08 • 02 • 2018

Surfrider’s California Policy Manager To Help State’s Marine Protected Areas Go Global

Surfrider Foundation’s California Policy Manager, Jennifer Savage, has been selected to an expert assessment group to evaluate California's marine protected areas for inclusion on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Green List.

Long a vanguard for ocean protection, California's state agencies now seek to add the state's marine protected area (MPA) network to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Green List. The Green List serves as a global standard highlighting well-managed protected areas contributing to “sustainable development through the conservation of nature and provision of associated social, economic, cultural and spiritual values.” Given that the state's MPA network is one of the largest ecologically connected in the world with conservation goals that align with the Green List, inclusion looks to be a natural fit – which is why California's Natural Resources Agency, Ocean Protection Council and Department of Fish and Wildlife are seeking its addition.

However, achieving inclusion first requires the state evaluate its MPAs against IUCN Green List criteria. That requires the formation of an expert assessment group (EAGL) made up of those knowledgeable about California’s ocean. IUCN has selected Surfrider Foundation's California Policy Manager Jennifer Savage as an EAGL member – and she's quite thrilled to be included.

From 2009 to 2012, Savage served on a North Coast stakeholder group tasked with creating the region’s collection of marine protected areas (MPAs), which ultimately became the final segment in California’s coast-wide MPA network. “It is no exaggeration to say that the Marine Life Protection Act implementation process arriving on California’s North Coast changed my life,” Savage noted. She credits her prior MPA experience for providing a fast-tracked education on state policy and ocean science. 

“Working with everyone on the stakeholder group also furthered my understanding of tribal traditions and the importance of maintaining them, and provided me a chance to find common ground with neighbors I may never have had the chance to know otherwise,” Savage added. As California policy manager, Savage’s current MPA-related efforts focus on education, enforcement, outreach and supporting the MPA Collaboratives

California is the first – and currently only – state with an MPA network, boasting over 120 of these special places along the state's 1,100-mile coast. MPAs work by protecting entire ecosystems instead of only single species, which makes them an especially effective tool when it comes to restoration and resiliency. About this new opportunity, Savage said, “I’m thrilled to be selected for EAGL and look forward to working with scientists, educators, tribal representatives, conservationists, agency staff and the fishing community. I’m grateful that my professional path has aligned with my personal commitment to ensure the most effective management of our MPAs – hopefully on a global scale!” 


Drawn from a pool of extremely qualified applicants, the 17 individuals comprising EAGL represent California ocean stakeholders from a diverse array of sectors. The EAGL will visit and evaluate sites within California’s MPA network using IUCN’s Green List criteria. If all criteria are met, the group will recommend that the network be added to the Green List. The initial evaluation process is anticipated to be completed by early 2019.

Deborah Halberstadt, executive director of California's Ocean Protection Council, remarked on the announcement of the EAGL list. “We at OPC are very excited about the chance to work with such a diverse group of California’s ocean stakeholders,” she said, “including voices from the scientific, fishing, Tribal, business, recreation, and nongovernmental communities on the Green List Expert Assessment Group will allow for an open and fair evaluation of the state’s marine protected area network against IUCN’s global criteria. We look forward to supporting this newly appointed group in their efforts.”

A longtime resident of Humboldt County and part-time resident of San Francisco, Savage spends much of her time traversing the state in pursuit of greater ocean protection, equitable beach access, the preservation of California's coast and enjoying the ocean, beaches and waves where- and whenever possible. She can be reached at

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