California leaders make progress for the ocean

This year, the California Legislature got things done for our state’s beautiful ocean and coast — and we were a part of it. The Aquarium spoke up in support of science-based legislation for a healthy ocean, and several of these bills were signed into law. These important new policies will:

  • Improve youth access to our state parks,
  • Leverage nature’s most powerful tools against climate change, and
  • Cut back on waste by encouraging reusable containers at restaurants and food trucks.

Here’s a closer look at all the state accomplished.

Students in the Aquarium’s Young Women in Science program do field work along the Monterey Bay coast.

Assembly Bill 209: Outdoor Equity Grants (Enacted)

What it does: AB 209 (Assemblymember Monique Limón) establishes the State Parks Department’s Outdoor Equity Grants Program. These grants are intended to help underserved and at-risk youth gain access to outdoor environmental education at state parks.

Why it matters: All Californians deserve access to our state parks. This program prioritizes funding for transportation, often one of the largest barriers between underserved youth and outdoor experiences. This legislation also ensures that environmental curriculum at state parks aligns with Next Generation Science Standards.

What happens next: In 2020, the California Department of Parks and Recreation will create this grant program and begin issuing grants soon after.


Coastal communities like Malibu can use the power of natural ecosystems to help adapt to climate change. Photo by Corey Seeman via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Assembly Bill 65: Natural Infrastructure Funding for Climate Adaptation Projects (Enacted)

What it does: AB 65 (Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris) requires that $20 million in state bond funding, earmarked for the California Coastal Conservancy’s Climate Ready grant program, be spent on climate solutions that promote the use of natural infrastructure.

Why it matters: It’s critical that we respond to climate-related threats our coastal communities face — like increased flooding, erosion and runoff. Natural infrastructure leverages the power of ecological systems, such as using sand dunes to slow and absorb floodwaters. This bill offers long-term protection for coastal communities while preserving important ocean and coastal habitats.

What happens next: In 2020, the California Coastal Conservancy will start allocating funding for natural infrastructure solutions though this grant program.

Assembly Bill 619: Bring Your Own Containers (Enacted)

SFW food truck
Customers line up at the Aquarium’s food truck in summer 2019. In 2020, food trucks statewide will be allowed to offer reusable food service ware.

What it does: AB 619 (Assemblymember David Chiu) makes it clear that restaurants may serve food and beverages in clean, consumer-provided containers as an alternative to providing customers with single-use takeout packaging. It also eliminates a requirement that temporary food facilities in California (such as food trucks) use single-use disposable food service ware.

Why it matters: With an estimated 9 million tons of plastic entering the ocean each year, we need to work together to reduce unnecessary single-use plastic. This bill opens the door for restaurants, and their customers, to shift from disposable packaging to reusable containers.

What happens next: Beginning January 1, 2020, customers may bring their own containers for takeout or leftovers in restaurants statewide. Keep an eye out for food vendors at music festivals and other events who are offering reusable food service ware and be sure to thank them!

Looking ahead to 2020

When California’s 2020 legislative year kicks off in January, the Aquarium will be supporting other critical bills to protect the health of the ocean.

The Plastic Pollution Reduction Act would require more packaging to be recyclable, like these aluminum water bottles.

We’ll continue to speak up for SB 54 (State Sen. Ben Allen) and AB 1080 (Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez), companion bills known as the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. These bills represent the nation’s first state legislation to lay out a comprehensive response to pollution caused by single-use packaging and products. The Act would set statewide waste reduction targets and establish other measures to incentivize innovative product design, and increased recycling and composting rates. Learn more about our efforts to support the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act.

Donating to the California Sea Otter Recovery Fund helps protect these important (and adorable) ecosystem engineers.

SB 587 (State Sen. Bill Monning) would extend the California Sea Otter Recovery Fund voluntary income tax check-off program for up to another seven years. Former Assemblymember Dave Jones introduced the bill that first established the fund after visiting the Aquarium with his family. Since 2006, California taxpayers have demonstrated their broad support for southern sea otters by contributing more than $3.6 million,  helping put the iconic coastal animals on the road to recovery.

We hope you’ll join us! Stay tuned for opportunities to take action in support of a healthy California ocean and coast.

Learn more about how the Aquarium is standing up for science-based ocean conservation policy.

Featured image: A surfer sets out at sunset on a California beach.

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