Scientists and academics support new sanctuary along the California coast

Media Contacts
Meghan Hurley

For the sake of marine life, biodiversity and a healthy ocean, scientists weigh in on the proposed designation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

Environment California Research & Policy Center

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — One hundred and fifty plus scientists, professors and academics sent a letter supporting the Biden administration’s intent to designate the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, a hotspot of ocean life along the central California coast. The letter, organized by Environment California Research and Policy Center, emphasizes the importance of conserving biodiversity in this area and the unique example of the Chumash site as the first Indigenous-led marine sanctuary designation. 

The Biden administration is currently accepting public comments on their intent to designate this marine sanctuary. Sent as an official public comment to the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the letter includes more than 150 scientists, professors and academics from across the state. 

“Input from the scientific community is crucial to show decision-makers that the case for protecting this ocean space is grounded in science,” said Environment California Research & Policy Center Oceans Associate Meghan Hurley. “Public comments from marine experts offer a clear message: Protections work and are the right thing to do to safeguard vital biodiversity.”

The Chumash sanctuary is home to 13 species of dolphins and whales, the endangered southern sea otter, and leatherback sea turtles. It includes a nutrient-rich upwelling zone, where cold water rises from the deep ocean to feed the aquatic food chain. There are also underwater mountains and deep sea canyons yet to be fully explored. This wild ocean life will be protected from oil drilling by the sanctuary, along with Chumash sacred sites on and offshore. 

“The Chumash region has unique conditions that support vibrant ocean life,” said Environment California Research & Policy Center State Director Laura Deehan. “We are moving in the right direction when it comes to preserving this amazing place for future generations. They deserve the same opportunity we’ve enjoyed to look out at the water and see the spray from the spout of a migrating whale, or sea otters pups playing with their mothers in the kelp. We now need the Biden administration to complete the process and safeguard this important marine space.”

A full copy of the letter can be viewed here

“The science is clear – when we protect areas in our ocean, wildlife and whole ecosystems begin to thrive again,” said Dr. Steve Palumbi, marine science professor at Stanford University. “The vast abundance and diversity of these shores, so apparent centuries ago, is still within our reach when we protect, nurture and sustainably use the oceans. On behalf of the 150 plus signers, we’re thrilled that the administration has this ship headed in the right direction, and we hope to see this sanctuary fully designated in the near future.”