Making Waves at the State Capitol

Sarah Sikich, Heal the Bay’s coastal resources director, dives into the deep end for a special day in Sacramento.

My job sometimes entails getting up well before dawn on a Monday morning for the 6 a.m. flight to Sacramento. It isn’t the ideal way to ease into the workweek. But a few times each year I actually look forward to it. Today happens to be one of those times.

I’m up north to take part in California Ocean Day, a day of celebration and education, with dozens of student, non-profit, and business representatives from around the state bringing the ocean to the Capitol. We know there are many issues facing the state, but today we want to raise awareness among legislators and their staff about the pressing facing California’s coast and ocean.

It’s probably no surprise that the big blue is a major driver for California’s economy. Coastal tourism and recreation contribute $84 billon to the state’s economy, which is only enhanced by clean water, unpolluted beaches and a vibrant ocean.  For some decision-makers, like the Assembly Surf Caucus, our ocean is front of mind. (In the linked video, you can check out three of our legislators suit up and carve up some local waves. Assemblymember Calderon has a nice snapback!)

Even legislators that don’t surf should find it easy to see the benefits of a healthy ocean. Sacramento may not be a beach community, but it lies riverside. So the interconnectedness of our rivers, streams, and oceans should be something that everyone can understand and seek to protect.

We’ll be discussing how California’s system of underwater parks, known as marine protected areas, is starting to enhance our coastal waters for marine life and people’s enjoyment. Ocean advocates will also be talking about polluted runoff and plastic pollution, seeking support for State Water Board and legislative efforts to curb this scourge.

Sea level rise and ocean acidification are growing threats to California’s coast, and together, our groups will be encouraging research and vulnerability assessments to help better inform planning, habitat protection, and restoration efforts to adapt to this changing tide.

If you’re curious how our message is resonating, join us remotely by following us on social media throughout the day with the hashtag #CAOceanPride.