California Ocean Protection Council Approves Bold Plan to Protect State’s Coast and Ocean in the Face of Climate Change and Pollution Threats

Published Date:

SACRAMENTO — The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) approved its Strategic Plan to Protect California’s Coast and Ocean for 2020-2025 on Wednesday, February 26. The plan establishes an ambitious collective vision for protecting the intrinsic, cultural, ecological and economic benefits provided by California’s coast and ocean and identifies objectives, targets and actions in four key areas: climate, equity, biodiversity and the “blue” economy. Actions address issues ranging from sea-level rise and ocean acidification to universal coastal access, offshore wind energy, aquaculture, whale entanglement, plastic pollution, wetlands, beaches and fisheries.

OPC Chair and California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said the plan comes at an urgent time for oceans and coasts. “From record temperatures in Antarctica to the recent kelp forest collapse off our own coast, climate change is impacting our ocean and coast in alarming ways. California is responding by charting bold action to protect our coast and ocean amid these accelerating threats.”

The Strategic Plan to Protect California’s Coast and Ocean includes four goal areas: 1) Protect marine ecosystems and coastal communities in the face of the climate crisis; 2) Advance equity across ocean and coastal policies and actions; 3) Enhance and protect our heritage of extraordinary coastal and marine biodiversity; and 4) Support ocean health through a sustainable blue economy. Each goal identifies objectives, targets and actions.   

Ten of the most sweeping targets include:  

  • Ensure California’s coast is resilient to at least 3.5 feet of sea-level rise by 2050;   
  • Restore or create an additional 10,000 acres of coastal wetlands by 2025;  
  • Establish statewide water quality objectives for ocean acidification and hypoxia by 2025;
  • Develop an action plan for addressing rocky intertidal and beach habitat loss due to sea-level rise by 2023;
  • Develop and begin implementation of a statewide kelp forest research and restoration plan by 2020;
  • Develop and fund implementation of a tribal Marine Protected Area (MPA) monitoring program based on priorities shared between the state and California’s tribes by 2020:
  • Develop a statewide whale and sea turtle protection plan with a target of zero mortality (Vision Zero) by 2022;  
  • Support modernization of the harmful algal bloom notification network to provide real-time data by 2022 and predictions by 2024;
  • Work to achieve zero trash entering state waters by 2030 and develop a statewide microplastics strategy by 2021;
  • Develop a statewide aquaculture action plan focused on marine algae and shellfish and land-based/recirculating tank operations of marine algae, shellfish, and finfish by 2023; and

OPC Vice Chair and California Environmental Protection Secretary Jared Blumenfeld stated, “Our identity as Californians is inextricably tied to the Pacific. Greenhouse gas pollution has led to the most significant change in ocean chemistry in 50 million years.  By implementing the bold actions in this plan, California will help our coastal communities build resiliency and give the world hope that we can heal the planet's oceans."

Initial funding for implementation of the plan will come from existing state bond and special funds. Additional funding is identified in the Climate Resilience Bond for the November ballot proposed by Governor Gavin Newsom in his 2020-21 spending plan unveiled January 10.

OPC Executive Director Mark Gold said funding is one of several ingredients needed to meet the challenge. “Funding will help pay for critical research, restoration and coastal resilience needs, but we need unprecedented collaboration between state agencies and key partners such as tribal communities and local governments to achieve the plan’s ambitious targets.”

The Ocean Protection Council is a cabinet-level state policy body nested within the California Natural Resources Agency. The OPC advances the Governor’s priorities for coastal and ocean policy and works broadly to advance healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems for current and future generations through research, restoration and pollution abatement projects, and policy. In addition to Crowfoot and Blumenfeld, the seven-member council includes State Controller Betty Yee, Assembly Member Mark Stone, State Senator Ben Allen, and two public members, Michael Brown and Jordan Diamond.