There are some moments in this fellowship that I feel particularly fortunate, particularly needing of a stern pinch to believe I do this for a living. In mid-January of this year, I experienced one of these moments. Between January 12th-14th intergovernmental ocean and coastal leaders from across the West Coast representing tribes, state, and federal agencies convened in Portland, Oregon for the first time to communicate ocean health priorities as an entire region.
The days began with the first in-person meeting of West Coast tribal, state, and federal representatives engaged in discussions around regional marine planning and the potential formation of a West Coast Regional Planning Body, an entity geared at implementing the National Ocean Policy through a region-wide marine planning dialog. An audience of a variety of stakeholders, including NGOs, were also present. My anticipation and excitement for the events ahead were high as I personally welcomed and registered attendees to the meeting. After dynamic conversation from members and comments from the audience, it was agreed that the group would move forward with pursuing the formation a Regional Planning Body on the West Coast in hopes of creating an effective forum around marine planning activities.
That same evening marked the beginning of a 2.5 day West Coast Ocean Summit (WCOS) convened by a collaborative planning team with support from the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health (WCGA).
The first WCOS brought together 150 leaders in total from West Coast tribes, representatives from the Governors’ offices of California, Oregon, and Washington and state and federal agencies to share ocean health priorities and discuss regional ocean coordination and collaboration opportunities. The objectives of the Summit were to develop a shared understanding of common priorities, document issues of mutual importance, create strategies for identifying opportunities for intergovernmental coordination and overcoming challenges, and develop mechanisms for ongoing dialogue among federal and state agencies and tribes in the region. The 2.5 days were filled with robust conversations about priorities and collaborative possibilities. I was a member of the WCOS planning team, and I also assisted during the WCOS with a variety of tasks as needed (including general coordination and note-taking for future reports). Attendees revealed their ocean health priorities, which included ocean acidification, climate change, and the sharing of information through such mechanisms as the West Coast Ocean Data Portal to name just a few. Perhaps the more powerful message communicated by the end of the WCOS was that in moving forward the tribes, state, and federal agencies all agreed that collaboration among these entities would be the most effective means of managing West Coast ocean resources. While nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, academia, and citizens are also key players, strong relationships among the “three sovereigns” — tribal, state, and federal governments — is an essential foundation for broader collaboration.”
While there are still obstacles to overcome and questions to answer, I personally found the respect and camaraderie I witnessed over the course of these 2 events to be a promising foundation for the collaborative efforts to come. As these efforts evolve, I hope we all think back to how a variety of leaders came together for these 3 incredible days in solidarity around ocean health. In the end, all of these entities are stewards of the ocean. That is why I am so passionate about this work, at the core of everyone in attendance for these 3 days is a person who truly wants to protect one of our regions greatest assets for current and future generations. That is a truth we can all agree on.