California and the World Ocean '97
March 24-27, 1997
Town & Country Hotel San Diego, CA
An Overview of Major Conference Themes
California and the World Ocean '97 was initially envisioned as a relatively small, focused event bringing together leading experts on ocean and coastal resource management issues to help California evaluate the findings and recommendations of the strategy titled, California's Ocean Resources: An Agenda for the Future. Response to the call for papers was overwhelming, leading the executive committee to re-evaluate the size and breadth of the conference. Eventually the concurrent sessions committee accepted over 270 papers and posters for presentation at CWO '97.
Outstanding financial and in-kind support from over 40 organizations substantially reduced the conference registration fees, and workshops and field trips were offered at little or no cost to conference attendees. As a result, over 800 people were in San Diego, California for CWO '97, many from the general public, not-for-profit organizations and local governments.
With such a large number of papers presented in six concurrent tracks during the three-day conference, it was impossible for any one individual to track the great diversity of topics. To help identify and summarize the conference themes, the National Sea Grant College Program provided funding to bring together marine policy graduate students from the Universities of Washington and California. These students joined University of California and University of Southern California Sea Grant staff to form a "theme team", which provided an overview of conference themes at the closing session and many of the observations for this summary of cross-cutting themes.
The document upon which this conference was based, California's Ocean Resources: An Agenda for the Future (Ocean Agenda), addresses a wide variety of issues regarding the spectacular marine resources that exist off the state's 1,100 mile shoreline. These issues were a foundation for the six tracks and almost 50 sessions of CWO '97, including coastal economics, coastal processes, ports and vessel traffic safety, oil and gas development, oil spill prevention and response, marine managed areas, habitats and ecosystems, fisheries management, water quality monitoring, governance and public policy, technology development, education, and public participation. Many suggestions were made regarding new ways to address these issues and how the recommendations made in the Ocean Agenda could be implemented. Substantial attention was given to the need for processes to address water quality, marine habitat and fisheries health, shoreline erosion, and economic sustainability.
Despite the multi-disciplinary nature of the conference and large number of participants, several common themes surfaced across most of the major subject area issues and approaches. The aforementioned "theme team" met each day to discuss observations made during the sessions they individually attended, eventually identifying a group of what they labeled "C words" and "I words" that were used frequently in session presentations. First identified were collaboration and communication. Existing systems need to be better coordinated through additional collaboration, and increased attention given to improving the way we communicate with others to achieve common resource protection goals or sustainable economic objectives. Two other "C words" repeated across subject areas were community and consensus, while three "I words" used by speakers were integration, investigation, and implementation. Each of these major themes are described here in more detail.
Communication. Agencies, industries and the public must do a better job of communicating with one another. Lack of communication leads to misunderstandings, duplication of efforts, and sometimes conflicting outcomes. Communication must be both vertical and horizontal, with multiple channels available for communicating; horizontal communication is in greatest need of improvement.
As information technology has improved and become less expensive (facsimile machines, electronic mail, the world wide web), communication has increased substantially, especially horizontally (within organizations) and between organizations. Improved information technology is enabling greater communication, collaboration and education.
Communication (and coordination) is especially important for ocean and coastal resource management issues that tend to overlap political boundaries, such as populations or marine organisms, accretion and erosion of sand along the shoreline, and shipping safety. Political boundaries include not only local government jurisdictions along the coast, but also the many jurisdictions offshore such as State Tidelands, the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone, and the high seas. The variety of jurisdictional, ownership, or user interests along and offshore the coast emphasizes the need for maintaining good communication among all parties.
Collaboration. A prevalent theme was the need to create and, more importantly, sustain cooperative partnerships between and among government agencies, universities, conservation groups, and private interests, especially at the local level. Collaborative approaches allow organizations to do more with less. However, collaboration is often impeded by institutional constraints, where an organization's design, policies or mission and goals conflict with those of potential partners. Organizations and their representatives must be willing and able to adapt to different circumstances and partners.
Participants also identified the need for collaborative permitting and funding. In one method for collaborative permitting, the agencies of jurisdiction come together at the beginning of a process to discuss their concerns, allowing issues to be addressed early, and then proceed together (or having one agency take the lead) in a coordinated effort to complete necessary environmental documents and permits.
Marine managed areas illustrate the need for more collaboration; California's system of marine managed areas is extremely complex, with multiple classifications and hundreds of local, state, federal and international designations along the coast. Management and protection measures vary widely from one classification to another. With little information easily accessible to the public and even managers themselves, it is uncertain that California's marine managed areas are achieving the goals intended. Partnerships are necessary to share expertise, achieve wider coverage of the issues being faced, and develop a more effective and efficient system of resource management and protection.
Community. Many speakers emphasized the need to work closely with the public and to take a more local or regional focus on issues in order to promote a strong sense of community. Concepts of shared governance or co-management were often discussed, with an emphasis on being proactive rather than reactive.
A more regional community focus is also necessary to sustain economic viability. Members of a community are more willing to help sustain and protect ocean and coastal resources when they understand the importance of those resources to both the environment and the economy. This takes on even more importance as population pressures continue to build along the California coast. Key examples of community based approaches include watershed management programs, coastal cleanups, and fishery enhancement projects.
Consensus. A number of speakers indicated that it is critical to build consensus among stakeholders, which encourages collaborative partnerships, improved compliance with regulations, and improved resource management. While this method of decision-making can require a substantial time commitment from participants, consensus-based decisions tend to have much greater support and involvement in implementation from the participating parties, improving the odds of a successful endeavor.
An example of stakeholder consensus-building in California is in vessel traffic safety through the harbor safety committees, where multiple stakeholders work together to find consensus-based solutions to safety issues. The result has been improved communication between interested parties; better information exchange between pilots, industry and interest groups; increased safety awareness; and development of workable regulations.
Integration. Ocean and coastal resource management issues are often addressed on a case-by-case or "urgency" basis by a multitude of organizations and agencies, impeding a comprehensive approach. Speakers repeatedly urged integrative strategies for resource management that take ecosystem or multi-species approaches, are multi-disciplinary, and integrate science as well as social values. Integrative strategies and programs must also be able to adapt to changing needs, shifting ecological conditions, and improved scientific understanding of natural processes.
Integration plays an important role in managing nonpoint source pollution. The number of participants can be rather large (in one case over 80 jurisdictions) and the time to implementation lengthy (18 months to several years) when using an integrative strategy, but the results can include region-wide cooperation, improved monitoring capabilities, long-term public education, attainment of performance standards, and reduced duplication of effort.
Investigation. Increased research at the state and federal levels to achieve more science-based policy decisions was consistently urged, including the need for continued investigation of nearshore oceanographic processes, harvest Refugia, wetlands restoration, fisheries management, and alternative energy technologies. While there needs to be adequate scientific information, there must also be an acknowledgement that there are currently flaws in monitoring, research, and current knowledge, requiring a certain amount of flexibility over time as new methods and information become available. This is especially true in the case of water quality monitoring where multiple sources of data across the State often cannot be integrated because monitoring methods and data are not standardized.
Inadequate scientific information and flawed methods also require a rather precautionary approach to management decisions. Consequences of management decisions are often difficult to predict in highly complex systems. A case given was fisheries management, where inadequate information and lack of a precautionary approach can lead to long term or permanent damage to the resource.
Investigation must also be closely accompanied by accessibility of the information gathered. Relatively new technologies, such as geographic information systems, global positioning systems and the world wide web, can help in decision-making and education by providing the public, resource managers and policy-makers with enhanced access to data. However, the data must also be in a usable format, with some standards for consistency and integration.
Implementation. It is not enough to simply identify problems and potential solutions; implementing changes in ocean resource management is necessary through legislation, restructuring of agencies and relationships, and funding of high-priority programs. Those involved in the implementation process need to also learn another "i" word, innovation, as they learn that the old ways of thinking and working together may not be appropriate for the challenges of today and tomorrow.
New regulatory approaches, which include a mix of both regulation and incentives, should be more closely examined and considered. This will require new ways of operating or "governing" for government agencies, as well as new mechanisms for collaboration between and among government agencies, industry and private interests. The very presence of so many different interests and government representatives at CWO '97 suggests that the climate may be right for reform.
A wide range of funding mechanisms currently exists for improved governance, but some are wasted or missed as a result of incomplete or ineffective management. Government budgeting processes frequently do not encourage innovative or proactive pursuit of funding for ocean and coastal resource management. Joint agency expenditures and budget combinations for those who share jurisdictions should be considered, with barriers to such efforts removed. These innovations will be important, but many speakers also observed that ocean and coastal resource management programs are a remarkably small fraction of government budgets. Participants commented that consideration must be given to providing additional funding for initiatives that represent effective and efficient approaches to managing ocean and coastal resources.
Papers presented at CWO '97 provide a wealth of information about a wide variety of issues affecting ocean and coastal management. Many issue-specific challenges exist and are described in detail in the papers presented. However, the seven themes identified in this summary (Communication, Collaboration, Community, Consensus, Integration, Investigation, and Implementation) are all process-oriented. An important lesson learned through this conference has been that while the specific challenges in each issue may be different, the need for similar processes to resolve them is not.
One method for improving these processes is through a coordinating entity, a proven tool in a number of processes, including watershed management, oil spill prevention and response planning, and air quality management. The need for enhanced coordination of fragmented ocean and coastal resource management in California is documented in the Ocean Agenda, which identifies the need for a forum to help resolve issues at the State level and a process of cooperating with and soliciting advice from other levels of government, the public, and the private sector. The Ocean Agenda recommends increasing accountability and coordination in matters affecting California's ocean and coastal resources in the following way:
"Convene a State cabinet-level ocean resources management coordinating council, composed of agency and department directors with ocean resource management responsibilities, to help integrate the multiple agencies and programs of ocean and coastal jurisdiction. The effectiveness of this council will depend on its ability to work with public and private organizations to identify and develop solutions to ocean and coastal resource management issues of concern to the State of California."
The proposed council is one of many approaches that can help improve ocean and coastal resource management. However, this type of cabinet-level approach can only be successful if based on participation at the local level. CWO '97 participants have sent a clear message that the mission and goals identified for ocean management can only be achieved by using processes that provide for enhanced communication, collaboration, community (involvement), consensus, integration, investigation and implementation. Hopefully these lessons will be heard by all levels of government, academic institutions, public interest groups, and the private sector. Together, we must now seek new ways incorporate these suggestions in efforts to implement innovative approaches to managing California's ocean and coastal resources.
The conference organizers would like to thank the theme team for their hard work over the three days of CWO '97, making this summary possible. These individuals are the theme team leader, Christopher M. Dewees, Marine Fisheries Specialist and Coordinator of the UC Sea Grant Cooperative Extension Program, and theme team members Lillian Ferguson, Michael Kelly and Eli Weissman, graduate students at the University of Washington School of Marine Affairs; Mark Evans, graduate student at the University of California at Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics; Sea Grant Marine Advisor Emeritus John B. Richards; and Susan E. Yoder, leader of the University of Southern California Marine Advisory Program.
Last modified on: Wednesday, March 17, 1999
Document URL: http://ceres.ca.gov/ocean/confsummary.html