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Four CA Marine Sanctuaries Under Review, Could Be Downsized

Purple Coral thrives in the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off the California coast, which is under federal review. (Dr. Steve Lonhart)
Purple Coral thrives in the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off the California coast, which is under federal review. (Dr. Steve Lonhart)
July 25, 2017

MONTEREY, Calif. - Four marine sanctuaries off the California coast are at risk of being downsized, possibly to make way for oil-drilling operations - and people only have until tomorrow to put in their two cents.

The public comment period is coming to a close on a review ordered by President Trump of all national marine sanctuaries and marine monuments designated over the past ten years.

Geoff Shester, California campaign director and chief scientist at the nonprofit Oceana, says he believes this is the beginning of an effort to restart drilling off the California coast, which has been frozen for decades.

"This is really an attack on everything that Californians hold dear," he says. "This is about our coast. They call these sanctuaries the 'Serengetis of the Sea' because highly migratory animals are coming from all over the world. And these are just extremely valuable in so many ways."

The targets of the review include boundary expansion areas comprising about 3,500 square miles at four sanctuaries off the California coast, including waters at the Channel Islands, Cordell Bank, Greater Farallones and Monterey Bay.

Jane Davenport, senior staff attorney for the group, Defenders of Wildlife, says any potential profits for the oil companies are far outweighed by the risk of a catastrophic oil spill like the BP disaster or the Exxon Valdez - especially now that oil prices are so low.

"Why would we even consider risking that marine wildlife and all the benefits to the people of California and the rest of the United States for oil that we don't even need?" she asks. "It just makes no sense whatsoever."

Conservation groups have vowed to sue if the administration decides to downsize the marine sanctuaries unilaterally by executive order.

Davenport says any changes would have to adhere to the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, which lays out a long rule-making process, with extensive public input.

You can weigh in on the Federal Register's website.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA