Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary:

The First Tribally Nominated U.S. Sanctuary

Learn More

The Opportunity

Marine biodiversity – the variety of life in our ocean – underpins the health of the planet and our social and economic well-being. The ocean - where 99 percent of all livable space on Earth exists - makes life possible.

For more than 40 years, Chumash leaders, local community members, and elected officials along California’s Central Coast have advocated for the establishment of a new national marine sanctuary to better protect ocean area along the California Central Coast. This area’s unique features — including rocky intertidal habitat, a submarine canyon, and upwellings of cold nutrient-rich seawater — are teeming with marine life including massive kelp forests, sea otters, harbor seals, whales, dolphins, and important bird rookeries. But this vulnerable area is threatened by offshore oil development, pollution, and climate change. The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary would help protect biologically productive and diverse ocean and coastal ecosystems and advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s America the Beautiful Initiative, which is supporting locally led conservation efforts across the country.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) opened the public comment process for the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary and collected public input on a Draft Management Plan and accompanying Draft Environmental Impact Statement through October 25, 2023.

The Threat

The ecological and cultural resources off the California coast are threatened by oil and gas development. Any significant oil spill in the Chumash region would threaten an area from Santa Monica Bay to Santa Cruz, putting at risk nearly half the state’s coastal waters and beaches. Even without spills, continued offshore oil and gas development in this region also causes air pollution impacting onshore communities and undermining California’s climate change goals and policies. Scientific research shows that the area proposed for protection by the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary already is experiencing climate change impacts, such as ocean acidification, at a rate twice that of the world’s oceans. The area’s nationally significant natural, historical, archaeological, and cultural resources will benefit from comprehensive community- and ecosystem-based management.