Scientists support protections for the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

Central California’s ocean features some of the sea’s wildest life and more than 150 scientists agree: We need to protect it.


Meghan Hurley

Picture the living ocean. Sea otters play in floating forests of kelp, while the mist from the spout of a migrating whale blurs the sky. We stand on the shore to feel its vastness. We breathe easier by the sea.

The Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary area has unique oceanographic conditions that support this liveliness. Fortunately, the Biden administration has taken the first step to protect this place as a National Marine Sanctuary. But we need to demonstrate overwhelming support for protections during the first comment period, which started on November 10, 2021 and ends on January 31, 2022, in order to get this across the finish line.

A sea otter drifts on the waves along the Central California coast. Photo: Don DeBold, Flickr

Scientists agree that the value of safeguarding this incredible biodiversity, and keeping ocean wildlife out of harm’s way, is backed by science. So much so, that a group of more than 150 scientists, professors and academics signed a letter organized by Environment California calling for this protection.  

Read the letter here. PDF iconScientist letter.pdf

As a sanctuary, this area will be protected from major threats such as offshore oil and gas drilling. Sanctuary status also provides funding for research and better co-management of the area’s key ecosystems with the Chumash people.

Without protections, the wildlife in this vital area is at risk. In October, there was an oil spill south of the proposed sanctuary’s boundaries. The spill encroached on protected wetlands, including Talbert Marsh, a nursery for many types of fish and home to migratory birds. The oil may persist here for years or decades to come, tarnishing beaches and harming wildlife. Protecting this area as a sanctuary will prevent this kind of disaster from occurring within sanctuary waters.

Aside from preventing environmental disasters, protecting ocean ecosystems helps us fight against climate change. The ocean stores 50 times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere, and much of that is held in the type of wetlands and seagrass beds found in the Chumash area. Protecting places like this can help us heal the Earth at this critical moment in history. 

We need more nature. We need more protected places for sea otters to play in kelp forests, places for marine life to thrive. 


Meghan Hurley

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