Proposed Designation of Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries invites the public to participate in the designation process for the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary on the central coast of California. The Northern Chumash Tribal Council (NCTC) submitted the sanctuary nomination in July 2015, and NOAA is considering sanctuary designation to protect the region's important marine ecosystem, maritime heritage resources, and cultural values of Indigenous communities.

The proposed area stretches along 156 miles of coastline, encompassing approximately 7,670-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 the geologic features Santa Lucia Bank, Rodriguez Seamount, and Arguello Canyon offshore of central California.

map of the California coast depicting the boundary for the proposed chumash heritage national marine sanctuary along with boundaries of Monterey bay and channel islands national marine sanctuaries

Area proposed for Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.

Credit: NOAA

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Proposed Designation of Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary Factsheet

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kelp forest

Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) forest located at Cojo Anchorage near Point Conception, Calif., hosts a variety of invertebrates, fish and marine mammals.

Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

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montebello preparing to dock

Launch of tanker SS Montebello at Southwestern Shipbuilding Co., San Pedro, Calif., in 1921. Montebello was later torpedoed by a Japanese submarine south of Cambria, Calif., in 1941.

Credit: Unocal

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montebello preparing to dock

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

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view of the shoreline from the beach

Jalama Beach is a popular destination for surfing, sport fishing enthusiasts and beachcombers.

Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

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many boats at a dock

Morro Bay harbor is homeport to commercial fishing, sport fishing, whale watching and recreational boats.

Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

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view from the rock shore to morro rock, a volcanic plug

Morro Rock, a volcanic plug, is located at the entrance to Morro Bay, tribal place names Salinan Le'samo and Chumash Lisamu'.

Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

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view from point conception of the sea

Point Conception, traditionally known by the Chumash people of the region as the "Western Gate," juts out where northern, cold water currents meet southern counter currents from the subtropics. The area's complex undersea geology, combined with cold nutrient-rich waters that upwell from the deep, make it a global biological hotspot that sustains diverse marine life and habitats.

Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

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waves crashing on the rocks below point conception lighthouse

The second Point Conception lighthouse was rebuilt in 1881 and relocated to the lower bluff of the cape 133 feet above the Pacific Ocean, where fog would be less likely to obscure the light.

Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

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sea otter in kelp at water's surface

Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are native to California's central coast. The kelp keeps them from drifting away and provides camouflage from predators.

Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

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wreck of the ss san pedro at the bottom of the sea

Shipwreck site of the steam schooner wrecker SS San Pedro lost in 1894 while salvaging the coal cargo from the shipwreck Gosford at Cojo Anchorage.

Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

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view of the shore and the ocean

Aerial view of Sibley Ranch, part of UC Santa Barbara's Kenneth S. Norris Rancho Marino Reserve, south of Cambria.

Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

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crabs covering corals and sponges

Deepwater bubblegum coral, a host for California king crab, observed during 2020 E/V 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

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sandy bank next to the santa maria river

Santa Maria River estuary at Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve is a popular seabird watching destination, and was once a seafood gathering place for the Chumash people.

Credit: Robert Schwemmer, NOAA

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Credit: NOAA

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