Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

An Area in Need of Protection

The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary is dedicated to the nurturing of relationships to Nature and the Ocean in the deepest ways possible. The Chumash understanding and culture-based respect for Nature comes from their long and profound relationships with coastal marine ecosystems.

The proposed Sanctuary embodies internationally and nationally significant oceanographic features, habitat and sacred Chumash onshore and submerged sites, some as far as 13 miles offshore. Codependent onshore resources include the high coastal dunes, wetlands and Chumash Sacred sites continuously occupied for 9,000 or more years.
Other significant features include: the major offshore Santa Lucia Bank with benthic communities of world-wide significance where 13 species of whales and dolphins gather and feed; three major upwellings, one of which is persistent, bringing up nutrient-rich water to feed marine life that also enhances the ecosystems of the two adjacent Sanctuaries; a 3,000 meter deep five-fingered submarine canyon through which the west coast’s only persistent upwelling flows; cetacean gathering areas and migration lanes.

Additionally, there are a significant percentage of the California sea otter population; thriving kelp forests; rocky intertidal regions with world-class fish diversity and densities; large numbers of pinnipeds including pupping areas and a significant percentage of harbor seals; spawning areas and rookeries; nurseries; three estuaries; high coastal dunes; magnificent views and vistas; and, the splendid waters of Morro, Estero and San Luis Bays.

This area of proposed protection, between the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and out to the western slope of the Santa Lucia Bank, warrants protection under the National Marine Sanctuary Program for the purpose of embracing the Chumash concept of “thrivability” wherein a deep understanding of this unique and precious marine environment is embodied within its local human inhabitants.

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