Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is NOAA proposing to designate a national marine sanctuary along the central coast of California?

A: NOAA is proposing Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary to manage, interpret, and protect the area’s nationally-significant history and underwater cultural and natural resources. Through research, education, and community involvement, NOAA would work to foster long-term conservation and public awareness about this unique area. In partnership with local communities, NOAA would provide a national stage for promoting heritage tourism and recreation opportunities in the sanctuary. Designation would bring new scientific, technological, and financial resources to identify, understand, conserve, and interpret the natural and cultural resources of the sanctuary. It would also provide an opportunity to highlight Indigenous cultural heritage and utilize traditional ecological knowledge in the management of the sanctuary’s resources.

Q: Would the proposed sanctuary restrict commercial or recreational fishing?

A: NOAA is not proposing to regulate fishing. The agency would coordinate with federal and state fishery managers and engage with potentially-affected fishermen, should issues arise in the future. NOAA consulted with the Pacific Fishery Management Council as part of the designation process.

Q: Would the proposed sanctuary create new or add to existing restrictions on recreational boating?

A: NOAA is proposing discharge regulations that would prohibit recreational vessels from discharging sewage,oily bilge water, or certain other discharges into sanctuary waters. With this proposed regulation, existing discharge restrictions in state waters would be extended throughout the sanctuary. Vessels would need to have a marine sanitation device or use sewage pump-out or dump stations or mobile pump-out services to discharge sewage. At this time NOAA has not included a regulation limiting operation of motorized personal watercraft, but if the proposed sanctuary is designated, NOAA may suggest the future Sanctuary Advisory Council conduct a public process to evaluate if such regulations may be warranted.

Q: What activities will be prohibited in the proposed sanctuary?

A: NOAA proposes to adopt 11 regulations that are generally consistent with regulations in the adjacent Monterey Bay and Channel Islands national marine sanctuaries. Proposed regulations would prohibit, with some exceptions allowed, new offshore oil and gas development; wildlife harassment; alterations to the seabed; sewage and certain other discharges; disturbance of historical resources; attracting a white shark; deserting a vessel; and introduction of introduced species into the sanctuary. Please see the proposed rule for the full list of proposed prohibitions. NOAA is including various exemptions and exceptions to these prohibited activities found at other sanctuaries including several different permit processes.

Q: Why is the boundary proposed in the Agency-Preferred Alternative different from the sanctuary boundary submitted in the nomination?

A: In identifying the Agency-Preferred Alternative, NOAA has considered which boundary alternative would be most manageable while simultaneously maximizing the principal resource protection purposes for the sanctuary. The preferred boundary achieves several objectives:

  1. it allows NOAA to focus its management on significant areas and natural resources, including offshore features like the Santa Lucia Bank and Rodriguez Seamount, in to shore to include kelp forests, sandy and rocky reefs and other areas;
  2. in turn this allows a focus on areas historically important to the Chumash tribe and natural resources important to their heritage;
  3. it removes an area where a large number of subsea electrical transmission cables from offshore wind leases to the Morro Bay area that would likely be unprecedented in a national marine sanctuary;
  4. it ameliorates concerns raised by several bands of the Salinan tribe regarding naming the sanctuary “Chumash” in that area which they identify as being part of their ancestral homeland.

Q: In what specific areas is NOAA seeking public comment?

A: NOAA is asking for the public to review the notice of proposed rulemaking, the draft environmental impact statement, and the draft management plan and provide feedback on the documents. NOAA welcomes all comments, but is specifically asking for input on:

  • Whether NOAA should move forward with the Agency-Preferred Alternative, the No Action Alternative, or one of the other boundary alternatives described in the draft environmental impact statement;
  • The proposed terms of designation and proposed regulations for the sanctuary; and
  • The proposed goals, strategies, and activities in the draft management plan.

NOAA will consider these comments when preparing the final environmental impact statement, final management plan, and final rule to designate the sanctuary.

Q: Where did the name of the proposed sanctuary come from? Will there be an opportunity to comment on the proposed name or submit suggestions for a different name?

A:The sanctuary nomination from July 2015 that ONMS accepted into the inventory proposed calling the new sanctuary “Chumash Heritage.” When NOAA initiated the designation process in November 2021, it asked for public input on many considerations, including what the new sanctuary should be named. Public comments received at that time were overwhelming in favor of maintaining the proposed name, although other Indigenous communities in the broader region have objected to the name.

Now, with the publication of the draft designation documents, NOAA is proposing to designate the area identified in the Agency-Preferred Alternative as a national marine sanctuary named "Chumash Heritage." Members of the public are welcome to comment on the name and all other elements of the proposed sanctuary designation.

Q: What steps has NOAA taken to solicit input from Tribes and Indigenous communities on the proposed sanctuary designation?

A: From the outset of the designation process (November 2021), NOAA reached out to local area Chumash and Salinan Tribes and other Indigenous groups to invite them to become involved. NOAA heard from nine tribes and Indigenous Community groups, with many submitting written comments during the scoping comment period. NOAA conducted a series of meetings with interested tribes from December 2021 through August 2022. That input from participating tribes and Indigenous communities was instrumental in guiding what NOAA has proposed as a framework for Indigenous collaborative management. Furthermore, in May 2022, NOAA invited local area tribes to participate in a series of issue-based workshops focused on generating ideas for sanctuary program priorities. NOAA hired the Udall Foundation to assist with Tribal community outreach and discussions, resulting in a series of informative and insightful meetings with tribes conducted in September-October 2022. Throughout the designation process, NOAA has also been formally consulting on a government-to-government basis with the federally recognized Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. Following release of the draft management plan, NOAA will invite the tribes and Indigenous communities to another round of meetings in order to assure their input and assistance helps shape the final designation details especially with regard to the proposed collaborative management framework.

Q: What is the framework that NOAA envisions for Indigenous collaborative management and how was it drafted?

A:A proposed framework for collaborative management has been drafted that offers tribes and Indigenous community members a variety of opportunities to engage in guiding sanctuary management and cultural programming. The proposed framework was developed following several meetings with local area tribes that occurred during and following the scoping period for the proposed sanctuary. In August 2022, it was presented to several interested local tribes, and shared with the general public in an informational Webinar on Aug. 26, 2022. The framework can be found in the draft management plan. NOAA welcomes further comment on the proposed framework and will seek additional input from tribes and others.

Q: How would NOAA address offshore wind development in or near the proposed sanctuary area?

A: To address the climate change crisis, the Administration is committed to advancing in tandem the complementary goals of marine conservation and clean renewable energy per Executive Order 14008. Therefore, the Agency-Preferred Alternative for potential designation as a national marine sanctuary excludes the geographical overlap of the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area. This proposed boundary excludes a wide area (area between the proposed sanctuary and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary) in which subsea electrical transmission cables and floating offshore substation(s) could be installed to connect the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area to the electrical power grid at Morro Bay. BOEM estimates there could be up to 30 cables, and NOAA is concerned this may present a level of impact that would likely be unprecedented in a national marine sanctuary. NOAA has been participating and will continue to participate in the ongoing planning processes for offshore wind energy development by BOEM and the State of California. Separate from the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area, the State of California is reviewing separate potential offshore wind proposals within the state waters of the proposed boundaries for Chumash Heritage NMS.

Q: How would the proposed sanctuary involve the agricultural community?

A: The draft management plan discusses non-regulatory approaches to monitor and improve water quality and watershed health by working with partners. This is the main way the sanctuary would engage with the agricultural community. The new sanctuary would seek out partnerships and programs to work collaboratively on water quality. For instance, ONMS and California SeaGrant are already engaged in an innovative program working with the agriculture community in this area to reduce plastic waste that could flow to the ocean. The hope is to build a similar program of action to the Ag Water Quality Alliance (also called “AWQA”) implemented at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. See