Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

Historic move for Indigenous-led marine conservation in America

Marine sanctuaries serve as critical areas for safeguarding both marine ecosystems and cultural heritage. The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary in California represents a significant advancement in achieving these goals.

The Biden-Harris administration, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has introduced a significant proposal for a new national marine sanctuary along California’s coast. Developed after comprehensive consultations with tribal nations, state and federal entities, and Indigenous communities, the proposed sanctuary aims to collaboratively manage 5,617 square miles of ocean while furthering the nation’s conservation objectives.

“This proposed sanctuary would advance President Biden’s commitment to conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. ocean waters by the end of the decade,”

U.S Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

Journey that began with the Indigenous communities

The sanctuary is unique in that it’s the first Indigenous-led nomination for a national marine sanctuary. This reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s focus on co-stewardship and honoring the input and insights of tribal leaders. The sanctuary aims to protect important cultural and ecological sites while advancing broader conservation goals.

Strategic location that adds to existing efforts

The proposed sanctuary boundary stretches along 134 miles of coastline, connecting existing marine protected areas. It aims to create an ecological corridor for fish and wildlife, facilitating better movement and a healthier marine environment.

Map of the Agency Preferred Alternative boundary of the area NOAA is proposing to designate as Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

More than just ocean waters

The proposed sanctuary encompasses a rich variety of marine habitats. From rocky shores and kelp forests to endangered species like southern sea otters and blue whales, the sanctuary aims to protect a significant ecological transition zone critical for marine biodiversity.

Management that’s rooted in collaboration

NOAA plans to integrate tribal and Indigenous perspectives in the sanctuary’s advisory council and other decision-making processes. This inclusive approach aims to provide a robust framework for marine resource conservation, economic development, and community engagement.

The role of renewable energy

Interestingly, the sanctuary proposal includes provisions for renewable energy, particularly for offshore wind deployment. NOAA is keen to align sanctuary management with responsible offshore energy development, demonstrating an integrated approach to conservation and energy needs.

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries manages a network of 15 marine sanctuaries and two marine national monuments, covering more than 620,000 square miles. Through the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, NOAA identifies and protects areas with national significance. The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary aims to be the latest addition to this critical system.

Comprehensive look at NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System by region

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries manages a network of 15 marine sanctuaries and two marine national monuments, stretching across over 620,000 square miles. Each sanctuary or monument serves a unique purpose in conserving marine biodiversity, protecting historical landmarks, and fostering sustainable use of our ocean resources. Let’s take a closer look at the sanctuaries by their respective regions:

Eastern Region Sanctuaries

West Coast Region Sanctuaries

Pacific Islands Region Sanctuaries

Each sanctuary within this vast network plays a crucial role in fulfilling the larger conservation goals of the United States, as defined by the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. With the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, the network aims to make another significant addition. Learn more about these sanctuaries and how they contribute to the nation’s efforts in conservation at:

Conclusion: It’s about the legacy we leave behind

The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary not only fulfills immediate conservation goals but also has far-reaching implications for future generations. By incorporating a multitude of stakeholders and considering various aspects like renewable energy, it presents a nuanced blueprint for sustainable coexistence. As we think about the future, such initiatives remind us that conservation is not just about protecting lands and waters but about safeguarding the diverse life they host.


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