Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala D. Harris and Congressman Salud Carbajal (all D-Calif.) today called on the Commerce Department to grant a five-year extension of the proposal to create the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary and move the designation process forward.
If designated, the marine sanctuary would conserve a diverse marine habitat, help restore California’s kelp forest and protect ancient indigenous settlements in the area.
“Designating the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary remains relevant and responsive to the national significance criteria and management considerations,” the members wrote. “The case is further strengthened by new data and discoveries since its successful nomination five years ago. We urge the Office of Marine Sanctuaries to extend this nomination for an additional five years and to move forward with the designation process to protect this critical marine habitat as soon as possible.”
Full text of the letter follows:
June 25, 2020
The Honorable Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.
Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20230
We write in strong support of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary nomination, and we request that you grant a five-year extension for this proposal. Since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) approved this marine sanctuary proposal in 2015, new data, including recent NOAA studies, have only strengthened the case for this sanctuary to be designated.
NOAA released a study in December 2019 showing that California’s coastal waters are acidifying at twice the rate of the global average. These high acidity levels are exacerbated by the alarming loss of more than 90% of coastal marine kelp forests, which can absorb carbon dioxide at twice the rate of land-based forests. Additionally, kelp forests provide critical habitat and food sources for a range of species.
Ocean acidification is a serious threat to both marine ecosystems and coastal economies. A NOAA study released this January showed for the first time that current ocean acidification levels can damage young Dungeness crabs’ shells and sensory organs, threatening the long-term viability of a fishery valued at $220 million annually.
In addition to environmental issues, this proposed marine sanctuary would protect important parts of U.S. history. In 2016, NOAA and the Coast Guard confirmed the archaeological remains off of Point Conception in this proposed area were that of the USS McCulloch, which saw action in both the Spanish American War and World War I. Similarly important cultural artifacts from the settlements of the indigenous Chumash Nation that date back nearly 9,000 years have also been identified in the coastal region surrounding the proposal.
Designating the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary remains relevant and responsive to the national significance criteria and management considerations. The case is further strengthened by new data and discoveries since its successful nomination five years ago. We urge the Office of Marine Sanctuaries to extend this nomination for an additional five years and to move forward with the designation process to protect this critical marine habitat as soon as possible.
United States Senator
United States Senator
Member of Congress
Enclosures: December 2019 Feinstein to Ross Letter
NOAA Decadal Variability December 2019 Study
NOAA Dungeness Crab Ocean Acidification January 2020 Study
NOAA Office of Marine Sanctuaries McColluch Factsheet