My last six columns explored the national marine sanctuaries that protect 15,500 square miles, or 5 percent, of America’s west coast outer continental shelf waters permanently from offshore oil drilling.
The rest — 294,473 square miles or an area a bit larger than California and Nevada combined — under federal control are eligible for drilling, though they are protected until 2022 due to executive action taken by then-President Barack Obama.
The west coast national marine sanctuaries, from south to north, include Channel Islands surrounding its namesake island chain off Santa Barbara, Monterey Bay which extends from northern San Luis Obispo County north to San Francisco Bay, Cordell Bank, then Greater Farallones Sanctuary that extends up past the southern part of Mendocino County, and finally, Olympic Coast off Washington State. Channel Islands is the oldest west coast site, having been established in 1980. Greater Farallones — formerly known as Gulf of the Farallones in tribute to the islands it surrounded — and Cordell Bank Sanctuaries were expanded in size in 2015.
An outcome of the 1969 oil spill during an offshore drilling operation off Santa Barbara, California was the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act, approved by Congress and signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972. It authorized the establishment of marine sanctuaries and today, 13 of them located in the ocean and Great Lakes are managed for their ecological or cultural values and to promote resource protection, research and education.
Besides rules such as a ban on oil and gas drilling, they also, among other things, protect marine heritage sites such as shipwrecks. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service oversees the sanctuaries, along with two national marine monuments, with varying levels of protection.
National marine sanctuaries protect habitats and the plants and animals they host…