Surfrider’s long-term effort to establish a National Marine Sanctuary off the central California coast needs your help! 

The waters off Central California are some of the most productive, culturally significant, and biologically diverse on the West Coast. Significant features include Chumash sacred sites, feeding grounds for 13 species of whales and dolphins, three major upwellings, sea otter population, thriving kelp forests, world class fish diversity, pinniped spawning areas – the list goes on and on. Yet, these invaluable resources are highly vulnerable to human impacts, including potential offshore drilling and other harmful activities.

For these reasons, Surfrider Foundation and our allies including the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, Sierra Club California, and Surfrider’s San Luis Obispo Chapter nominated the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary (CHNMS) to become a national marine sanctuary. The area proposed stretches from Santa Rosa Creek in Cambria to Gaviota Creek in Santa Barbara, protecting marine habitat along some 140 miles of coastline. This would be the first sanctuary to focus on indigenous culture and history as a primary core value along with protection of ocean habitat. 

In 2015, the nomination was accepted and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) added the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary to the inventory of areas that may become a sanctuary. Unfortunately, since NOAA has not started the sanctuary designation process, this nomination has reached it’s five-year review and must be re-evaluated to remain eligible for designation for another five years. 

Your help is needed to show this area continues to have significant ecological, historical, cultural, recreational, economic, and archaeological significance and deserves to become a sanctuary! 

In the last five years, pressure on California’s marine environment has only increased with threats of offshore oil and gas development, seabed mining, climate change, and more. With the designation of this sanctuary, the Chumash Nation and local communities could work with federal and state partners to protect this vital stretch of coastal and marine waters, and stimulate marine research, education, stewardship, recreation and tourism. 

Public comment is open now through June 15 to help evaluate the nominated site’s continued relevance and responsiveness to the 11 criteria on national significance and management considerations. Here is a link to the Federal Register notice. Submit your comments HERE.

NOAA is offering a virtual public meeting on May 27, 2020 at 6:00PM. Registration is required in advance.  After registering online, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions on how to join the meeting. Register HERE 

Whichever venue you choose, state that you are responding to Criteria #7, identify where you live, what group(s) you are active with, and that you support the sanctuary nomination. In your own words, speak to your personal experience with these coastal waters, and their ecological, cultural, recreational, economic or archaeological significance. Emphasize the need to conserve and manage these coastal resources to protect them from potential threats.

For information on the five-year review process for the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, go to