Chumash Marine Sanctuary – Yes!

The Sierra Club-Los Padres Chapter supports the nomination of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary for the Central Coast of California. This proposed National Marine Sanctuary would protect ocean resources from San Simeon down to the Gaviota Coast of Santa Barbara County.

This region was first inhabited by one of the few ocean-going bands among the First People of the New World. Ancient, submerged Chumash village sites extend 13 miles offshore, and more than a dozen coastal sites have been continuously occupied for more than 9,000 years. The Central Coast is the site of significant wetlands, kelp forests, coral reef, and the highest sand dunes in the state. The existence of one of the only nonseasonal upwellings of nutrients off the West Coast makes it a major population center for sea otters, sea lion haul-outs, and a cetacean feeding area.

The history of efforts to utilize these waters for oil exploration and the dumping of toxic agricultural runoff is a consequence of the lack of National Marine Sanctuary protection and emphasizes the need to secure that protection.

National Marine Sanctuaries serve to enhance public awareness and understanding of marine resources, support and help fund scientific research, allow local stakeholders to present a united position on matters of mutual concern (including oil and gas exploration and development, ocean dumping and marine mammal issues); and facilitate a proactive approach to ocean protection.

The waters of the Central Coast meet the standards of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act for the recognition and protection of nationally significant oceanographic, geological, biological, and archaeological characteristics. We should pursue the proactive approach to ocean protection, support for scientific research, and the enhancement of public understanding of the Central Coast’s unique marine habitat, which the creation of a Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary would facilitate.

Jim Hines is marine sanctuary organizer for the Sierra Club-Los Padres Chapter of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

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