Monterey Bay | Finding a Sanctuary: The Birth of a Marine Sanctuary – Santa Cruz Sentinel

Congressman Leon Panetta was given permission to create a national marine reserve and by 1992 our Environmental Alliance and many others were promoting the scientific case and public support for the largest and strongest of all frontiers. But we had no illusions that we would succeed.

Then, a 5 p.m. phone call at my home in Watsonville in mid-June changed everything. It was San Jose Mercury News reporter Ken McLaughlin, who received a fax from Air Force One. President George H.W. Bush had endorsed the widest possible sanctuary.

This new National Marine Sanctuary will protect the waters from Santa Rosa Creek in San Luis Obispo County to the southern boundary of Faralones Bay National Marine Sanctuary (now the Great) off Marin County. The campaign for the greater part involved mailing action alerts, phone calls, presentations, and lobbying. Thousands of people spoke at the hearings or wrote letters of support. Without them, and the work of elected officials, offshore oil could still be on the table today between Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

The Monterey Bay National Marine Reserve will also protect its resources through a series of cooperative rules and agreements, such as those related to water quality, and will conduct research, education and outreach. Panetta promised the fishing community, which was written into the management plan, that the reserve would not regulate their work further. This responsibility will remain with the California Department of Fish and Game (now Wildlife), and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

some problems

California Governor Pete Wilson and Congressman Tom Campbell, among others, have encouraged the Bush administration to support this larger frontier. While developing its plan, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was legally required to consult with the state of California. Once we saw the final blueprint, members of the environmental community saw that it had some problems. So, after a phone call with the Vice Principal at Cal-EPA, Rachel Saunders and I from the Marine Conservation Center headed to Sacramento hoping to fix it.

One was a “donut pit,” an area of ​​about 100 square miles with no sanctuary setting, to accommodate the pre-existing Port of Oakland dredge waste dump site off San Francisco, and the San Francisco City and County Sewer system where torrential rains, sewage would flow into Storm drains. In the years since the sanctuary’s designation, San Francisco’s sewage system has been modernized, and the port no longer disposes of dredging material there. The sanctuary also did not require the highest level of sewage treatment throughout the entire sanctuary as we requested.

In our meeting, we were told that the plan was final, but in the future the environmental community could work to fix some of the problems that were identified. We encountered two questions. Was this plan acceptable? And if not, will we ever see a similar day protect a quarter of California’s 1,100-mile coastline again? My answers to these questions came on a phone call with Casey Beyer, who was an employee of Republican Congressman Tom Campbell and worked hard on designating the shelter. And he agreed with what Vice Principal Cal-EPA told us, that we should support the plan and work to improve it after hiring.

New York Times ad

Therefore, members of the Environmental Working Group supported the plan. We’ve gone so far as to speak out against the New York Times ad by some well-known environmentalists, including David Brewer, urging that the plan be scrapped and rewritten.

The announcement was monitored by Jim Root, who worked closely with State Assemblyman Sam Farr as a policy advisor to the legislature’s Joint Fisheries Committee and later became a professor. It was Root who originally raised the alarm about potential offshore oil drilling in federal waters in the 1970s. He called me and said, “Have you seen this New York Times ad? This could kill everything.” Trudy Cox was director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) division that includes the National Marine Sanctuary Program. Root felt that Cox needed to believe that most environmentalists were enthusiastic about the plan if it was to go ahead.

As I discussed in my last column, the 1992 presidential election played a major role in getting to the big limits of the haven. The delay could have pushed its classification beyond the election cycle, making it more difficult — and possibly impossible — to obtain a permanent ban on offshore oil drilling along the 276 miles of coast. Panetta had been working for years on an annual freeze of federal offshore oil drilling funding, and without offshore sanctuary status, he had to continue the effort, without a guarantee of success. Therefore, members of the Environmental Working Group spoke out against the declaration in favor of the plan.

In the end, there was no delay. Panetta worked to persuade Congress to codify protection through legislation, and the largest marine reserve at 6,094 square miles in the continental United States was baptized on September 18, 1992. This distinction was lost in 2012 when it became American Samoa’s largest reserve, at 13,581 square miles. . Today, there is hope for new havens and the expansion of existing ones – a story for another time. One part of that narrative is now developing: Chumash National Marine Heritage Preserve, covering perhaps more than 7,000 square miles off San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties, will be the first tribally nominated marine reserve.

Al Malaz Foundation

The Monterey Bay National Marine Reserve Foundation was established in 2017 to support the reserve’s mission and raise funds to supplement the federal funds it receives. One of the projects the foundation supports is the Whale Separation Team, in which the California National Marine Sanctuaries are heavily involved. To help support research, education, outreach, and resource protection at the shelter, or to learn more about the 30 plannedThe tenth Anniversary celebration on September 17 and community celebration on September 18, visit

Dan Heffley currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Monterey Bay National Marine Reserve Foundation. He served as Director of Save Our Shores 1986-1993 and O’Neill Sea Odyssey from 1999 to 2019. Accessible at [email protected]. For more information on the sanctuary’s 30th anniversary, go to

About this series

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is celebrating its 30th anniversary this fall, and the National Sanctuary System is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Ahead of the anniversary, The Guardian will publish columns by former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, along with Sam Farr, Dan Heffley, Fred Kelly, and shelter supervisor Dr. Lisa Wunink. All of these contributors serve on the Board of Directors of the Monterey Bay National Marine Reserve Foundation and were involved in the designation of the reserve. For information, visit

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: