Inside the Project: Enhanced Status Reports

As we tie up the many loose ends that dangle before the holidays, we also find ourselves us winding down our support of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in their creation of roughly 30 Enhanced Status Reports (ESRs) for state-managed fisheries. Spanning two contracting phases and nearly two years (which included two Strategic Earth pregnancies and maternity leaves!), this project was a massive lift with an equally massive crew that put even our organizational skills to the test. While the Strategic Earth team is steeped in California marine resource management policy like a strong tea, the average person may not be. So first, a bit of context. 

Marine resource management activity in California is driven in large part by the Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) of 1998 and subsequent “Master Plans.” In an effort to improve the management of California’s marine species through alignment with the MLMA in a time- and cost-effective way, the 2018 Master Plan mandated the creation of ESRs and a publicly-accessible web portal to host them. These ESRs were designed to meet MLMA requirements for fisheries management: comprehensive summaries of relevant available information, management-focused, consistent in structure and content, current and easily updated, and publicly accessible.

The fisheries biologists, supervisors, and managers in CDFW’s Marine Region are fortunate to have full, interesting jobs, with plenty of work to keep them busy. While CDFW staff was supportive of the Master Plan’s requirement to develop ESRs for 30 state-managed species/groups, a great deal of organization, coordination, and time-consuming research and writing support was needed so staff could also continue their regular duties. Enter an all-star ensemble of helpers, including members of the Strategic Earth core team, Huff McGonigal with Fathom Consulting, and Sarah Valencia with SeaChange Analytics. In addition to our team members’ individual backgrounds in marine science, management, and policy, we are well-versed in the ways of project management. We live and breathe spreadsheets. We were also able to draw on our existing relationships with CDFW staff, leveraging them into the trust necessary to have our sticky little fingers in their big project. 

By the time an ESR was completed, it had passed through the digital hands of at least 10 people across multiple organizations, many of whom worked with the report more than once. Can you say file version management? And while we’re on the subject of 30 reports each being researched, written, and edited by several individuals, it would be safe to admit that consistency was a major focus of our energy at Strategic Earth, and our beloved Style Guide received more updates than we care to remember. While collaborative writing on this scale no doubt puts a strain on organization, consistency, and timelines, the value is also undeniable. Drawing on the unique strengths of multiple participants results in increased trust and process buy-in and a superior product that has been thoroughly vetted. 

The Strategic Earth team is so grateful to have had the opportunity to embark on this journey with the folks at CDFW and our other partners in this project. We thank everyone for their hard work and dedication, and offer our sincere congratulations on achieving this major milestone. 

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