The US government this week began the process to designate the country’s first tribal-led marine sanctuary.
The proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary would protect sacred Chumash sites, feeding grounds for numerous species of whales and dolphins, sea otter populations, kelp forests, and is home to vital commercial and recreational fisheries.
If approved, the sanctuary would comprise a 7,000-square-mile/18,130-square-kilometer area off the central California coast, adjacent to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
Violet Sage Walker, the Northern Chumash Tribal Council Chairwoman, hailed the announcement:
“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. 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.”
According to the council:
“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.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking public comments on the proposed sanctuary. For instructions on how to submit a comment, go here.
Comments are due by January 10th, 2022.