Ocean Ecosystem Program

Surfrider Foundation’s ocean protection program

The Ocean Ecosystem Program protects and restores ocean ecosystems through a proactive approach to conservation. Our core areas of work include: Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Offshore Drilling, Renewable Ocean Energy, and Marine Spatial Planning. Please see below for more information.

Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas (MPAs), including fully protected marine reserves, are an effective management tool for protecting ocean ecosystems. MPAs function as a safe haven for marine life and provide places where the ocean can rebuild. Scientific research shows that marine protected areas can boost the abundance, diversity, and size of marine species living within their borders.

Marine Protected Areas can also enhance the resilience of ocean ecosystems to withstand the cumulative impacts of human and natural stressors (e.g., pollution, coastal development, fishing pressure, climate change, etc.). They also serve as important reference areas to improve scientific understanding of our ocean environment.

As a grassroots organization, the Surfrider Foundation is engaged in both the planning and implementation of MPAs around the country. Experience from around the world shows that the success of MPAs depends in part on local understanding and support for the designation. By providing outreach to ocean users and engaging citizens in planning and stewardship efforts, Surfrider chapters play an important role in ensuring the long-term success of these designations.

The Surfrider Foundation is committed to supporting MPA designations that are based on the best available science and balance conservation with access. To read Surfrider Foundation’s Position Statement on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) please click here.

Orange County/Huntington Beach MPA Sites & Regulations

Bolsa Bay SMCA


Bolsa Chica Basin SCMA



Offshore Drilling

The Surfrider Foundation is opposed to offshore oil drilling in new areas. Our nation’s oceans, waves and beaches are vital recreational, economic and ecological treasures that will be polluted by an increase in offshore oil drilling. Instead of advocating for transient and environmentally harmful ways to meet America’s oil needs, Surfrider believes we should seek a comprehensive and environmentally sustainable energy plan that includes energy conservation

Surfrider’s Not the Answer campaign is focused on protecting our coasts from the risky practice of new offshore drilling through grassroots advocacy at the federal and state levels. Our chapter efforts included participation in Hands Across the Sand, an annual event where citizens join hands at beaches around the world to say no to offshore drilling and yes to clean energy. The primary goal of our Not the Answer campaign is to reinstate the federal moratorium on new drilling that was in place for decades until President Bush lifted it in 2008 and Congress subsequently allowed a federal ban on drilling to expire. For more information on Surfrider’s Not the Answer campaign, please visit: http://www.nottheanswer.org/


Renewable Ocean Energy

Renewable Ocean Energy refers to sustainable means of generating electrical power that do not involve burning fossil fuels. Potential sources of energy in the ocean include solar, wind, waves, tides and geothermal energy.

In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in the development of these industries. Numerous projects have been proposed – and in some cases implemented – throughout the U.S. and world, encompassing a broad range of designs and locations.

The Surfrider Foundation recognizes that technologies that utilize ocean waves, tides, currents and wind may offer important benefits as renewable sources of energy that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. These alternative energy sources may also provide economic development through a cutting-edge industry for coastal communities.

Surfrider also recognizes that there are many questions and concerns about ocean energy, including potential impacts to ocean recreation, nearshore ecology, coastal processes, public safety, aesthetics, and fishing access.

The Surfrider Foundation has developed a Policy on Renewable Ocean Energy that articulates as set of ‘best practices’ for evaluating or planning for potential projects.


Marine Spatial Planning

Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a public process that brings together different ocean stakeholders – including fishing, energy, government, conservation, and recreation – to make informed decisions about how to use the ocean sustainably. MSP uses maps to create a comprehensive picture of where and how an ocean area is being used, and what natural resources and habitats exist. Potential benefits of MSP include: reduced conflict among different uses, protection of the natural environment, and greater certainty for private industry and developers.


Across the country, states and regions are beginning to use marine spatial planning to address the many competing uses off their coasts. In particular, MSP is being used to identify locations for renewable energy projects that will reduce impacts on the environment and existing users (e.g., surfers, fishermen). Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Oregon are some of the states that have developed spatial plans for their ocean waters, with other states and regions in the U.S. now starting to follow suit.


The Surfrider Foundation believes that MSP provides an important opportunity to protect ‘special places’ such as ecological and recreational areas before they are threatened by potential development. On the West Coast, New England, and the Mid-Atlantic, Surfrider Foundation chapters are emerging as a key stakeholder in MSP efforts, representing recreational ocean users in the public planning process.


Surfrider’s engagement in MSP includes:
– Participation of recreational ocean users
– Public outreach and education
– Mapping and data collection of non-consumptive uses
– Dialogue with other stakeholder groups