Lois Capps voices support for marine sanctuary off Central Coast

Rep. Lois Capps and numerous other elected officials Monday threw their support behind the formation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.

At a press conference on the Pismo Beach Pier, Capps, D-Santa Barbara, was joined by San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx and Pismo Beach City Councilman Erik Howell to voice their support of the marine sanctuary.

If designated, the marine sanctuary would cover an expansive area of the Pacific coastal waters, stretching 140 miles from Cambria to Santa Barbara, with the goal of protecting a diverse ecosystem that includes dolphins, whales, white sea bass, sardines, mackerel, kelp and elephant seals.

It would fill a gap between the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to the north and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary to the south. Among other things, the sanctuary would protect the coastline from offshore oil drilling.

“Living in such close proximity to the water, we are reminded daily of the natural beauty of our region,” Capps said. “These waters are essential for our way of life and the local economy, and they must be protected.”

The marine sanctuary was first proposed in 2014 and was officially nominated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in October. The designation has the strong support of environmentalists but is opposed by the fishing industry.

Official designation could take several years to achieve.

“There’s a lot of work to do, and we are going to get it done,” Gibson said. “What’s good for the ocean is good for us all in the long run.”

Marx called the coastline a treasure and said it is in danger of oil drilling and other damaging activities unless it’s protected. Also on Monday, Capps sent a letter to NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan stating her support for the marine sanctuary designation and asking her to act on the application.

In order for the area to receive the sanctuary designation, the site must go through the complete designation process, which includes drafting a management plan and several opportunities for public comment and review.