NOAA has received a mandate to review the status of all National Marine Sanctuaries, potentially allowing increased offshore oil and commercial fishing. Additionally, in January the Trump administration said it would allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States coastal waters, including near our west coast National Marine Sanctuaries. These national biological and cultural treasures are our Nation’s legacy and critical for the long term health of marine ecosystems, our economy and our heritage. We urge NOAA and the Department of Commerce to adhere to CEQA and the requirements under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and follow overwhelming public support to leave the boundaries of our Sanctuaries alone and prohibit offshore oil development off the west coast.
Together, Shark Stewards, The International Marine Mammal Project and Earth Island Institute are gathering public support, comments and advocating to resist any changes in Sanctuary status and offshore oil exploration and development of the west coast.
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD ENDS MARCH 9.
Join Earth Island with Shark Stewards, Center for Biological Diversity, Surfrider Foundation and others February 8 at a public meeting and event in Sacramento. Other meetings for comment will be held around the US in states with coastlines proposed to be explored.
The National Marine Sanctuaries are California’s and our Nation’s cultural and biological treasures. Supported by millions of American citizens, and developed with widespread State and Federal support to protect whales, seabirds, marine wildlife and ecosystems, the Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, Cordell Bank, and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries symbolize our natural legacy and protect some of the healthiest marine ecosystems in the world. Over forty years, under both parties, we have developed a national system that protects ocean resources while providing sustainable recreational and economic benefits to our citizens and visitors to the California coastline. The presidential mandate to review our Sanctuaries protective status and offshore oil development places this protection under risk.
As one of the few centers of large-scale ocean upwelling, our coastline hosts large populations of schooling fish and is a global destination for many species of great whales like the mighty blue whale and migratory seabirds such as the Sooty Shearwater. This dynamic upwelling system drives the oceanic food web providing nutrients for plankton and small fish to proliferate.
“The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that there have been 187 large oil spills between 1981 and 2005 in OCS areas open to drilling, with each spill releasing more than 2,100 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. ”
Coastal islands provide critical nesting, breeding and feeding habitat for endangered seals and provide nesting habitat to the largest population of seabirds in North America. The rich rockfish assemblage of the deep-water Cordell Bank, a quarter million nesting seabirds of the islands of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the Humpback and Blue Whales frequenting the coast of Monterey, the lush kelp forest ecosystems of the Channel Islands: these are all part of our National Marine Sanctuary. So is the value to Native Americans, scuba divers, fishermen, whale watchers and the children who come to our shore to explore and learn.
Seven areas offered for new drilling would be in Pacific waters off California, where drilling has been off limits since a 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara. In 1969 a Union Oil Co. oil rig blowout gushed 80,000 barrels of oil into the ocean, covering shorelines and critical habitat for fish, marine mammals and seabirds. Dead and dying dolphins, seals and seabirds washed up on tarred shores as the oil contaminated the coastal ocean.
Like the Deepwater Horizon and other Gulf Spills, and the recent Refugio spill of Santa Barbara, the heavy hydrocarbons, toxic chemicals and residues has devastating impact on our marine wildlife, coastal ecosystems and domestic fisheries. Adding to this in the 1970s, overfishing threatened the balance of our coastal marine ecosystems and threatened marine mammal populations causing starvation and disease. Driven by overwhelming public support, Congress responded by establishing our first National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Santa Barbara, followed later by 4 more west coast Sanctuaries. These same Sanctuaries are now at risk to harm from oil exploration and future spills.
Over the summer of 2017, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross responded to an executive order aimed at increasing offshore oil and gas drilling, and provide recommendations on which of America’s national marine sanctuaries and ocean monuments should be eliminated or have their boundaries reduced in size. Although the report has been withheld from the public, nearly 100,000 comments were received with 99 percent in favor of retaining the existing boundaries of the protected ocean areas. National Environmental Policy Act establishes the federal Council on Environmental Quality (CEQA) and mandates a process for federal agencies to fully assess and evaluate the impacts of their actions on the environment and disclose those impacts to the public.
We urge the BOEM and all reviewing agencies to carefully consider the overwhelming public support for protecting our coastal environment and the important economic benefits our Sanctuaries provide, and not allow any increased offshore oil exploration or production or decrease in protective status of our California Marine Sanctuaries.
Join us At 1:30 pm for a press conference and at the North Steps of the California State Capitol (1100 L St. Sacramento, CA 95814).
At 2:30 pm we will march to the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria (828 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814) for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) meeting.
At 3:00 pm we’ll enter the meeting and let BOEM know that new drilling is not welcome off our coast or in any of our oceans.
Transportation is being arranged. Contact for more information.