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Feinstein Calls on Commerce Secretary to Accelerate Designation of Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today called on Commerce Secretary Ross to accelerate the designation of the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary in an effort to combat rising carbon levels in the oceans.

“California’s waters are rising in acidity at twice the global average, threatening marine life and contributing to a growing number of costly fishery disasters,” Feinstein wrote to Secretary Ross. “In addition to creating 600 new jobs, designating the proposed ‘Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary’ would protect sacred sites of the Chumash people, major animal migratory routes, and kelp habitat.”

Full text of the letter follows:

December 23, 2019

The Honorable Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.
Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Secretary Ross,

I am deeply concerned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) recent study on ocean acidification impacts on the California coastline, and I urge you to take immediate action to combat rising carbon levels in our oceans, including by accelerating the designation of the proposed “Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.”

California’s waters are rising in acidity at twice the global average, threatening marine life and contributing to a growing number of costly fishery disasters. In addition to creating 600 new jobs, designating the proposed “Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary” would protect sacred sites of the Chumash people, major animal migratory routes, and kelp habitat. California has lost nearly 90% of its kelp forests, which can absorb carbon at twice the rate of land-based forests. The designation of this area would provide an invaluable opportunity to replenish kelp in an area acutely affected by ocean acidification, and I urge NOAA to act as soon as possible.

Although NOAA approved this marine sanctuary proposal in 2015, the agency has yet to move forward with the designation process. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ (NMS) March 2019 coordination report (attached) stated “there is not active evaluation within NOAA at this time to consider moving this site forward for designation”, despite the report identifying that the proposed area “contains an internationally significant ecological transition zone, supporting high biological diversity and densities of numerous important species.” I respectfully request that you provide a response detailing why NMS is not actively evaluating this important proposal.

I urge you to move forward with and finalize the designation of the proposed “Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary” as soon as possible. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions, or have your staff contact Alexis Segal at alexis_segal@feinstein.senate.gov in my office.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

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