NOAA moves toward designating new national marine sanctuary off central California

NOAA moves toward designating new national marine sanctuary off central California
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is moving toward designating a national marine sanctuary off the coast of central California.

In a statement on Tuesday, the agency said it is taking public comments for designating the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary in a 7,000 square mile-area adjacent to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

The agency is asking the public for input on the sanctuary’s name, its boundaries, compatible uses, and how best to promote marine science and education initiatives.

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NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad said the area “supports a way of life for many communities that rely on commercial fishing and enjoy recreational fishing, kayaking, surfing, diving, and wildlife watching.” 

"NOAA heard strong support from tribal leaders, a diverse set of groups, state officials, and several members of the California congressional delegation for moving forward with this proposed national marine sanctuary,” Spinrad said.

The designation is aimed at protecting the region’s marine ecosystem, heritage resources and cultural values of Indigenous communities while allowing NOAA to manage compatible uses within its boundaries, the agency said. 

The move aligns with an executive order President BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal MORE signed in January in which he directed his administration to work with state and local leaders, as well as other stakeholders to conserve at least 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030.

The Northern Chumash Tribal Council asked the NOAA to consider the proposed sanctuary for designation in 2015.

In a statement, the council said it looks forward to working with NOAA to “collaboratively steward this critical coastline for the benefit of current and future generations.” 

NOAA said the area has tribal history and an internationally significant ecological transition zone, where cooler waters meet warmer waters, which provides a haven for marine mammals, invertebrates, seabirds and fish. The area also has kelp forests, beaches, coastal dunes and wetlands.

NOAA is seeking public comment on the proposed sanctuary until Jan. 10, 2022. It will hold three public virtual meetings on the proposal on Dec. 8, Dec. 13 and Jan. 6.