Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary Moves to Designation Phase

SANTA BARBARA, CA — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla, Dianne Feinstein, and Representative Salud Carbajal (all D-Calif.) joined the U.S. Department of Commerce in announcing that the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary (CHNMS) off the Central Coast of California will advance to the designation phase. This announcement marks the start of a public process to safeguard the marine resources along 140 miles of California’s coastline from oil drilling and recognize those waters for their cultural, economic, and ecological significance.

“I’ve been proud to call for the creation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, and I’m glad to see the Biden-Harris Administration moving forward with the designation process to protect these waters off California’s Central Coast,” Senator Alex Padilla said. “This designation will honor the heritage of the Chumash, who first sailed and fished this coastal region, and will preserve the natural beauty and unique ocean ecology that is vital to the local economy.”

“I am thrilled the Biden administration has taken this step to protect our coastal areas from further oil and gas drilling and strengthen our state’s $1.9 trillion coastal economy, which is propped up by tourism and commercial fishing,” said Rep. Carbajal. “Bringing the proposed sanctuary into the designation phase is the result of years of public engagement and I am grateful that we are one step closer to permanently protecting our coastline for future generations to inherit and enjoy. I am also thankful for the steadfast leadership of the late Fred Collins, Chairman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, whose legacy of advocacy was instrumental in moving this project forward.”

“It’s wonderful news that the Commerce Department continues to move the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary proposal forward and is now seeking public input,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein. “This sanctuary would protect sacred Chumash cultural sites while helping combat climate change by saving one of the largest remaining kelp forests. It’s time to designate this important region off our coast as a permanent marine sanctuary.”

“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,” said Violet Sage Walker, Northern Chumash Tribal Council Chairwoman and Fred Collins’ daughter. “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.”

“This Administration is committed to taking a holistic approach to addressing the climate crisis,” said Gina M. Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce. “Together, the Department of Commerce, through NOAA, and the Department of Interior, along with many partners, are increasing resilience by conserving and restoring the natural and cultural resources that benefit our country and our planet; working to reduce emissions by fostering clean energy like offshore wind; and supporting frontline communities by helping them build back smarter and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Proposals like the Chumash Heritage sanctuary and Morro Bay 399 Area are great examples of how we can advance these goals in conjunction with each other.”

“This proposal demonstrates the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to lifting up community-led efforts to conserve our lands and waters and strengthen our economy,” said Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior. “Local voices, Indigenous knowledge, and collaborative stewardship will be integral to our efforts to bolster community resilience, protect our natural resources, and build a clean energy economy.”

“On California’s Central Coast, we have a chance to both harness the wind energy potential of our ocean and better protect the area’s extraordinary natural and cultural heritage,” said Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor. “To tackle the climate crisis we must – and we will – move ahead simultaneously with conservation and smartly-sited clean energy production.”


The waters of the Central Coast between the Monterey Bay and the Channel Islands marine sanctuaries are some of the most biologically diverse and ecologically productive regions in the world. The marine resources in the region includes feeding grounds for numerous species of whales and dolphins, sea otter populations, kelp forests, and is home to vital commercial and recreational fisheries. These resources are essential to California’s $1.9 trillion coastal economy and supports $731 billion in wages, according to NOAA.

The Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary has been on the sanctuary nomination list since 2015. In July 2020, Congressman Salud Carbajal, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and then-Senator Kamala Harris asked the Department of Commerce to grant a five-year extension to keep the proposal on the nomination list, which was agreed to.

In August, Senators Padilla, Feinstein and Representative Carbajal led a letter urging the Biden administration and NOAA to advance the CHNMS nomination into the designation phase. The proposed sanctuary will now enter the scoping phase, which includes input from the public and is the first phase in a four step process.


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