NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries received over 1,200 comments during the 83-day
public comment period. Several comments received showed confusion as to which step of the
proposed designation process NOAA is currently in. NOAA is still in the early stages of the
designation process, having only completed the public scoping period, which is the first
step of the designation process. NOAA is currently reviewing all public comments and a team
of staff are drafting a management plan and environmental impact statement based on all
comments received. In late 2022, NOAA intends to release those draft documents which will
give the public another opportunity to provide comment.
If you would like to stay up-to-date on the proposed designation of Chumash Heritage National
Marine Sanctuary, consider signing up to
periodic email updates.
November 10, 2021 – January 31, 2022
Three virtual public meetings held December 8, 2021, December 13, 2021,
January 6, 2022.
Electronic public comments submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal,
www.regulations.gov, to docket number
Written public comments mailed to NOAA Sanctuaries West Coast Regional
Review of Public Comments and Preparation of Draft Documents
February 2022 - Winter 2022/2023
ONMS staff review all public comments submitted during the scoping period and
produce a draft management plan, draft environmental impact statement, proposed
regulations and proposed boundaries.
Release Draft Designation Documents and Provide for Public Comment
Target: Spring 2023
Public review and comment on the draft designation documents.
Prepare Final Designation Documents
After reviewing public comments on the draft designation documents, ONMS staff
make adjustments and produce the final designation documents.
Publish Final Designation Documents
Target: Early 2024
Target: Early 2024 Area of Proposed Designation
Deepwater bubblegum coral, a host for California king crab, observed during 2020
Nautilus exploration of the Santa Lucia Bank. Corals and sponges that make
up the area's seafloor habitats provide food and shelter for recreationally and
commercially important fish species. Credit: OET/NOAA; Additional photos available on
the media resources page.
The area proposed for sanctuary designation, adjacent to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara
counties, would recognize Chumash tribal history in the area and protect an
internationally-significant ecological transition zone, where temperate waters from the
north meet the subtropics, providing a haven for marine mammals, invertebrates, sea birds,
and fishes. The proposed area stretches along 156 miles of coastline, encompassing
approximately 7,000-square miles from Santa Rosa Creek near the town of Cambria, San Luis
Obispo County, south to Gaviota Creek in Santa Barbara County, and extends offshore to
include Santa Lucia Bank, Rodriguez Seamount, and Arguello Canyon. NOAA is reviewing
suggestions received during the scoping process about larger and smaller sanctuary
alternatives to the proposal below.
Area proposed for Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: NOAA
A view of the steering wheel on the bridge of the USCG Cutter
McCulloch. The McCulloch sank when it collided with the passenger
steamship SS Governor on June 13, 1917. Credit: NOAA/USCG/VideoRay
The proposed area is known for its extensive kelp forests, vast sandy beaches and coastal
dunes, and wetlands serving as nursery grounds for numerous commercial fish species, and
includes important habitat for many threatened and endangered species such as blue whales,
southern sea otter, black abalone, snowy plovers, and leatherback sea turtles. There are
many nationally-significant shipwrecks throughout this maritime landscape.
Numerous threats have been identified to resources within the proposed area. Sanctuary
proponents believe a national marine sanctuary offers solutions in guiding coordinated and
comprehensive ecosystem-based management, including organizing and stimulating marine
research, education, stewardship, tourism, and recreation, as well as providing protection
for important native cultural sites.
NOAA’s proposed sanctuary designation is based on the nomination submitted by the Northern
Chumash Tribal Council in July 2015, excluding any geographical overlap with the proposed
Bay Wind Energy Area for offshore wind development.
NOAA Administrator Dr. Rick Spinrad
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for 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. The network
includes a system 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