Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a national marine sanctuary?

Our national marine sanctuaries embrace part of our collective riches as a nation. Within their protected waters, giant humpback whales breed and calve their young, temperate reefs flourish and shipwrecks tell stories of our maritime history. Sanctuary habitats include beautiful rocky reefs, lush kelp forests, whale migrations corridors, spectacular deep-sea canyons and underwater archaeological sites. Our nation's sanctuaries can provide a safe habitat for species close to extinction or protect historically significant shipwrecks. Ranging in size from less than one square mile to 137,792 square miles, each sanctuary site is a unique place requiring special protections. Natural classrooms, cherished recreational spots and valuable commercial industries — marine sanctuaries represent many things to many people.

What is the National Marine Sanctuary System?

The National Marine Sanctuary System consists of 15 marine protected areas that encompass more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington State to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The system includes 15 national marine sanctuaries and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Why are sanctuaries important to coastal communities?

The primary objective of a sanctuary is to protect its natural and cultural features while allowing people to use and enjoy the ocean in a sustainable way. Sanctuary waters provide a secure habitat for species close to extinction and protect historically significant shipwrecks and artifacts. Sanctuaries serve as natural classrooms and laboratories for schoolchildren and researchers alike to promote understanding and stewardship of our oceans. They often are cherished recreational spots for sport fishing and diving and support commercial industries such as tourism, fishing and kelp harvesting.

Will the Sanctuary put a federal agency in charge of our coastal waters?

Several federal agencies – including the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Coast Guard – are “in charge” of our waters in various capacities. Sanctuary policy and planning will follow the principles of public participation and adaptive management. The Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will work with diverse local partners and stakeholders to promote responsible, sustainable ocean uses that ensure we maintain a healthy marine environment as the basis for thriving recreation, tourism and commercial activities that drive coastal economies. The Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will focus on protection of water quality and prohibit the disturbance of cultural resources and any future exploration, development, and production of oil and gas or seabed mining.

Will the Sanctuary allow for our local voice in its management?

A Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will increase our local voice via a Sanctuary Advisory Council, a community-based body established by federal law to assure public participation in the management of the Sanctuary. The Advisory Council’s voting members will represent the Chumash, Agriculture, At-Large, Business/Industry, Commercial Fishing, Conservation, Diving, Education, Recreation, Recreational Fishing, Research and Tourism, plus local and state government jurisdictions. Advisory Council members lay the foundation for the Sanctuary’s structure, policies, and procedures. The Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary’s goals to promote research, education, public stewardship and resource protection will be a major focus for the Advisory Council. The Advisory Council system has proven to be a powerful voice for the general public, responding to citizen concerns, ideas and needs. The Advisory Council provides a public forum for its constituents, working to enhance communications and provide a conduit for the concerns of user groups and stakeholders.

How does a sanctuary get established?

Under the 1972 Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce is authorized to designate discrete areas of the marine environment as national marine sanctuaries to promote comprehensive management of their special conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, research, educational or aesthetic resources. The U.S. Congress can also designate national marine sanctuaries. The president can also use the authority of the Antiquities Act to establish marine national monuments to be managed as part of the National Marine Sanctuary System. Learn more about the designation process here.

What is the sanctuary nomination process?

NOAA's sanctuary nomination process is a public, community-based process by which a collection of interested individuals or groups can identify and recommend special areas of the marine or Great Lakes environment for possible designation as a national marine sanctuary. The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary was officially nominated in 2015. For more information on the sanctuary nomination process visit

Will the Sanctuary affect fishermen?

The Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will protect fish habitat and water quality, ensuring a sustainable fishery. National marine sanctuaries do not regulate fishing, which is the purview of the National Marine Fisheries Service. NMFS works in partnership with Regional Fishery Management Councils to assess and predict the status of fish stocks, set catch limits, ensure compliance with fisheries regulations and reduce bycatch, both inside and outside marine sanctuaries. The Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will preserve the scenic beauty, biodiversity, historical connections and economic productivity of Central Coastal waters, conduct research and monitoring projects, offer volunteer opportunities, education and outreach events.

Is the Sanctuary compatible with offshore floating wind farms?

Conservation and renewable energy can coexist. As the proposals currently stand, the wind farms may be outside of the proposed sanctuary boundaries. While compatibility with a national marine sanctuary will ultimately depend on the specific details of the project, the supporters of the Chumash Sanctuary look forward to reviewing and conferring on renewable energy projects including offshore floating wind on the Central Coast.

Will the Sanctuary ban jet skis?

Sanctuary advocates have been meeting and working with the surfer, jetski, and fishing communities as a whole and specifically working with surf and jetski community leader Van Curaza for several years. The Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will do as the community wishes, adopting the policies informed by the local sanctuary advisory council, stakeholders and the public.
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