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West Coast governors’agree on ocean health

“Our oceans are home to a great diversity of marine life and clean beaches, and oceans are vital to West Coast fishing communities, recreation and tourism. We know that isolated local efforts cannot adequately address the breadth of degradation to our oceans. By cooperating, our three states will combine our resources and influence to make a real difference in the fight to clean and protect the oceans.”

Though our coastline is not immune to the long-term effects of the Gulf oil spill, at least the forward-thinking governors of California, Oregon and Washington are taking charge of the present and future of our coastal and ocean resources. It began in 2006 when Governors Schwarzenegger, Kulongoski and Gregoire committed to protecting the states’ shared ocean region.

By July 2008, the three state leaders released their West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health (WCGA) Action Plan, which identified and prioritized what projects to tackle first. The project choices also reflected input received from the public. This agreement, the first of its kind on the West Coast, aligns well with federal planning efforts currently under way under the Obama Administration’s Ocean Policy Task Force (established in 2009). Now, as of May 2010, the governors are ready to take the first batch of project plans from paper to the real world.

“We are moving from planning to action with the release of these implementation plans,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger.

The projects include those related to climate change (sea level rise and its impact on coastal communities), ocean garbage cleanup, water pollution amelioration, marine habitat protection, invasive species eradication, ocean education and literacy, and seafloor mapping off all three states. I am particularly excited by the mapping of the seafloor by 2020. We’ve needed this crucial information for far too long. It will dramatically improve how we carry out and manage our fisheries. Data retrieved will also help communities better prepare for potential tsunami waves, an increasing likelihood from the heating of the planet. Also, it will aid in evaluating the potential for renewable ocean energy projects and helping identify and address potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts of such development. In this way, any renewable energy development will be instigated in areas least likely to harm fisheries, sensitive marine habitats and local coastal communities.

The Governor’s Agreement demonstrates that by acting locally and collaborating, we can take charge of the health, welfare and future of our shared coastal and ocean resources. By investing in a very public and concrete agenda focused on our most precious real estate, we are more certain to be in a position to prevent others without a stake from harming us with their own agenda. As a plus, the federal government’s recent additional funding not only shows support for this enterprise but assures continuation of the present projects and promises support for the states when ready to gear up for the next lot of projects.

To learn more about the WCGA, visit

— Judith Lea Garfield, naturalist and underwater photographer, has authored two natural history books about the underwater park off La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores. Send comments to