In an effort to combat the detrimental effects of climate change, legislation to expand opportunities for marine restoration work along the California Coast was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. Authored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, AB 63 will update the Marine Managed Areas Improvement Act (MMAIA) to permit restoration in marine conservation areas.
“The California coast is already experiencing the devastating effects of climate change and our marine habitats desperately need restoration to reverse this damage,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). “With this bill, California is clearing the path for marine restoration to renew life in our beloved oceans and simultaneously protecting our coastal economies now and for the future.”
Marine life restoration plays an essential role in mitigating the devastating effects of climate change and human impacts through the maintenance and enhancement of our marine fisheries and habitats. For example, in California’s iconic kelp forests, kelp restoration ensures that our oceans retain the critical benefits kelp offers to our environment: carbon retention, and food and habitats for more than 800 species including the endangered sea otter, rockfish and abalone. This also provides for many of the more than 1 million jobs fueling California’s Ocean Economy. According to UC San Diego, 90% of bull kelp has been lost due to rising sea temperatures in Northern California. Restoration is a critical tool to be able to respond to changes such as these and more.
“Restoration activities are crucial for continued conservation efforts on our planet,” said Nancy Caruso, Marine Biologist and Founder of Get Inspired, Inc. “The passage of AB 63 will allow for restoration of our marine species and ocean habitats which we all rely on for recreation, food, and jobs. Now, I will be able to apply for permission to restore California’s green abalone and giant kelp forests in our State Marine Conservation areas in Orange County. I am so grateful for Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie Norris’ work on this bill to conserve and protect California’s coast.”
The MMAIA establishes six classifications designating managed areas in marine and estuarine environments. Each classification maintains its own specified, authorized activities such as education and restoration. However, under current California code, the State is unable to permit restoration in classified marine conservation areas. This gap has resulted in a barrier to important and beneficial coastal restoration initiatives. AB 63 will update MMAIA to include restoration as a permitted activity in marine conservation areas and cut unnecessary green tape to enable NGOs, universities and local conservation groups to restore marine life along California’s Coast.
“As climate change accelerates, we must make extra efforts to ensure that our vibrant marine life is protected,” said Senator Min (D-Irvine), who presented AB 63 on the Senate Floor. “I’m proud to be a co-author of AB 63, which provides those crucial protections for our marine ecosystems, so that our children and grandchildren, in Orange County and across the state, will be able to enjoy and appreciate the wondrous natural habitats of our coastlines and estuary systems.”
AB 63 is supported by American Cetacean Society-Orange County, Blue Endeavors, California Aquaculture Association, California Watershed Network, Get Inspired, Inc., HoldFast Aquaculture LLC, Ocean Defenders Alliance, One World One Ocean Campaign, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, Save Our Shores, Sierra Club California, Spark Joy Foundation and Wholly H2O.