Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary


San Luis Obispo, CA – On the anniversary of the late Chief Fred Collins’ birthday, the Northern Chumash Tribal Council announced their inaugural distribution of the Fred Collins Environmental Warrior Student Scholarship. In honor of Chief Collins’ legacy, this scholarship will be awarded annually to a student pursuing a career in environmental and cultural stewardship. Each year on his birthday, December 31st, the honored recipient of this award will be announced. This scholarship is an opportunity to uplift the next generation of fierce environmental justice advocates.

Chief Fred Collins was the Lone Wolf of environmental protectors, a strong voice for the voiceless. He faced many battles to protect his ancestors and the places the Chumash call home. He is well known as the original nominator of the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, but his stewardship did not end there. He accomplished dozens of wins for environmental justice, including securing the first resolution in the US by the County of San Luis Obispo recognizing and adopting the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Fred was a fierce advocate for the protection of Oceano Dunes, Carrizo Plain National Monument, and Lisamu’ (Morro Rock). He worked towards the concept of thrivability, emphasizing that it is not enough to merely survive, but that if we are good stewards of our lands and waters, we can all thrive. His legacy is carried on in many different ways by his community and it will continue on for many more generations to come.

This year’s recipient is Maura Sullivan, a member of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation and a Ph.D. student working on her doctorate in linguistics living in Bulbancha, the unceded homelands of our southern relatives including the Atakapa- Ishak, Houma, Chittimacha and many other coastal tribes of what is now known as Louisiana in New Orleans at Tulane University. ​​Language and culture are deeply intertwined. Working towards language revitalization is an important aspect to expressing our sovereignty as Chumash people. Maura’s research took her to the unceded homelands of the Piscataway, Pamunkey, and Mattaponi relatives, in what is now the settler colonial capital of Washington D.C., to work at the Smithsonian archives. She has continued her work in language and culture revitalization for the last ten years. She is a Chumash woman, enrolled with the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, and tied to the community surrounding the tomol and other ancestral practices. 

Maura got her B.A. at U.C. Berkeley in History of Art and Native American studies, a double major which allowed her to think more deeply about our ancestral artistic practices in dialogue with western notions of art. She remained passionate about the Chumash language and looked to study linguistics as a way to learn more about our languages and try to help others as well. She started graduate work in 2018 and received her Master’s in Linguistics from Tulane in 2022, becoming ABD (all but dissertation) in late 2021 with her research proposal “Redefining our Record: Chumash Inquiry in Smithsonian Archives” looking to research our language from our own Chumash cultural lens. Currently, her research has included creating videos and working to revitalize archival materials into usable materials for language and culture learning. Ultimately, her dreams are to create more ways for Native speakers to access the Chumash languages and to keep building her own skills as a speaker.

Maura Sullivan reacted to her award of the Scholarship in honor of Chief Fred Collins. 

“Fred was so passionate and knowledgeable about coastal ocean heritage and willing to share and speak up for our ocean and her relatives. He brought so much joy to people on the island when he was singing loud and proud our Chumash songs to bring the tomol in. It was so beautiful to see an elder, especially our men, expressing that joy and beauty and pride in being Chumash.

Our paths would cross doing ocean advocacy work. His work putting forth the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary has been very inspiring and a great example of what we can do to try and work within the colonial systems to protect our ancestral homelands and homewaters.

His enthusiasm and response was always appreciated, he was so excited about my journey with our languages and I feel that support now with receiving this gift of a scholarship in his name. I’m grateful for this opportunity and say a big heartfelt kaqʰinalin to the NCTC and our whole community for the ongoing support with my language journey. “

Northern Chumash Tribal Council Chairwoman and Sanctuary Nominator Violet Sage Walker has the honor of presenting at the international Our Ocean 2022 conference in Palau. Her remarks will be streamed LIVE Wednesday April 13 between 6:10 pm and 7:25 pm PDT (9:10 pm - 10:25 pm EDT) on the conference website. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for the specific time Violet goes live! 

Violet already received a special shout out earlier this week from Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry - check it out here!

A few quick updates...

on the sanctuary designation campaign.

The LA City Council voted unanimously yesterday to approve a resolution in support of the Chumash Heritage sanctuary! “We must do all we can to protect these local ecosystems, and we urge the federal government to approve this groundbreaking proposal from the Chumash,” said Councilmmber Mitch O’Farrell who co-authored the resolution, along with Councilmember Paul Koretz. A huge thank you to the LA City Council for supporting our efforts! You can read the full text of the resolution here

San Luis Outdoor Painters for the Environment (SLOPE) is organizing “SLOPE Honors Pristine Coastal Visions” - a showing and sale of inspired paintings dedicated to the coastline with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Northern Chumash Tribal Council and the sanctuary designation campaign. Now through May 30, stop by Art Central Gallery (1329 Monterey St, San Luis Obispo), open Mon-Sat from 10-5 and Sundays from 12-4, to view these beautiful paintings and support the sanctuary effort! 

A big thank you to SLOPE for organizing this wonderful benefit! 

Last week the 30x30CA website was launched to support important conservation efforts including the Chumash Heritage sanctuary. The #PowerInNature campaign highlights California’s diverse array of landscapes, and the communities, advocates, and Tribes working to protect the land and their cultures. The site features local voices, interviews, and photography that evoke the spirit of #30x30CA — a community-driven initiative to protect 30% of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030. Please check out

Volunteer Opportunity!

The sanctuary designation team will be tabling for Earth Day at Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo on Saturday, April 23 from 11am to 4pm. Please stop by and say hi! We’re also looking for two volunteers to help with set up and take down as well as handing out swag and signing people up for our email list. Interested? Please email 


Los Osos, California – More than 30,000 people expressed their support for the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, according to analysis of comments submitted to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and posted on The 83-day public comment period, part of NOAA’s scoping process for the Chumash Heritage NMS off the Central Coast of California, ended on Jan. 31.  

“The incredible outpouring of support for the Chumash Heritage sanctuary shows just how much people care about this incredible part of the world,” said Violet Sage Walker, Northern Chumash Tribal Council (NCTC) Chairwoman and the daughter of original nominator Fred Collins. 

“Community members and business owners in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, scientists, ocean users of all kinds, and indigenous people from around the world spoke out in a strong voice, ‘Protect this sacred place now!’”

NOAA received 22,479 comments during the public scoping process, including several letters signed by thousands of individuals and organizations. Of the 21,828 posted comments analyzed by NCTC, more than 99% indicated support for the sanctuary. NOAA will continue to process and post comments submitted before the Jan. 31 deadline over the coming weeks.

Supportive comments were submitted from people around the country, including a strong showing of local support from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Comments supporting the sanctuary were submitted by hundreds of Central Coast residents, more than 30 regional businesses, and eight conservation organizations with local Central Coast chapters. 

“Over the last 15 years of tabling, knocking on doors, sending postcards, circulating petitions, and organizing meetings and benefit film showings on behalf of the marine sanctuary throughout the Central Coast, we’ve seen support for a sanctuary rising steadily but we were blown away by these numbers,” said Andrew Christie, director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Tribes and other indigenous organizations, including the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, Brotherhood of the Tomol, and Northern Chumash Bear Clan voiced their support during the comment period. 

Joint letters were also submitted representing 156 scientists and marine researchers as well as the Monterey Bay Aquarium on behalf of 75 aquariums and zoos. Patagonia, the prominent global outdoor clothing and gear brand headquartered in Ventura, also submitted a letter in support.

Federal, state and local elected representatives shared their strong support, including U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, Reps. Salud Carbajal, Jimmy Panetta, Jared Huffman, and Julia Brownly, and State Senator John Laird. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution in support of the sanctuary in December.  

The NOAA designation process has four steps. The scoping process has just concluded. Next, NOAA prepares draft designation documents and conducts environmental reviews, followed by a second public comment period for input on these draft documents. After considering this public input, NOAA will prepare a final designation document and adopt a final environmental impact statement.

Under the current proposal, the Chumash Heritage NMS will protect upwards of 7,000 square miles of ocean and 156 miles of coastline from Cambria to Gaviota Creek. The proposed sanctuary will bridge the gap between the existing Monterey Bay and Channel Islands sanctuaries to create hundreds of continuous miles of protected ocean. 

The sanctuary nomination was submitted to NOAA in 2015 by Fred Collins, the late Chairman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, with the support of a group of local environmental organizations. Efforts to designate a sanctuary on the Central Coast date back more than 40 years. Visit to learn more.

More information about NOAA’s designation process for the proposed Chumash Heritage sanctuary is available at, or by contacting Paul Michel, West Coast Region Policy Coordinator at (831) 241-4217,


Santa Barbara, California – Yesterday, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to send a resolution of support for the designation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary (CHNMS). Santa Barbara County Supervisors Das Williams; Gregg Hart and Steve Lavagnino joined Chair Bob Nelson and Vice Chair Joan Hartmann to express their support.

“The CHNMS would protect Chumash sacred sites and preserve the heritage of Chumash Peoples who have resided in this area since time immemorial,” the resolution states. “Climate change, human uses, and other threats present an imminent need to increase protections of our coastal waters.”

Sam Cohen, Government Affairs and Legal Officer of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, and Linda Krop, Chief Counsel for the Environmental Defense Center, both spoke in favor of the resolution supporting the sanctuary.

The proposed sanctuary includes waters off the northwestern coast of Santa Barbara County, and would allow for the prohibition of offshore oil drilling, seismic testing, and other environmentally harmful activities.  

On November 10th, 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a Notice of Intent advancing the public process to designate the CHNMS.

Violet Sage Walker, the Northern Chumash Tribal Council Chairwoman and nominator of the sanctuary, graciously accepted Santa Barbara County’s resolution of support and encouraged the County and the entire Central Coast community to engage in the public scoping process which is underway until January 31, 2022.

“Successfully designating the Chumash Heritage sanctuary will protect ocean life, sacred Chumash sites, strengthen Indigenous communities and serve as a model of environmental justice,” Sage Walker stated. “We look forward to working with local communities including the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors during the public scoping process and beyond to ensure the proposed sanctuary serves the needs of our community.”

Visit to learn more about the proposed sanctuary and how you can support it.


Washington, DC – Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a Notice of Intent advancing the public process to designate the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary (CHNMS). Violet Sage Walker, the Northern Chumash Tribal Council Chairwoman hails this announcement as a crucial first step towards President Biden’s initiative to conserve and restore at least 30 percent of our nation’s lands and waters by 2030. 

“Successfully designating the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will protect ocean life, sacred Chumash sites, strengthen Indigenous communities and serve as a model of environmental justice,” Sage Walker stated. “Today’s announcement marks a major milestone after more than 40 years of tireless advocacy for ocean protection, and also represents the first tribally nominated sanctuary in the nation. Today my father would be proud. This is one of the things he wanted to see the most.”

Fred Collins, the late Tribal Chair and Nominator, had a lifelong vision for establishing the Chumash Heritage NMS to conserve precious life and cultural sacred sites in heritage waters. “Grandmother Ocean has been providing life to the Chumash Peoples for over ten thousand years, now is the time for all communities to work together and assist her in rebuilding her Vibrant Thrivability for all future generations,” Collins said before he passed into spirit on October 1, 2021, just 40 days before this announcement. 

Chumash have been the guardians of the Central Coast of California since time immemorial and look forward to working with NOAA and other partners to collaboratively steward this critical coastline for the benefit of current and future generations. We join with Indigenous Communities around the world working together to find solutions to better protect the Earth and all who depend upon it. We would also like to thank our grassroots supporters like the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Marine Sanctuary Alliance, Environmental Defense Center, Wishtoyo Foundation, and thousands of allies for their commitment and hard work to get us to this point.

Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) wrote to the U.S. Commerce Secretary and the NOAA Administrator in August to urge advancement of the proposed Chumash Heritage NMS for designation, noting: “The waters off the Central Coast of California are some of the most biologically diverse and ecologically productive regions in the world. This spectacular marine environment includes feeding grounds for numerous species of whales and dolphins, sea otter populations, kelp forests, and is home to vital commercial and recreational fisheries. Designating this area as a marine sanctuary would ensure we continue to be good stewards of these natural resources while maintaining sustainable access for commercial and recreational fishing.”

“It’s impossible to fully calculate all the benefits the Central Coast will receive as a result of the ecosystem-based management that a national marine sanctuary brings, as marine sanctuaries offer environmental protections other regulations don’t,” noted Andrew Christie, Director of the Santa Lucia Sierra Club.

All of our many supporters should take this opportunity to celebrate this moment as we continue all our efforts towards ultimate designation. Visit to learn more about the proposed sanctuary and how you can support it.

Estero Map
Violet Sage Walker (center) with Sylvia and Leon Panetta
Violet Sage Walker (center) with Sylvia and Leon Panetta


OCT. 22, 2021 

Although I spent most of my career in Washington, D.C., my home and heart have always been along California’s beautiful Central Coast. Growing up along the shores of Monterey Bay inspired my lifelong commitment to promoting responsible stewardship of our oceans.

California’s ocean has been integral to its culture and people since long before statehood. Coastal and inland Native American tribes depended on and cared for the ocean for thousands of years. Our coast continues to give, providing food, jobs and recreation — all important to California’s economy.

Unfortunately, the health of the ocean itself has too often been taken for granted; we wrongly assume its bounty and capacity to absorb waste are limitless. And the recent oil spill off Huntington Beach is an alarm we cannot ignore — the health of our coast and the wildlife, people and economies that depend on it cannot continue to absorb these avoidable catastrophes.

Twenty years ago, I helped lead the Pew Oceans Commission, a nonpartisan effort that advanced science-based recommendations that congressional leadership from both sides of the aisle and Democratic and Republican administrations have since made meaningful progress to carry out. That progress, however, is threatened by the rapidly escalating effects of climate change, including rising ocean temperatures and sea levels, increased incidents of disease, and ocean acidification.

When I was in Congress, I worked with a bipartisan coalition to establish the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, permanently protecting the area from future offshore oil and gas development. For nearly three decades the Monterey Bay sanctuary has provided immense benefits to the communities along, and the ocean life within, its waters. Today, I believe the time is right to create a new sanctuary in California, this time in partnership with tribal communities.

The path to creating the Monterey Bay sanctuary was far from smooth. It took years of community protests and intense congressional intervention to prevent Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush from opening the California coast to oil development. After the Exxon Valdez oil tanker dumped nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989, President Bush finally announced his support for creating the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

It was with a sense of deja vu that I watched the Trump administration issue an oil and gas leasing plan that proposed opening 90% of federal waters nationwide for 47 new lease sales, including six off California.Despite federal and state efforts to protect California’s treasured coastline, the threat of new oil drilling remains all too real. As the oil-covered beaches of Orange County have shown yet again, the consequences for ocean life and coastal communities are disastrous and expensive, and will be long lasting.

Along California’s central coastline, from Santa Barbara to Cambria, there is a prime opportunity to act right now. Led by former Northern Chumash Tribal Council Chair Fred Collins, community members in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties have fought their own multiyear campaign to create a sanctuary. Sadly, Collins died on Oct. 1 before his dream could be realized. But his dream does not die with him, and the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary deserves President Biden’s support and prompt action.

The Chumash Heritage sanctuary would protect an area, long targeted for offshore oil and gas development, that contains Chumash cultural and sacred sites as well as sensitive ocean habitats. Sanctuary designation would advance ecosystem-based planning to protect fisheries, seabirds, marine mammals, estuaries and beaches and promote appropriately sited offshore wind energy.

Consider the alternative: A significant oil spill in this area would threaten a major portion of California’s shoreline, putting at risk nearly half the state’s coastal waters and beaches.

Designation of the Chumash Heritage sanctuary would be historic as a major federally protected ocean area led by Indigenous people and an apt complement to Biden’s recently restored protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, all supporting his commitment to protect 30% of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030.

We owe it to the careful stewards of both the past and future generations to protect our coast. It is time to approve the Chumash Heritage sanctuary, transition to clean energy and do all we can to ensure the latest California oil spill is our last.

Leon E. Panetta founded the Panetta Institute at Cal State Monterey Bay. He served as U.S. secretary of Defense, director of the CIA, White House chief of staff, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and as a member of Congress from California’s Central Coast for 16 years.

Originally published in the LA Times

Sierra Club has reprinted the recent Real Clear Policy op-ed by Violet Sage Walker, traditional vice-chairwoman of the Northern Chumash Tribe, in their latest newsletter and it would be great if folks could lift it up! 

In the op-ed Violet describes the opportunity for the Biden Administration to designate the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary – what it would mean to her and her tribe as managers and protectors of these coastal waters for millennia, and how it would exemplify the principles laid out in the Biden Administration’s recently released Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful report, which recommends supporting locally led and locally designed conservation efforts; honoring tribal sovereignty; and providing support for tribal nation priorities. 

If you can, please help amplify using the social below:

When and where we dive with Nautilus has been a moving target this past week with equipment failures and bad weather conditions (wind and swell). We’ve be hiding in the lee of Channel Islands and just completed two dives over the past two days. A week sooner than anticipated – we all rallied and Lizzie Duncan pulled it off. We saw tons of sponges and corals and made numerous collections.

Tomorrow (Oct 16) we transit to Santa Lucia Bank and will have our first dive on deeper portions of the bank 1500m – 1250 m starting at 1600 to 0800 the next day, You can follow along via Then we transit to Davidson to give the MBNMS team at least one additional diveon the SW corner of Davidson. Because of the equipment failure and weather they lost out on 5 of their planned dives and thus far only completed one. Then back to Santa Lucia to dive on the Escarpment (3500m to 2000m) on Oct 18 from 1600 to perhaps 1200 the next day, pending another bad weather window coming in. We will go back to CINMS and if the weather models hold we will return to Santa Lucia on Oct 23 and 24 (or so could be later) for two additional dives – not sure where yet, I have 4 targets to choose from. It depends on what we find on the first two dives and weather.

Violet Sage Walker is participating in an OET outreach event on Oct 19 at 1PM PST to share about the Chumash connections to this place. Hope you can join via Youtube or FB!

Next on Nautilus: Channel Islands NMS & Santa Lucia Bank

Monday, October 19th at 10 am Hawai’i / 1 pm PST /  4 pm EST

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary has been explored at shallow depths, but scientists on this expedition will be exploring deeper areas in need of immediate management decisions. The team will also explore an area west of Santa Lucia Bank, which is a proposed location in a nominated Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. Join Violet Walker, Lizzie Duncan, Laura Francis, Lisa Wooninck, and Julie Bursek as they discuss how scientists manage Sanctuaries and why expeditions like this one are so important.

Tune in LIVE on our Facebook page or YouTube channel. Viewers on all platforms will be able to type in questions for the presenters live.

Carbajal, Feinstein Applaud NOAA Decision to Keep Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary on Nomination List

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Salud Carbajal and Senator Feinstein applauded National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on their recent decision to keep the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary on the nomination list for designation as a marine sanctuary.

“Marine sanctuaries play an essential role in protecting California’s sensitive marine and coastal areas from further oil and gas development. Designating this unique region on the Central Coast as a National Marine Sanctuary will help preserve our natural environment and cultural heritage while also helping to fight climate change.” said Rep. Carbajal. “Protecting our biologically diverse marine areas also directly benefit our state’s $1.9 trillion coastal economy, including our robust tourism and commercial fishing industries. I am thankful this five-year extension was granted, and I urge NOAA to move forward with designating this area as a sanctuary to protect it for future generations.”

“The Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary would protect sacred Chumash sites while helping combat climate change, said Senator Feinstein. “Permanently designating the sanctuary would protect one of the largest remaining kelp forests while preserving our cultural heritage. Kelp forests absorb twice as much carbon as forests on land, but California has already lost more than 90 percent of its kelp. I welcome this five-year extension but it’s a no-brainer that this should be made permanent as soon as possible.”

The deadline for the proposal to either move forward with designation as a national marine sanctuary or be removed from the nomination list was October 5th  . In July 2020, Congressman Salud Carbajal, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator Kamala Harris urged the Department of Commerce to grant a five-year extension of the proposal to create the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.

NOAA recognized the broad community support for the nomination, reviewed new evidence of the historical significance of the region, and agreed to a five-year extension on the proposal on October 1st.

“In the last five years, climate change has been biting down hard,” said Andrew Christie, director of the Sierra Club’s Santa Lucia Chapter. “The collapse of these coastal resources would be devastating. We commend NOAA for its decision and look forward to the day when this sanctuary will expand efforts to understand climate impacts in this area and incubate strategies for building resilience in our backyard and world-wide.”

“Since 2015, impacts of climate change on our local oceanographic and atmospheric features remain unknown and present significant and necessary research opportunities,” said Carol Georgi, Ocean Protection Program Coordinator for the San Luis Obispo Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, “including the complexity of the persistent upwelling through the Arguello Canyon, the lush environment of Rodriguez Seamount, the Santa Lucia Bank upthrust block, and Point Conception, the border between two oceanographic provinces and meteorological zones. The proposed sanctuary area is within this transition zone.”

Fred Collins, Chair of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, said the re-nomination decision represented a victory for “thrivability — all things connected, all things dreaming together for the abundant life of Grandmother Ocean — for fishermen and fisherwomen, tourists, and all that dwell on the shining, magical, mysterious, majestic coast line of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.”

Rep. Salud Carbajal represents California’s 24th congressional district, encompassing Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and part of Ventura County.


Mannal Haddad | 202-281-7612 (Rep. Carbajal)

Adam Russell | 202-549-5783 (Senator Feinstein)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has completed our five-year review of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary nomination and determined that this nomination continues to meet the 11 sanctuary nomination process criteria. The nomination will remain on the inventory of areas NOAA may consider in the future for national marine sanctuary designation until October 5, 2025. We look forward to working with you and community members interested in long-term, comprehensive conservation of this area as we consider possible designations of national marine sanctuaries in the future.

Please contact Bill Douros or Dr. Lisa Wooninck if you have any questions.

Full Letter - 5 Year Review

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