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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 3rd, 2016, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 17, Issue 9 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 17, Issue 9

Capps endorses Central Coast marine sanctuary proposal


U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) announced her support for the designation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary on Monday, May 2, at a press conference in Pismo Beach.

The Northern Chumash Tribal Council is spearheading the movement, which aims to designate Central Coast waters as a National Marine Sanctuary. The designation would impose federal guidelines to manage waters from Cambria to Santa Barbara, protecting them from possible fossil fuel exploitation, among other potential threats.

In a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Capps expressed her support for the sanctuary’s designation because Central Coast waters hold “both historic and contemporary importance to this region and for the culture and livelihood of its residents.”

“I have seen how sanctuaries can positively impact the waters they protect and the communities that are near them,” Capps wrote. “Sanctuaries have the power to protect and enhance our natural and cultural treasures, while bolstering coastal economies, including fisheries, and I believe that the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary has the potential to achieve all of these outcomes.”

But not everyone sees it that way. The Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business (COLAB) is among several entities firmly opposing the sanctuary proposal.

Andy Caldwell, executive director of Santa Barbara County’s COLAB, said the sanctuary designation would hurt “what’s left of” the fishing industry in Morro Bay more than it would benefit marine health.

On top of that, Caldwell said there’s not much human activity disturbing Central Coast waters in the first place.

“Our coastlines are pristine, and there’s not even very many boaters out there because the waters and the waves are fairly treacherous,” Caldwell said. “All that this is in our opinion is another layer of bureaucracy and red tape, and we’ve already got more of it than we can handle.”

Caldwell said he was unaware of any consultation between Capps and local fishermen, who already face strict regulations. He said by supporting the sanctuary designation, Capps is failing to represent the fishermen in her district.

“The bottom line is, going through extra bureaucratic layers and restrictions and stuff, it’s hard enough that these guys already face all kinds of restrictions on the industry,” Caldwell said. “It’s just a hard way to make a living.”

C.J. Young, Capps’ press secretary, said Capps’ district staff has in fact been in “ongoing talks and conversations with stakeholders throughout the Central Coast, including fishermen.”

“The sanctuary ensures that the fisheries will continue to thrive in the future,” Young said. “I think that it also provides added federal protection against polluters, and ensuring that we have the federal resources and protection to maintain the California Central Coast into the future.”

He added that the sanctuary would help maintain parts of the coast that attract tourism, which is critical to the California economy.

But Caldwell said the Central Coast is under enough protection. Considering the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Chumash Heritage designation would be “overkill.”

The Chumash Heritage sanctuary was first proposed in 2014 and nominated by NOAA in October 2015. Though the support of Capps and other local elected officials is a step toward official designation, the process could still have years to go.

Weekly Poll
What'd you make of the county's decision to close beaches for the Fourth of July weekend?

It was sensible since counties to the south closed their beaches.
I was OK with it. I set off fireworks at home instead.
It was ridiculous. The restrictions have to stop.
It didn't matter. I went to SLO County.

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