A National Initiative

The National Sea Grant College program was established by the U.S. Congress in 1966 and works to create and maintain a healthy coastal environment and economy. The Sea Grant network consists of a federal/university partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and 34 university-based programs in every coastal and Great Lakes state, Puerto Rico, and Guam. The network draws on the expertise of more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, public outreach experts, educators and students to help citizens better understand, conserve and utilize America's coastal resources.

California Sea Grant is part of a national network of 34 university-based programs.
California Sea Grant is part of a national network of 34 university-based programs.

Early Years

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, National Sea Grant supported research activities scattered across university campuses throughout California. With a vision of pooling the state’s resources, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Director William A. Nierenberg championed the University of California—and in particular Scripps Oceanography—as the place California Sea Grant should be established.

Because of Nierenberg’s support, NOAA formally designated the University of California an official Sea Grant “College Program” at an awards ceremony in Berkeley on October 25, 1973. California Sea Grant was the nation’s seventh Sea Grant College Program and would soon be established as the largest in the United States.

California Sea Grant’s success can be partially credited to Scripps Oceanography researchers John Isaacs and Fred Spiess, who as directors of the University of California Institute for Marine Resources—a now dissolved, but then statewide marine science program headquartered at Scripps Oceanography—oversaw the Sea Grant program. Isaacs and Spiess, as well as early Sea Grant directors George Shor, Jeff Frautschy, and Jim Sullivan, put the Sea Grant program on a track of excellence.

Jeffery Frautschy, George Shor, John Isaacs, William Nierenberg, and Jim Sullivan stand with a plaque designated the University of California as a Sea Grant College.

50th Anniversary in 2023

California Sea Grant 50th Anniversary logo

In 2023, California Sea Grant turned 50! Please visit our special 50th anniversary webpage to hear more about where we’ve been and where we’re going.

California Sea Grant continues the legacy of coastal science serving California.


California Sea Grant 50th Anniversary collage