Honoring a new slate of California Ocean Champions

On March 19, 2019, hundreds of ocean advocates gathered in Sacramento to discuss ocean and coastal issues with state decision-makers during Ocean Day California. In the evening, the Aquarium hosted its tenth annual awards reception for about 200 state officials and legislators, their staff and ocean leaders from across the state. 

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Guests enjoy the spread by Tataki Sushi & Sake Bar, featuring Seafood Watch Best Choice fish and vegan sushi.

Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard presented four state legislators with our 2019 Ocean Champion Awards, honoring their significant contributions to California’s ocean and coastal leadership. The award is part of the aquarium’s work to inspire and inform government decision-makers to take science-based action on behalf of the ocean.

“California has become a beacon of hope for the nation, and for the world,” Julie said. “Our state is living proof that environmental and economic health are inextricably linked.”

The Ocean Champions

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Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi

In early 2018, the federal Administration released an audacious proposal to open California’s outer continental shelf to new oil and gas drilling. Three of this year’s Ocean Champions responded with bills that were enacted into state law:

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) introduced AB 1775 to protect the California coast. The bill prohibits the State Lands Commission from approving new leases for pipelines or other infrastructure to support new federal oil and gas development in state waters. Assemblymember Muratsuchi has distinguished himself as a champion for global climate action, advancing initiatives to address air pollution and sea-level rise.

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Assemblymember Monique Limón, right, with Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard

Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) was a joint author of AB 1775. She also introduced a resolution, which quickly passed with bipartisan support, affirming the Legislature’s unequivocal opposition to new oil and gas development off of California’s iconic coastline. Assemblymember Limón has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to protection of our ocean and coastal resources.  

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-San Barbara) introduced SB 834, the companion bill to AB 1775, which blocks new federal oil and gas development off the California coast. Senator Jackson has worked diligently to protect our coast from the devastating effects of oil spills.

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Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson

Her district suffered the firsthand impacts of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill—the largest in state history, and catalyst of the modern environmental movement—as well as the more recent Refugio oil spill of 2015. She has spearheaded legislation to plug orphaned oil wells, reduce the risk of pipeline spills and improve spill response.

The fourth honoree helped ensure passage of legislation to put California on the path to 100-percent fossil-fuel free electricity, and defended our ocean and coastal communities from the threat of new offshore oil and gas exploration and development. He also led the way to reduce a common source of plastic pollution in our ocean.  

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Assemblymember Ian Calderon, left, with Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard

Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon (D-Whitter) authored AB 1884, which made California the first state in the nation to adopt a “straws-on-request” policy, requiring full-service restaurants to provide plastic straws only to customers who ask for them.

In his signing message, Governor Brown summed up the importance of AB 1884, writing: “It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it. And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative. But one thing is clear, we must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products.”

These legislators join an esteemed group of past California Ocean Champion Award winners who have stood strong for our treasured ocean and coast. Because of their efforts, California continues to show the world that a healthy environment and a thriving economy go hand in hand.

(All of the seafood items served at the event were California species rated Best Choices by Seafood Watch; read more about the delicious food and dedicated purveyors on our Seafood Watch blog.)

Featured image: Assemblymember Monique Limón delivers remarks after receiving the 2019 California Ocean Champion Award in Sacramento.

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