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12 • 10 • 2019

2019 Year in Review: Surfrider Wins 97 Coastal Victories!

The Surfrider Foundation has achieved its most successful year ever, winning 97 coastal victories to protect our ocean, waves, and beaches.

Peter Douglas, the revered founder of the California Coastal Commission, once said that, “the coast is never saved, it is always being saved.” Sadly, these words have never been more true than they are today. As 2019 comes to a close, our coastlines face unprecedented threats from pollution, development and climate change - not to mention the indifference (or downright hostility) of many elected leaders entrusted to protect these resources.

Fortunately, Surfrider’s grassroots network has never been stronger or more inspired to protect our coasts and ocean. In 2019, Surfrider achieved historic success by winning 97 coastal victories, breaking our previous record of 82 victories in 2018. These campaign wins tackled a range of coastal threats – from plastic pollution to offshore drilling to sewage overflows – and are a testament to the power of citizen activism.

Yet, these victories tell only part of the story. Over the past year, Surfrider volunteers contributed over 182,000 hours to coastal conservation through our chapters and clubs. These individuals are the leaders in their communities and schools who provide a never-ending commitment to defend our coasts. They are the ones who organize chapter events, clean beaches, green campuses, speak at city council meetings and wage the battles against harmful projects.

Below is a summary of some of our 2019 achievements across each of our focus areas. We extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our chapters, volunteers, supporters and partners who contributed to this success!

PLASTIC POLLUTION

Surfrider secured 63 victories to reduce and prevent the harms of plastic pollution on our coastal environment. From New England to Hawaii and Florida to the Pacific Northwest, Surfrider’s network helped to drive policy change to address the plastics crisis that is suffocating our ocean. There was tremendous work at the state level, with plastic bag bans passed in Maine, Oregon, Connecticut, Vermont, New York and Delaware, and polystyrene foam container bans in Maryland, Maine and Vermont. Surfrider’s network also tackled plastic pollution by organizing more than 850 beach cleanups through the Better Beach Alliance and registering 600 Ocean Friendly Restaurants to serve plastic-free meals. 

Plastic Pollution Outcomes

  • Over 8.65 billion single-use plastic items kept out of landfills, watersheds, and ocean annually through the successful passage and defense of plastic reduction legislation.
  • State laws to reduce plastic pollution passed in Maine, Oregon, California, Connecticut and Maryland.
  • Over 250,000 pounds of trash removed from beaches and parks through the efforts of more than 40,000 volunteers.
  • Over 60 million plastic-free meals served by Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants!
  • Over 5 million people educated about the impacts of plastic pollution and ways to be part of the solution.

CLEAN WATER

Surfrider secured 12 victories to protect water quality for beachgoers across the U.S. At the national level, we led a coalition to save federal funding to monitor water quality at thousands of beaches across the U.S. and passed the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act. In Hawai‘i, we passed a state law to tackle cesspool pollution. And, in Florida, we restored the Healthy Beaches Program and protected the Florida Keys coral reefs by banning oxybenzone sunscreens. These victories were complemented by the monitoring of hundreds of beaches by Surfrider’s Blue Water Task Force, the installation of Ocean Friendly Gardens, and numerous community partnerships to solve local pollution problems.

Clean Water Outcomes

  • Over 3,500 U.S. beaches were monitored for water quality, thanks to successful Surfrider advocacy in support of the federal BEACH Act.
  • Over 450 sampling sites in recreational waters were monitored by Surfrider volunteers through our 50 chapter-run Blue Water Task Force labs.
  • 20 million gallons of polluted runoff were prevented through the installation of Ocean Friendly Gardens.
  • Over 600 million gallons per day of ocean wastewater discharge were prevented through water recycling and infrastructure improvements.

OCEAN PROTECTION

Surfrider secured 10 victories to protect ocean ecosystems in 2019. Most notably, we helped to block new offshore drilling proposed in over 90% of U.S. waters by the Trump administration. Surfrider’s network educated millions of people about the threat of offshore drilling, organized thousands of businesses in opposition, and passed hundreds of community resolutions on the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts. Surfrider also passed state offshore drilling bans in Oregon, New York, Maine and New Hampshire, joining bans passed in California, Florida and New Jersey in 2018. Our Stop Offshore Drilling campaign continues in 2020 with the goal of passing a federal ban on new oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters.  

Ocean Protection Outcomes

  • Trump administration halts plans for new offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Ocean.
  • Surfrider leads passage of state offshore drilling bans in Oregon, Maine, New York and New Hampshire.
  • Federal funding saved for NOAA ocean and coastal management programs in 2019 budget.
  • Williams Oil Pipeline Project blocked again by New York and New Jersey chapters.
  • Washington chapters help pass state law to protect Puget Sound from oil spills.
  • National Marine Sanctuary established in Mallows Bay/ Potomac River in Maryland.

COASTAL PRESERVATION

Surfrider secured 7 victories to protect U.S. shorelines from coastal development and climate change. Notable wins included reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of our nation’s best conservation programs, that protects coastal places and enhances recreational opportunities. We also launched our Rising Seas campaign to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on our coasts and drive grassroots advocacy on this critical issue. Finally, Surfrider released the State of the Beach Report in November, generating national media coverage and compelling states to improve their coastal preservation policies.

Coastal Preservation Outcomes

  • Restored the Land and Water Conservation Fund that protects coastal places and enhances recreational access across the U.S.
  • Protected 1,100 miles of California coastline through ongoing advocacy at the California Coastal Commission.
  • Participated in 25 local and state processes to plan for sea level rise and coastal erosion.
  • Community choice energy policies passed in San Diego and other California cities to promote renewable energy.
  • The State of the Beach Report influenced coastal states to improve coastal management and planning for sea level rise.
  • Beach dune restoration projects completed in New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, California and Florida.

BEACH ACCESS

Surfrider won 5 victories to protect and improve coastal access in Florida, Maine, Hawaii and California in 2019. This fall, we won a major victory when Maine’s highest court upheld broad public beach access rights at Goose Rock’s Beach, a sandy beach popular with residents and visitors in southern Maine. Other notable wins included protecting coastal access in Mickler Beach in Florida and Laneakai Beach in Hawai‘i. Finally, Surfrider chapters and clubs partnered with community groups across the U.S. to help bring thousands of underserved youth to the coast.

Beach Access Outcomes

  • Maine’s Supreme Court upholds beach access rights at Goose Rock’s Beach.
  • Challenged threats to Florida beach access through grassroots advocacy and legal strategies.
  • Partnered with local groups to bring inland or underserved communities to the beach in California, New York City, Texas, Oregon and Washington.
  • Brought over 5,000 people, including underserved youth, to the beach through International Surfing Day.

Want to get involved? Find your nearest Surfrider chapter or support Surfrider coastal defenders!