National marine sanctuaries are important tools for protecting places of natural and cultural signiﬁcance, while promoting use and enjoyment of the ocean. For more than 40 years, Chumash leaders, local community members, and elected leaders along California’s Central Coast have advocated for the establishment of a national marine sanctuary to protect diverse ecosystems, high marine mammal, seabird, and ﬁsh biodiversity and abundance as well as extensive cultural Chumash sacred sites.
The Northern Chumash Tribal Council proposed the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary that would protect an offshore area along more than 150 miles of California coastline. Not only would the sanctuary protect biologically productive and diverse ocean and coastal ecosystems, it would also provide an important early contribution to state and national 30x30 goals, mark the ﬁrst Tribal-led national marine sanctuary designation, and elevate Indigenous participation and cultural signiﬁcance in federal ocean conservation efforts.
The recent oil spill off Huntington Beach made clear that 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, 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.)
On November 9, 2021, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Biden Administration formally proposed designating the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. Public comment on the proposed sanctuary designation is open until January 31, 2022. NOAA will host virtual public meetings on December 8, December 13, and January 6, during which members of the public can offer oral comments - join one of these meetings and voice your support for the formal Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.