Monterey State Beach.Gerick Bergsma 2009Marine PhotobankGovernance

California has an enormous environmental and economic stake in how we care for our ocean.  It is responsible for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the seafood we eat, and for unparalleled recreational experiences.  Our ocean economy was estimated at $43 billion in 2000, and that economy is largely dependent on the health of our ocean.  We must protect and manage our marine resources and fisheries, maintain good coastal water quality, and devise ways to meet the challenges of climate change – particularly sea level rise – that threaten our coastal communities.

One of the principal goals of the Ocean Protection Council is to evaluate the way California protects and conserves the state’s ocean and coastal ecosystem resources and to recommend legislative or administrative changes.  The OPC is working to coordinate governance and stewardship of the state’s ocean, identify priorities, bridge existing gaps, and ensure effective and scientifically sound approaches to protecting and conserving the most important ocean resources.

Governance Objectives of the 2006 – 2011 OPC Strategic Plan

Objective 1: Funding:
Numerous state agencies receive public funds to protect ocean and coastal resources.  These agencies regulate how these resources are used, regulate activities that impact these resources, and purchase coastal resources and place them in the public trust.  The OPC is tasked with analyzing state agency spending in order to maximize the efficiency of public fund expenditures.

Objective 2:  Inter-agency Coordination and Collaboration:
A patchwork of state and federal statutes and accompanying regulations govern the management of California’s ocean and coastal resources.  These laws were drafted over the last several decades, during which time no concerted effort was made to evaluate how well each agency discharged its duties.  The OPC works towards improving coordination and management of state efforts to protect and conserve the ocean and to identify changes in federal law and policy necessary to better protect ocean resources. The OPC also works to ensure that resource managers and decision makers have access to the best available science to inform their decisions through advice from the California Ocean Science Trust and the OPC Science Advisory Team.

dfg_enforcementObjective 3: Enforcement:
California’s environmental laws are enforced by a number of federal, state, and local regulatory authorities, each of which may have its own enforcement unit.  While it would be impractical and unwise to try to place all enforcement authority in one agency, enforcement efforts can and should be better coordinated between agencies.

Objective 4:  Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM):
Ecosystem-based management is an integrated approach to management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans, when making decisions.  The goal of ecosystem-based management is to maintain an ecosystem in a healthy, productive, and resilient condition so that it can provide the services humans want and need.  OPC supports the development of ecosystem-based management pilot programs in several regions throughout California.

080729 WCGA announcementObjective 5:  Federal Influence.
By engaging federal government support for California’s priorities, the OPC looks to encourage cooperative management with federal agencies in order to protect and conserve representative coastal and ocean habitats and the ecological processes that support those habitats.

Objective 6:  Regional Coordination.
OPC supports increased regional coordination between California, Oregon and Washington, focusing on measures to improve ocean and coastal management.

In addition to specific objectives listed in the strategic plan, the strategic plan also calls for the creation of a Science Advisory Team (OPC-SAT) to ensure that the best available science is applied to OPC policy decisions.  The OPC-SAT is composed of leading scientists from all major ocean and coastal scientific disciplines including the social and human sciences.  The Advisory Team works with OPC staff to ensure that all staff recommendations and projects proposed to OPC are based on the best available science.

Initiatives and Funded Projects:


Inter-agency Coordination and Collaboration:


  • Department of Fish and Game – State Water Resources Control Board Memorandum Of Understanding

Ecosystem Based Management:

Regional Coordination:

West Coast Governors Agreement on Ocean Health


On September 18, 2006 the Governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health. The Agreement launched a new, proactive regional collaboration to protect and manage the ocean and coastal resources along the entire West Coast, as called for in the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission.

After extensive public participation and close coordination with three federal co-leads from the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Governors released their Action Plan in July 2008.

The Action Plan highlights two overarching actions:
1) establish a national ocean trust fund and
2) mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts.

In addition to these overarching actions, there are 24 visionary actions within the following areas:

* Polluted runoff
* Harmful algal blooms and hypoxia
* Marine debris
* Oil spill prevention and response
* Maritime shipping emission controls
* Habitat protection and restoration
* Marine invasive species
* Ecosystem-based management
* Offshore oil and gas operations
* Alternative environmentally sustainable energy development
* Ocean awareness and literacy
* Regional marine research
* Ocean observing and long-term monitoring
* Seafloor mapping
* Working waterfronts and sustainable coastal economies
* Regional sediment management

In late summer 2008, nine Action Coordination Teams (ACTs) were established including representatives from the three states, federal and tribal governments, academia, industry, non-governmental organizations and interested citizens. In October 2008, the ACTs convened in Seattle to develop specific work plans that will be available in Spring 2009.

Action Coordination Teams
* Climate change
* Polluted runoff
* Marine debris
* Spartina eradication
* Renewable ocean energy
* Ocean education
* Sustainable communities
* Sediment
* Regional research
* Seafloor mapping
* Integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs)

California Governors Office
California Natural Resources Agency
Oregon Governors Office
Washingtion Governors Office
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service
NOAA Coastal Services Center
Department of the Interior
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

*There are no events at this time

Council Documents
OPC Resolution on the West Coast Governors Agreement

Related Projects
Gulf of Mexico Alliance
Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment
Great Lakes Regional Collaboration
Northeast Regional Ocean Council

For more information, please visit:

Valerie Termini, OPC Project Manager