Madeline Kinsey: Policy versus Politics at CA Ocean Day

Author: Madeline Kinsey
Fellow Type: California Sea Grant State Fellow
Year(s) of Fellowship: 2016
Host Agency: California Department of Parks and Recreation

As a Sea Grant State Fellow with California State Parks in Sacramento, I have had many great days at work. I am continually getting to exercise my background in marine science and my passion for the ocean to help shape coastal policy. One day in particular that sticks out to me was California Ocean Day.

On this day, instead of reporting to work at my desk in the Natural Resources Agency Building, I reported straight to the State Capitol! When I arrived, I was immediately put on a team with four other members, representing the Turtle Island Restoration Network, WILDCOAST, the Surfrider Foundation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. We were given the task to meet several state representatives to discuss current ocean policy issues. The role I played on the team was a little bit different from the other members. As a Sea Grant Fellow, I was not able to advocate, but I could educate. I found, however, that in many ways I was receiving an education about the relationship between policy and politics.

The issues we discussed with state officials included impacts of single-use plastic bags on the ocean environment, updates on marine protected areas, a smoking ban at state beaches, impacts of seawater desalination plants, and problems with discarded fishing gear.

With most of these issues, my teammates were asking for support on several assembly and senate bills that were moving through the legislative process. This was an irreplaceable opportunity for me to sit and listen to advocates discussing with legislators the ins-and-outs of the bills, and to gain insight into how elected officials assess the pros and cons of a bill as it relates to their constituents.

The conversations became especially interesting when legislators representing inland districts would ask how to better communicate these issues with communities that may be impacted only indirectly by decisions made at the coast. Perhaps these conversations were of particular interest to me because I grew up in Ohio, very far from the ocean. Sometimes communicating to my family and friends how meaningful I find my job can be a challenge. Hearing others speak to this topic reminded me just how important our oceans are to everyone.

Overall, this day truly gave me a better understanding of how not only science, but also politics plays a significant role in protecting and enhancing the California coast and ocean.

Written by Madeline Kinsey