Ocean Protection, Marine Protected Areas
March 12 2015

Marine Sanctuaries Expand in Northern California

by Pete Stauffer

For decades Surfrider members have worked to protect California's north coast from the threat of offshore drilling. That vision has now been realized in the form of permanent protections for Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

The federal government today unveiled the expanded Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries. The move by the Obama Administration enlarges the two adjoining sanctuaries by nearly 2,800 square miles, more than doubling their size. The boundaries will now extend 50 miles north to Point Arena in Mendocino County.

The sanctuary expansion will protect the region’s outstanding marine ecosystem, fisheries, and recreational areas from the threat of oil and gas drilling. The area is one of the most ecologically significant in the world and contains a diverse assemblage of marine life and habitats, as well as a major upwelling zone that provides critical nutrients for the existing sanctuaries to the south. 

The expansion will also enhance marine science and education opportunities, and protect vital socioeconomic benefits. The coastline of interest is used by thousands of Surfrider members and supporters for a variety of activities including surfing, diving, kayaking, beachcombing, fishing, and aesthetic enjoyment. These recreational and tourism opportunities support many local businesses such as motels, restaurants, and shops. 

The decision by the federal government follows years of effort by coastal advocates, community leaders, and legislators to make the proposed expansion a reality. Surfrider chapters in the region were long-time champions of the concept, providing outreach to community members and submitting public and written comments in support.

NOAA has published a final rule on the expansion in the Federal Register and Congress and Governor Jerry Brown have 45 days to provide their review. In the coming year, Surfrider's local chapters plan to particpate in the development of specific rules under consideration as part of the revised management plan. Surfrider is looking forward to supporting successful implementation of the expanded sanctuaries!