For the first time since the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was formed 20 years ago, the chairperson of the agency’s citizen Advisory Council is from the sanctuary’s southern end. The marine preserve stretches 276 coastline miles from Cambria to Marin County.
Cambria resident Margaret “P.J.” Webb, an attorney, was unanimously elected to the post on April 25.
Sanctuary superintendent Paul Michel said Monday in an email interview that Webb is an “excellent choice for chair,” bringing to the office “a fair and balanced approach to council deliberations and advice to the superintendent. She has been a committed and tireless representative of the southern region of the sanctuary.”
The sanctuary’s council coordinator Sara Hutto said Webb was a shoo-in for the office. “P.J. is one of the most devoted members we have on our council, so we really value her leadership role.”
Webb practices public-interest law, focusing primarily on marine conservation and wildlife advocacy. She’s been an at-large representative on the sanctuary council since 2004 and received a National Marine Sanctuaries Volunteer of the Year award in 2011.
She worked with the Marine Sanctuary Alliance to develop strategies to protect the Central Coast from offshore oil drilling and served as a liaison for the Marine Interest Group, a panel of countywide stakeholders collaborating on issues ranging from coastal business and tourism to water quality concerns.
Webb also is known throughout the Central Coast for her advisory, outreach, education and rescue efforts on behalf of The Marine Mammal Center, Friends of the Elephant Seal, Coastal Discovery Center and the Women’s Community Center. She’s a past president of the county’s Women Lawyers Association.
Webb said in an email that she’s “very excited” about her new challenge, which “allows me an opportunity to represent the southern end of the sanctuary and advocate for continued and enhanced protection for our natural coastal resources. As the sanctuary approaches an update of the management plan review, I look forward to being a proponent for issues that are important to our community and our region.”
She noted, “There are new initiatives and projects that reflect our local concerns. Public input brought concern over seismic acoustic testing impacts, resulting in a new NOAA initiative on ocean noise strategy.
“Another effort being launched is the new recreation and tourism working group to connect local businesses to the sanctuary and bring information that will benefit our recreation and tourism businesses.”
Webb lauded her predecessors Chet Forrest and Ron Massengill, along with “local volunteers who work tirelessly monitoring our beaches, sampling our water quality and educating visitors and local residents and their children.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oversees U.S. marine sanctuaries, among many other responsibilities. For more about the Monterey Bay preserve, go to http://montereybay.noaa.gov. It is one of the largest marine sanctuaries in the United States and is larger than Yellowstone National Park.