Walk down the main street in Laguna Beach, Dana Point, Huntington Beach, San Clemente, or pretty much any town in Southern California, and you’ll notice that every other shop is selling sunglasses, boardshorts, swimwear, flip flops, and t-shirts with waves and sunsets on them. While many have the word “surf” in their name, they cater to anyone that enjoys our balmy weather and beautiful beaches, even those that have never set foot on a surfboard.

These businesses are selling the beach lifestyle that makes California such a great place to work and play. Our sunshine, beaches and waves launched the $26.5 billion surf industry that has grown into an integral part of our communities and economy. That is why the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association has joined 1,000 other West Coast companies working to defend against the threat of new offshore oil and gas drilling, following a federal proposal to open 90% of U.S. waters to fossil fuel development.

Credit: Orange County Coastkeeper

We took an important step towards protecting our coastal economy in August when state lawmakers passed legislation that effectively blocks new drilling off our shores. The legislation by Senators Jackson and Lara and Assembly Members Muratsuchi and Limón will prevent the development of new pipelines, docks and platforms needed to get fossil fuels from offshore rigs to shoreline refineries.

This is great news for all the Orange County shops selling beach gear, and for hotels, gas stations and restaurants that serve beach-goers. Oil platforms are not the kind of scenery people come to Southern California to see, and a single oil spill could close beaches for weeks or months, driving away our customers while poisoning fish and wildlife. With so many jobs depending on a healthy ocean, we just can’t afford the risk.

The legislation builds on years of bipartisan work to protect California’s coast. Lawmakers know their constituents care about ocean health. We vote with our wallets every time we buy surf products, enjoy local seafood, or go whale watching. Coastal tourism, recreation and fishing generate $20 billion per year, and employ 400,000 people.

That is a lot of Californians with a personal stake in this decision, and many of them have voiced their concerns via petitions, public comments, rallies and phone calls to elected representatives. More than 65 cities and counties up and down the state, from Chula Vista to Arcata, have publicly opposed new offshore oil drilling.

Recently, local voters ousted drilling supporter Dana Rohrabacher, electing Harley Rouda to represent California’s 48th Congressional District. Rouda understands the value of coastal protection. In October, he wrote in the Voice of OC that offshore drilling is wrong for our economy, environment and for Orange County.

While the threat has abated for now, thanks to strong state leadership, coastal businesses must never take our beaches for granted. We need to ensure that all our elected representatives understand the economic value of our ocean, and the financial risk an oil spill poses to so many companies across the state. Let’s work together to make sure that hazmat suits never replace swimsuits as California beachwear.

Paul Naudé is President of SIMA Environmental Fund, and CEO and Founder of Vissla. SIMA is a proud member of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org

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