California has long been on the forefront of ocean and coastal management and continues to lead important initiatives such as marine protected areas, water quality, the management of fisheries, shoreline erosion, and coastal development. California’s stretch of the Pacific Ocean and the state’s coastline support diverse species of wildlife, many kinds of industries, and numerous thriving coastal communities. The ocean and coast provide many opportunities for recreation as well as services that are valuable to the state’s economy and its residents’ quality of life. A recent study by the National Ocean Economics Program valued California’s “ocean economy” at $43 billion. This ocean economy supports California’s tourism industry, commercial fishing industry, and other industries. Moreover, California’s 1,100 miles of coastline are the envy of the United States and the world. The state legislature acknowledged the important contributions of ocean and coastal resources in the first legislative finding of the California Ocean Protection Act: “California’s coastal and ocean resources are critical to the State’s environmental and economic security, and integral to the State’s high quality of life and culture.”
But our ocean and coastline are in trouble. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission among others have identified an emerging national crisis situation regarding the country’s ocean and coastal resources. In September 2006 the governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health, which launched a 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). The agreement seeks to advance the goals of clean coastal waters and beaches, healthy ocean and coastal habitats, effective ecosystem-based management, reduced impacts of offshore development, expanded ocean and coastal scientific information, research, and monitoring, and sustainable economic development of coastal communities
Example of action to protect the oceans/coastline: In 2004 former Governor Schwarzenegger announced an “Ocean Action Plan” that included signing into law the California Ocean Policy Act (SB 1319, Burton). The Act established a California Ocean Protection Council to guide ocean policy and coastal protection, streamlining and consolidating oversight of California's ocean resources under one coordinating body. The Act ensures that the oceans are managed as a public trust, as the state's ocean resources belong to all Californians, who are willing to share the responsibility of protecting them. It also shifted the focus from individual species to the protection of marine ecosystems, promotes the use of sound science and sound ocean protection policies, facilitates the designation of marine reserves, conservation areas, and parks, and authorized the use of existing funds for these purposes.
Example of action that threatens oceans/coastline: During the 2009 battle over the state’s multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall, Schwarzenegger and many in the state legislature proposed ending the state’s 40-year moratorium on offshore oil drilling to allow an oil company to drill off the coast of Santa Barbara. The proposal was narrowly defeated, and enthusiasm for the proposal has been further dampened by the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. However, environmentalists must remain vigilant and will work to defeat any renewed attempts to allow offshore oil drilling, particularly as the state's legislative leaders seek new revenue sources.