A proposal to designate an expansive stretch of coastal waters off the Central Coast as a national marine sanctuary has hit a snag.
The Northern Chumash Tribal Council authored the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary proposal and formally submitted it to the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, during a recently opened nomination window. The last such nomination period to open was in the early 1990s.
As proposed, the sanctuary would span 90 miles of coastline and veer 70 miles off the coast in some places, connecting with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to the north and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary to the south.
Once formed, sanctuaries create an advisory body that plays a guiding role in setting policy and conservation and management goals within their respective boundaries. Such a body could, for instance, aim to prohibit oil drilling and seismic testing. Whether a designation would limit commercial fishing in the proposed Chumash sanctuary has been a considerable debate, leading fishermen to oppose the sanctuary’s nomination.
In a March 6 letter to Fred Collins, chairman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, ONMS Director Daniel Basta informed Collins that the nomination was deemed insufficient and wouldn’t be considered in the in-depth process.
The agency found four key management considerations lacking. According to the letter to Collins, the areas that were deemed insufficient didn’t fully describe how current uses threaten the area’s future significance; the ways in which a sanctuary would provide unique management and conservation for the area; the ways in which a sanctuary would supplement existing management and regulatory authorities; and “which partners, if any, have made commitments to the nomination concept.”
Collins told New Times that he plans to revise the nomination package and resubmit it.
“It gives a chance to take a step back and look at it all really well, and move forward again,” Collins said. “This is a grassroots effort. This is for the children of our future.”
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay