Ocean Protection, Marine Protected Areas
October 14 2015

Chumash Sanctuary Designation Process Moves Forward

by Pete Stauffer

Surfrider's long-term effort to establish a National Marine Sanctuary off the central California coast has taken a major step forward!

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced last week that the nomination for a new Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary has been accepted. The acceptance recognizes the site as deserving special status, and puts it officially under consideration for protection as part of the National Marine Sanctuary Program. The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary would be the first one to focus on indigenous culture and history as a primary core value along with protection of ocean habitat.

“Many coastal Chumash people are very interested in learning how the proposed sanctuary would affect traditional cultural resources, both natural and archaeological,” said Roberta Cordero, a member of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation. “They hope for a vigorous dialogue throughout the process at all levels, including the possibility for consultation at the tribal level with NOAA.”

The nomination was submitted by the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, which has been working on the initiative with the Sierra Club California, the San Luis Obispo Chapter of Surfrider Foundation, and other partner groups. The area proposed for the national marine sanctuary stretches from Santa Rosa Creek in Cambria to Gaviota Creek in Santa Barbara, protecting marine habitat along some 140 miles of coastline.

“It has been an amazing experience working with Fred and other Chumash leaders along with other environmental groups, local businesses, hundreds of local residents and Cal Poly students,” said Carol Georgi of the Surfrider's San Luis Obispo Chapter. “This is a great day for our ocean.”

As part of an effort to have more public involvement in nominating and designating national marine sanctuaries, NOAA revamped its process to encourage community-driven nominations, as compared to its previous top-down approach.

“NOAA’s grassroots sanctuary nomination process is about making it possible for people in coastal communities to take a stand for special places,” said Kathryn Phillips, Director of Sierra Club California. “This nomination is about taking action to make sure the natural wonders of California’s Central Coast will be here for future generations.”

“There is tremendous potential for good here,” said Fred Collins, Administrator of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council. “A Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will preserve and recognize the importance of our tribal history, safeguard our shared coastal resources, and open new doors for research and economic growth. We hope to move forward to designation as soon as possible.”

In accepting the nomination, NOAA confirmed that the proposed national marine sanctuary has: Natural resources or habitat with special ecological significance; Maritime heritage resources with special historical, cultural and archaeological significance; Important economic uses like tourism, fishing, diving, and other recreational activities that depend on conservation and management of the resources; and Local marine resources that face potential threats and impacts, and existing management and regulations that could help with sanctuary conservation efforts.

NOAA's acceptance of the nomination does not guarrantee that the Chumash Heritage Sanctuary will be designated. Rather, it means that NOAA will place the Chumash proposal in an inventory of areas it could consider for potential designation as a national marine sanctuary. Sanctuary designation is a separate public process that is highly public and participatory, and often takes several years to complete. For more information on NOAA's Sanctuary Nomination Process please click here.

Please stay tuned on ways you can help advance the successful designation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary!