Senate Bill (SB) 1363, authored by Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel), passed off of the Senate Floor and now heads to the Assembly. The bill requires the Ocean Protection Council (OPC), in coordination with the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC), to establish a program to restore eelgrass in order to mitigate the impacts of global warming on the ocean and on California’s coastal plant and animal species.
“Scientific research has shown that eelgrass habitats provide multiple benefits, most notably they help to mitigate the harmful effects of carbon dioxide on the earth’s atmosphere,” Senator Monning said. “Carbon dioxide destroys and disrupts the ocean’s ecosystem and negatively impacts California’s native animals and plants. SB 1363 will help in the restoration of eelgrass beds on California’s coast, and I look forward to the bill’s progress in the Assembly.”
Additional information on the benefits of eelgrass can be found at http://www.habitat.noaa.gov/abouthabitat/eelgrass.html
Eelgrass provides foraging areas and shelter to fish and invertebrates, food for migratory waterfowl and sea turtles, and spawning surfaces for invertebrates and fish. Scientific research has shown that eelgrass habitat provides multiple benefits by providing essential fish habitat to recover salmon populations, improving water clarity by filtering polluted runoff, absorbing excess nutrients, and helping to mitigate sea level rise. However, since the 1850’s, 90 percent of California’s eelgrass acreage has been destroyed and the remaining 10 percent is continuously exposed to multiple stressors and threats.
SB 1363 would establish the Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Reduction Program to:
- Develop demonstration projects to evaluate the best locations for carbon dioxide removal strategies, including the protection and restoration of eelgrass beds;
- Generate an inventory of locations where conservation or restoration of aquatic habitats, including eelgrass, can be applied successfully; and
- Incorporate consideration of carbon dioxide removal during the habitat restoration planning process in order to fully account for the benefits of long-term carbon storage of habitat restoration.