responsible harvesting practices, collecting and distributing a high value product, and perpetuating local-level stewardship of the sea urchin fishery.  They were:

1) Transforming the sea urchin fishery in the San Diego area from a data-poor status to one based on good fishery-dependent and independent scientific data and models.

2) Developing a model for high-quality collaborative research between fishery scientists and the fishing community, building on the benefits of resource stewardship and information sharing by sea urchin fishermen.

3) Shifting the local sea urchin market to a value-based system that benefits fishermen and the consumer.

The SDWA project served as a successful model for establishing leadership within a fishing community to  improve data on fisheries and build collaborative relationships with fishery scientists and managers.  The project also initiated efforts to develop approaches for improving urchin markets;  SDWA is continuing to work on these business strategies.

Staff Recommendations/Project Documents

OPC Staff Recommendation (November 2006)

Final Report (November 2008)

Final Report Appendices (November 2008)

Collaborative Fisheries Research Organization

Collaborative Fisheries Research

Collaborative fisheries research (CFR) involves creating partnerships among fisheries stakeholders (commercial and recreational fishermen, university scientists and fisheries scientists, coastal managers, NGOs, funders, and tribes) to encourage collaboration on fisheries research design, including defining goals and research questions, and to ensure that necessary data gathered in a manner that will improve fisheries management.  The clear benefit of collaborative research is fishermen participating in the collection of data. They are also able to provide an “on-the-water service” by making available their fishing vessels, equipment, etc., to CFR projects. The degree of collaboration that takes place on fisheries research projects can vary and strongly depends on the questions driving the needs and stakeholders involved.

2008 CFR Workshop

this collaborative endeavor came after OPC staff and the
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COLLABORATIVE FISHERIES RESEARCH ORGANIZATION
Resources Legacy Fund Foundation convened a CFR workshop in Oakland, California on April 29-30, 2008.
On April 29-30, 2008, OPC staff and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation convened a workshop on Collaborative Fisheries Research in Oakland, CA.  Nearly 70 invited stakeholders participated in the workshop including representatives from West Coast commercial and recreational fishing groups, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), NOAA Fisheries, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), Sea Grant, several California universities, the Nature Conservancy, and Environmental Defense Fund.  At the workshop participants expressed strong support for establishing a formal CFR organization in California and an interest in coordinating with complementary state or federal programs or research initiatives along the West Coast.

Establishing a CFR Organization

In September 2008, the OPC authorized disbursement of up to $300,000 to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) to create a collaborative fisheries research (CFR) organization in California.  The CFR organization will develop, solicit, and fund projects with the goal of creating partnerships between fishermen and scientists to develop and collect fisheries data necessary to the Department of Fish and Game, the Fish and Game Commission, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the Ocean Protection Council.

This establishment of the CFR program was delayed due to the state bond freeze, however,  it was restarted in late 2009.  The PSMFC is now making progress in establishing the CFR organization.

In November 2010, the OPC authorized disbursement of up to $1,500,000 to the PSMFC and the University of California Sea Grant Program to continue to build the organization and to fund the actual research projects.  The goal is to leverage substantially greater and more stable funding sources from the federal government.

Council Documents
2008 CFR Workshop Summary

Staff Recommendation (September 2008)

Staff Recommendation (November 2010)

 

California Aquaculture Programmatic EIR

Public Resources Code (PRC) Section 30411(e) required the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to prepare programmatic environmental impact reports (PEIRs) for both coastal and inland commercial aquaculture projects. DFG contracted for the preparation of the draft environmental documents in 2003, but subsequently concluded that these documents were inadequate. DFG lacked sufficient resources to redraft and complete these PEIRs and additional funds from the aquaculture industry were not available to improve the initial reports.

On May 26, 2006, Senate Bill 201 was signed into law which repealed the previous aquaculture PEIR requirements and created a new section in the Fish and Game Code for developing these documents. This new section established criteria for the coastal aquaculture PEIR to be completed by DFG including extensive requirements to be addressed by marine finfish aquaculture applicants.

The certified PEIR for marine aquaculture can serve as the first tier of CEQA review for proposed aquaculture operations.  The PEIR can also serve as a guidance document for potential project sponsors in alerting them to the potential environmental impacts and the need to avoid or mitigate those impacts. The PEIR may also serve as an educational tool for interested parties that may have concerns about commercial marine aquaculture development.

The Department of Fish and Game lacked the necessary funds to complete the PEIR, necessitating the financial contribution from the Ocean Protection Council.

The PEIR is currently still under development.

Council Documents

Staff Recommendation (June 2006)

Staff Recommendation (November 2010)