Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary Moves Forward



The proposed Chumash National Heritage Marine Sanctuary would stretch from the coast off Cambria to Santa Barbara.

The Chumash National Heritage Marine Sanctuary is on the verge of becoming a reality, according to an announcement by federal officials Tuesday morning.

The huge proposed marine sanctuary has been in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration nomination phase since 2015. It is now officially moving into the nomination phase.

This means that NOAA is now reviewing the boundaries of the potential sanctuary and seeking public input on its scope.

Central Coast Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), US Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla from California, and US Representatives Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) made part of their enthusiasm for this decision on November 19. 9, with several White House officials.

“I am delighted that the Biden administration has taken this step to protect our coastal areas from further oil and gas drilling and strengthen our state’s $ 1.9 trillion coastal economy, which is supported by tourism and fishing. commercial, “Carbajal said in a prepared statement. “Bringing the proposed sanctuary into the designation phase is the result of years of public engagement and I am grateful that we are taking one more step towards the permanent protection of our coastline for future generations to inherit and enjoy. . “

Letter from the shrine
Northern Chumash Tribal Council tribal administrator Fred Collins speaks with supporters of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary ahead of the start of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting on February 7, 2017. Joe Johnston [email protected]

In his announcement, Carbajal praised the “steadfast leadership” of the late Fred Collins, president of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council. Collins, who died in October, was the applicant for the proposed marine sanctuary.

“(His) advocacy was instrumental in moving this project forward,” Carbajal said.

Violet Sage Walker, daughter of Collins and president of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, said NOAA’s decision to advance the public marine sanctuary designation process was an important step forward.

“The successful designation of the Chumash National Marine Heritage Sanctuary will protect ocean life, the sacred sites of Chumash, strengthen indigenous communities and serve as a model of environmental justice,” Sage Walker said in a statement. “Today’s announcement marks an important milestone after more than 40 years of tireless advocacy for the protection of the oceans, and also represents the first tribal-named shrine in the country. Today my father would be proud. It was one of the things he wanted to see the most.

PJ Webb, a Cambria resident, advisor to the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, added that the NOAA decision shows that even small movements have the power to create change.

“It’s amazing to see a small Indigenous and community collaboration persevere over time and grow in size and scale to become a powerful symbol of what people can do if they take care of our ocean and our planet,” she declared. “This growing wave of support can lead us to a better future for those who follow us. “

If the Chumash National Heritage Marine Sanctuary were officially designated, it would be a significant contribution to the Biden administration’s so-called “30×30” plan to conserve 30% of the country’s ocean areas by 2030.

A map of the proposed Chumash National Heritage Marine Sanctuary. Courtesy of NOAA

The proposed marine sanctuary stretches 156 miles of the California coast from Cambria to south of Point Conception. It stretches far out into the Pacific Ocean, encompassing 7,670 square miles, according to NOAA.

The Chumash National Heritage Marine Sanctuary would be located between the National Marine Sanctuaries of Monterey Bay and the Channel Islands.

If approved, the marine sanctuary would provide federal protection to the region’s rich biodiversity and the history of the Chumash tribe. It includes an area where the Chumash peoples lived at a time when the ocean level was 300 feet lower.

The proposed sanctuary would also encompass other aspects of American history, such as the wreck of a Civil War ship.

“The proposed sanctuary will recognize and preserve the tribal heritage of Chumash, protect the region’s rich biodiversity and build resilience to changing ocean conditions,” said Rick Spinrad, administrator of NOAA, in a statement. “This special section of the coast supports a way of life for many communities that depend on commercial fishing and enjoy recreational fishing, kayaking, surfing, diving and wildlife viewing.

“NOAA has heard strong support from tribal leaders, a diverse set of groups, state officials and several members of the California Congressional delegation to move forward with this national marine sanctuary. offers. “

The protection would prohibit any future development within the confines of the sanctuary, including oil rigs and offshore wind farms. The boundaries of the proposed marine sanctuary have been adjusted to exclude the proposed 399 square mile offshore wind farm located off the coast of Cambria and San Simeon, commonly referred to as the 399 Morro Bay area.

“This administration is committed to taking a holistic approach to dealing with the climate crisis,” Gina M. Raimondo, US Secretary of Commerce, said in a statement. “Together, the Department of Commerce, through NOAA, and the Department of the Interior, along with many partners, are increasing resilience by conserving and restoring the natural and cultural resources that benefit our country and our country. planet; work to reduce emissions by promoting clean energy such as offshore wind; and supporting frontline communities by helping them rebuild smarter and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

“Proposals such as the Chumash Heritage Sanctuary and Morro Bay Area 399 are great examples of how we can advance these goals in collaboration with each other. “

Uses such as fishing, boating, diving, and beach walking would still be permitted within the sanctuary boundaries.

“On the central coast of California, we have a chance to both harness the wind power potential of our ocean and better protect the region’s extraordinary natural and cultural heritage,” said Gina McCarthy, National Councilor for the climate, in a press release. “To tackle the climate crisis, we must – and we will – move forward simultaneously with the conservation and production of smartly located clean energy. “

Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) noted that the proposed sanctuary “will be great for humans and wildlife”.

“(The proposed sanctuary) will generate approximately $ 23 million in economic activity and 600 new jobs,” he said in a statement. “This will protect the region from offshore oil expansion and prevent oil spills that have devastated beaches elsewhere. In short, the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary is a great idea, whose time has finally come.

NOAA’s decision to place the proposed marine sanctuary in the designation phase was good news for local environmental groups.

“It is impossible to fully calculate all the benefits that the central coast will receive as a result of the ecosystem-based management that a national marine sanctuary provides, as marine sanctuaries offer environmental protections that other regulations do not,” said Andrew Christie, director of the Club Sierra de Santa Lucia.

Not all are strong supporters of the proposed marine sanctuary.

In a letter to NOAA in June 2020, the Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries wrote about why Central Coast fishermen oppose the sanctuary.

“For fishermen (…) having an NMS (National Marine Sanctuary) that manages the fishing grounds means they will always have to watch their backs, wondering what NMS management will do,” the letter said.

The letter also noted the already strong protections of ocean resources along the California coast, including strict fishing regulations.

Chumash National Heritage Marine Sanctuary is now in phase one of four stages federal designation process, known as the framing phase.

NOAA is seeking public input on sanctuary boundaries as well as resources that could be protected and other issues the federal agency should consider.

Once the comments are received, collated and analyzed, the sanctuary can proceed to the sanctuary proposal stage, during which NOAA prepares draft designation documents, including a draft management plan and a draft. environmental impact study.

After that, NOAA opens these documents for public review and may implement changes based on the comments received.

Then NOAA makes a final decision on the proposed sanctuary and prepares the final documents that can be considered by the Governor and Congress of California. According to NOAA, it will likely take about two to three years before a final decision is made.

The public can comment on the proposed sanctuary designation from Wednesday until January 10, 2022, through the Federal eRulemaking portal, The file number is NOAA-NOS-2021-0080.

NOAA will also host virtual public meetings on December 8, December 13 and January 6, during which members of the public can make oral comments.

A detailed description of the proposed sanctuary, as well as additional information on opportunities to provide commentary, can be found at

This story was originally published November 9, 2021 9:25 a.m.

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Mackenzie Shuman writes primarily on Cal Poly, SLO County education and the environment for The Tribune. She is originally from Monument, Colorado, and graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in May 2020. When not writing, Mackenzie spends time outside of hiking, running and rock climbing.


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