Finding sanctuary | New sanctuaries under consideration – Santa Cruz Sentinel

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is part of a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa.

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as trustee of a network of 15 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments. Through the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, NOAA can identify, designate and protect areas of the marine and Great Lakes environment that have special national significance. 

Did you know national marine sanctuaries can be nominated by their local communities? NOAA identifies areas to consider for national marine sanctuary designation through the community-based sanctuary nomination process. Nominations that successfully complete the process are added to an inventory of areas NOAA could consider for designation. There are six proposed sanctuaries going through the designation process currently, one of which is located just south of Monterey Bay sanctuary.

In July 2015, a large community consortium led by the Northern Chumash Tribal Council submitted a nomination for the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA is proposing to designate a national marine sanctuary in ocean waters of central California, to bring comprehensive community- and ecosystem-based management to the area’s nationally significant natural, historical, archaeological and cultural resources. 

NOAA has released designation documents for the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary area, based on comments received during scoping and workshops on various topics. These documents include a draft management plan that provides a roadmap for implementation of programs such as education and outreach, research and monitoring, resource protection and maritime heritage.

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It also includes a proposed framework for collaborative management to ensure tribal participation in the sanctuary and inclusion of traditional ecological knowledge, culture, and values. Draft documents include a draft proposed rule that describes the proposed regulations and a draft environmental impact statement required by the National Environmental Policy Act, that analyzes the impact of designating the new sanctuary.

These documents have been released and NOAA is asking for public comment ( Look for the notices for dates and locations of public informational workshops and comment hearings, along with how people can submit written comments. 

NOAA is proposing a sanctuary that would encompass 5,617 square miles of marine waters along 134 miles of the mainland coast in central California, offshore of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. It would stretch from Hazard Canyon Reef at the north end of Montaña de Oro State Park, to just south of Dos Pueblos Canyon, site of one of the largest historical Chumash villages, along the Gaviota Coast.

NOAA’s Agency-Preferred Alternative for the new sanctuary extends offshore to include Santa Lucia Bank, Rodriguez Seamount and Arguello Canyon, and would include six state-designated marine protected areas (MPAs). To view draft boundary alternatives, visit nmssanctuaries.blob. 

This sanctuary will provide a haven for marine mammals, invertebrates, sea birds, and fishes; create an overarching framework for community-based spatial management for many threats; and recognize Indigenous and tribal history and culture in the area.

If you would like to stay up-to-date on the proposed designation of Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, consider signing up to receive periodic email updates. You can find out more about how this designation process works at

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Lisa Wooninck became the superintendent of NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 2021. She has a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology, and marine biology from UC Santa Barbara. She can be reached at To learn more about the sanctuary, visit

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