The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week asked the public to weigh in on plans to designate a new national marine sanctuary in a 7,000-square-mile space off the central California coast near San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
First nominated in 2015 by the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, a proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary designation would, NOAA said, be “an important way to preserve and recognize tribal history, safeguard marine resources, and open new doors for research and economic growth.”
The nomination also looks at ways for the agency to further the studying, interpretation and management of the area “where cooler, nutrient-rich temperate waters from the north meet warmer waters of the subtropics, providing a haven for marine mammals, invertebrates, sea birds and fish,” according to NOAA.
The area is the cradle for various species of commercial and recreational fish and a habitat for threatened wildlife, including blue whales and leatherback sea turtles.
The nomination’s boundaries don’t include the proposed Morro Bay 399 Area, which is being looked at as a potential site for offshore wind development.
NOAA is asking for input on the designation, including possible names for the sanctuary, its boundary lines and compatible uses. The public can comment until Jan. 10 via the Federal eRulemaking Portal, www.regulations.gov. The docket number is NOAA-NOS-2021-0080.
Comments may also provide input at one of NOAA’s virtual public meetings, planned for Dec. 8, Dec. 13, and Jan. 6. For more information, visit http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/Chumash-heritage.