Marine Pollution

Protecting Water Quality

Pollution is an ongoing threat to the ocean; it harms ecosystems, degrades coastal and ocean water quality, and triggers significant economic and health costs for Californians, including litter cleanup, beach closures, and fisheries closures. Some forms of pollution have dramatically decreased over the past decades with the construction of wastewater treatment plants and the implementation of water quality regulations. However, California’s ocean resources continue to be impacted by both well-understood and emerging pollutants.

In the past, the Ocean Protection Council’s (OPC) marine pollution program has focused on plastic pollution and ocean litter, but is now expanding to address emerging contaminants and harmful algal blooms. We recognize the connection between our land-based actions and the vitality of our ocean, and the need to significantly reduce our trail of pollution that leads to the sea.

OPC’s marine pollution program seeks to improve coastal and ocean water quality by promoting collaborative partnerships to address pollution sources, leveraging funding for catalytic, timely, and innovative projects, and engaging decision-makers at all levels of government.

The Ocean Protection Council takes a leadership role in the following initiatives:

  • California Ocean Litter Prevention Strategy
    OPC Partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop and implement the California Ocean Litter Prevention Strategy (Strategy), which describes actions that OPC and California stakeholders will pursue to address plastic pollution through 2024
  • California Microplastics Strategy
    In February 2022, OPC adopted a first-of-its-kind Statewide Microplastics Strategy pursuant to Senate Bill 1263 (Portantino, 2018) that recommends early actions and research priorities to reduce microplastic pollution in California’s marine environment. The Statewide Microplastics Strategy sets a multi-year roadmap for California to take a national and global leadership role in managing microplastics pollution.
    OPC staff participate on the steering committee for California HABMAP, which provides information on harmful algal blooms in marine waters to interested stakeholders. For more information, see the HABMAP website.

To learn more about the work OPC is doing on specific pollution-related issues, click on the photos below

Bottle Caps Found on the Beach
Photo Credit: NOAA
Pseudo-nitszchia cells, which produce the toxin domoic acid
Photo Credit: Dr. Rozalind Jester
Rocks on the beach
Photo Credit: Michael Ryan

Staff Contact

Christine SurWater Quality Program Manager