Proposed Central Coast Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary | Credit: Courtesy

An effort is underway again to create the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, a proposal that would protect the currently unprotected area between the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. On June 25, senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris and Congressmember Salud Carbajal wrote to the U.S. Department of Commerce in support of the sanctuary nomination.

Feinstein, Harris, and Carbajal asked that the Commerce Department grant a five-year extension to the proposal, which was originally proposed in 2015. Citing rapidly rising ocean acidity and a loss of more than 90 percent of coastal marine kelp forests in California’s coastal waters, they implored the Office of Marine Sanctuaries to allow the extension and move forward to designate the area a marine sanctuary as soon as possible.

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An additional marine sanctuary would do more than conserve habitat and prevent offshore drilling, it would also protect Indigenous settlements. According to the project’s website, the area holds Chumash villages and other locations of cultural heritage submerged both under the surface and on the shoreline. Cultural artifacts from Chumash settlements dating back 9,000 years have been identified in the region. In 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard confirmed that the region also held archeological remains of the USS McCulloch, a ship used in both the Spanish–American War and World War 1.

In addition, the letter noted that ocean acidification poses a threat to coastal economies: Current ocean acidity levels are already high enough to damage the shells and sensory organs of young Dungeness crabs, which are a vital component of the California fishing industry.

“The case is further strengthened by new data and discoveries since its successful nomination five years ago,” the legislators wrote.

To read more, visit the project’s website here:

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