Ocean Day California
The alarm buzzed at 5:00 am last Tuesday, and while I wasn’t thrilled about the early start, I was very happy about the short 70 miles commute from San Francisco to join #CAOceansDay in Sacramento.
Dozens of ocean lovers joined from around California, coming in from as far as San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County and Arcata to participate in the yearly tradition that is Ocean Day in the State’s Capitol.
After weeks of planning (Environment California ftw!) we converged in the Capitol’s downstairs dining room to caffeinate and plot our day. Teams hunkered around the tables to discuss strategy and after greetings and hugs, it was my turn to put together a plan for my day (trying to decide on a schedule from all the options on the table was mildly reminiscent of first week of college semester: trying to get into a 10 am Western Civ I wanted instead of the 7:20 organic chemistry class I really needed). While the teams are pre-planned around geography and issue collaboration, I’ve found it most effective to “float” throughout the day. I’m technically based in San Francisco, but Azul takes me all over the state, working with Latinos from Los Angeles to Humboldt, so I end up making drop-bys on unsuspecting teams all day and usually doubling up on the total number of meetings by the end of the day (unexpected benefit: totally obliterating my fitbit step goal).
Every year the focus is ocean and coastal issues (like working on protecting the big blue from plastic trash and acidification), but this time, the dire water situation in our state couldn’t be ignored, so naturally, talking to decision makers about climate change was a priority (specifically, making sure our state and federal agencies are working as efficiently as possible).
I will admit though, personally, my favorite subject to talk about at Ocean Day is still our state’s awesome underwater parks (and not just because I personally sacrificed my car’s transmission, engine and alternator to driving around thousands of miles talking to people about them). While all the media attention tends to go to massive ocean sanctuaries like the newly designated Pitcairn Islands marine reserve(which is roughly the size of California), our own network of marine protected areas was a trailblazing effort at its inception and implementation.
While it is possible to protect thousands of square miles in remote parts of the Pacific, we had to adopt a much more measured approach, fitting in smaller reserves alongside prized fishing holes, shipping lanes, and coastal developments. Together, they make up a statewide chain of refuges linked by currents. In a heavily populated state where every inch of coast is well loved, these underwater parks are critical for sea life and popular with visitors.
The design process (I was one of the stakeholders) is an example in public participation, bringing together all the different interests invested in ocean health (public agencies, conservation organizations, commercial and recreational fishermen, universities and local elected officials) to craft a plan that best benefits ocean health and by extension, Californians everywhere. As the results start to come in, it’s a delight to talk about teamwork that pays off.
For now, the work continues throughout the state. Maybe next year you can join us at the capitol?
Marce Graudiņš is the Founder and Director of Azul, a project focused on empowering Latino coastal and marine stewardship. In a previous life she used to sell fish, now she saves them.