Academic journal article Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum

Regional Ocean Governance: A Look at California

Academic journal article Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum

Regional Ocean Governance: A Look at California

Article excerpt


There is renewed interest and momentum in the United States for regional approaches to protect and manage ocean and coastal resources. Both the Pew Oceans Commission ("Pew") (1) and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy ("USCOP") (2) reports recommended the initiation of regional approaches to ocean and coastal management throughout the nation. Natural resources and ecosystems do not necessarily coincide with geopolitical boundaries, and our ability to implement ecosystem-based approaches has suffered as a result. Regional approaches can help resource managers account for more factors that affect a particular resource or ecosystem, not simply the ones that fall within a particular jurisdiction.

Because California's 1,100 mile coastline spans multiple bioregions, jurisdictions, and a diversity of resources, the state (by necessity) has developed a number of new and innovative regional approaches to address ocean and coastal management. (3) Within the political boundaries of the state, regional approaches have been driven by natural biogeographic and socioeconomic boundaries of the target resources or management issues. For example, California developed (1) the Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup, which uses littoral cells (a complete cycle of sedimentation including sources, transport paths, and sinks) as the basis for evaluating and managing sediment transport issues; (4) (2) the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, which uses a science-based regional approach to assess the adequacy of the existing array of marine protected areas; (5) and (3) the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project for wetland restoration and management in the Southern California Bight. (6) These regional approaches were designed to bring together stakeholders, agency missions, budgets, and in-kind efforts in a way that produces a sum that is greater that its parts.

While these examples focus on one particular resource management issue, the state of California has also created a statewide ocean protection and management council. (7) This council could ultimately serve as the southwest regional portion of a Pacific coast regional effort if California, Oregon, and Washington establish a three state regional approach, which is suggested in the recommendations from the Pew and the USCOP reports. (8) The California Ocean Protection Council is currently developing a strategic vision for California that is intended to improve coordination and effectiveness of ocean and coastal resource management. (9) To date, most regional efforts have occurred along California's 1,100 mile coast, but as suggested above, the state is currently evaluating the utility of expanding these approaches to collaborate with Oregon and Washington. Using California as an example, this paper will evaluate potential for regional approaches driven by research and resource management needs.


Of the 34 million people living in California in 2000, 77% lived in coastal counties, which represents 25% of California's land. (10) California's population continues to grow, which places continually increasing pressure on natural resources. In July 2005, California held an ocean economic summit in Long Beach and released a report produced by the National Ocean Economics Program. (11) This report detailed the coastal economy in California and found that in 2000, the overall value of the coastal economy in California was $42.9 billion, and it created nearly 700,000 jobs. (12) This was driven primarily by the transportation and tourism sectors. For example, in 2000, California had three of the four largest ports in the United States (Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland) in terms of cargo volume, (13) and in 2005, California was the number one travel destination in the United States. (14) This report highlighted the importance of ocean and coastal resources not only for their intrinsic value and use by future generations, but also for the health of "the economies of California and the nation as a whole. …

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