STATEMENT: New marine sanctuary, ahoy!

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. Waters off California’s central coast should soon receive new federal protections. The Biden administration on Thursday proposed, via a “draft designation,” to create the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. Concurrent with that announcement, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) opened a 60-day period for public comment on the proposal. 

The proposed sanctuary, nestled between the existing Monterey Bay sanctuary to the north and the Channel Islands sanctuary to the south, would protect a hotspot for ocean life and biodiversity. The Chumash area contains unique seasonal “upwellings,” currents that push deep waters up to the surface, creating an area rich in marine mammals, sea turtles, coral, fish, kelp and more.

NOAA | Public Domain

A sanctuary designation would protect the area from offshore oil and gas drilling, and make new research funding available. The designation keeps the proposal on target to be finalized in 2024. 

In response to the administration’s announcement, Environment California State Director  Laura Deehan released the following statement: 

“Creating the Chumash Heritage sanctuary would be wonderful news for sea otters, humpback whales and all wildlife that call the central California coastline home. Overall, 25 threatened or endangered species live in or migrate through this area. It’s essential that we protect it and connect it with other sanctuaries to the north and south. 

“This new sanctuary designation would lead to more funding for scientific research, which will help us manage and protect the wildlife that rely on this important seascape.  

“A big thank you to the Biden administration for this announcement and to the Northern Chumash Tribal Council for leading the way toward this proposal for decades. We’re riding a wave toward more ocean conservation. Let’s get this done.”