Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary celebrates 50 years

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To say our Monterey Bay is unique is an understatement. Some call it the “Serengeti of the Sea”. Others call the bay an “underwater pearl.” Whatever you call it, it’s special. In fact, the bay’s cultural, ecological, and biological significance, combined with its historical value, led the federal government to declare Monterey Bay a National Marine Sanctuary in 1992. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary celebrated its 30th anniversary in September, and the National Marine Sanctuary Act is celebrating its 50th anniversary on Monday, October 23rd. “National marine sanctuaries are areas that are in the ocean. They are special, protected areas under the Marine National Sanctuaries Act,” said Amity Wood, education and outreach coordinator for NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The National Marine Sanctuaries Act was passed in 1972. Since then, 15 national marine sanctuaries and two national marine monuments have been added to the system. The law protects these areas from human activities such as pollution, habitat destruction, overharvesting, and coastal development — anything that could harm Monterey Bay’s marine life, vast kelp forests, and grand underwater canyon. Woods says they use events, education and research to help educate people about the importance of the Marine National Sanctuaries Act. “America understands why it’s important to take care of and protect the environment,” Wood said. “And so equally with the National Marine Sanctuaries System, as we grow over time, we get more public support and more public involvement in protecting and conserving resources.” Wood says you can expect more coverage in the next 50 years. “We need to attract people. People need to be connected,” Wood said. “And what’s really important for us in the next 50 years is to make sure that that community involvement is diverse.” Monterey Bay is one of the largest in the conservation system, covering more than 6,000 square miles from north of the Golden Gate to the southern end of Big Sur’s coast. The fight to declare Monterey Bay a national marine sanctuary was not immediate. The bill was approved by legislation proposed by Congressman Leon Panetta. In 1988, Congress renewed the Sanctuaries Act and proposed building reserve in Monterey Bay, but that version failed because the proposed area was not large enough. Ultimately, the updated bill passed the House. However—the Bush administration was against it, so California leaders attached a disaster relief bill to as a result of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the Pres. ent signed the bill. The National Marine Sanctuary System is considering adding two new sites: the Hudson Canyon off the coast of New York and New Jersey and the Chumash Heritage, an area just below the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It will stretch from the southern end of the Big Sur coast to the Channel Islands near Santa Barbara. It is the first tribal reservation and, if completed, will extend protection from Point Arena in Mendocino County to Point Conception in Santa Barbara County. Both have the support of the Biden administration.

To say our Monterey Bay is unique is an understatement. Some call it the “Serengeti of the Sea”. Others call the bay an “underwater pearl.”

Whatever you call it, it’s special. In fact, the bay’s cultural, ecological, and biological significance, combined with its historical value, led the federal government to declare Monterey Bay a National Marine Sanctuary in 1992.

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary celebrated its 30th anniversary in September, and the National Marine Sanctuary Act celebrates its 50th anniversary on Monday, October 23rd.

“National marine reserves are areas set aside in the ocean. They are special, protected areas under the Marine National Sanctuaries Act,” said Amity Wood, education and outreach coordinator for NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The National Marine Sanctuaries Act was passed in 1972. Since then, 15 national marine sanctuaries and two national marine monuments have been added to the system. The law protects these areas from human activities such as pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing, and coastal development — anything that could harm Monterey Bay’s marine life, vast kelp forests, and grand underwater canyon.

Woods says they use events, education and research to educate people about the importance of the Marine National Sanctuaries Act.

“America understands why it’s important to take care of and protect the environment,” Wood said. “And so equally with the National Marine Sanctuaries System, as we grow over time, we get more public support and more public involvement in protecting and conserving resources.”

Wood says you can expect more coverage in the next 50 years.

“We need to attract people. People need to be connected,” Wood said. “And what’s really important for us in the next 50 years is to make sure that that community engagement is diverse.”

Monterey Bay is one of the largest in the system of reserves, covering more than 6,000 square miles from north of the Golden Gate to the southern end of the Big Sur coast.

The fight to declare Monterey Bay a national marine sanctuary did not happen immediately. The bill was approved by legislation proposed by Congressman Leon Panetta. In 1988, Congress renewed the Sanctuaries Act and proposed a sanctuary in Monterey Bay, but this version failed because the proposed area was not large enough. Eventually, the updated bill passed the house. However—the Bush administration was opposed, so leaders in California attached a disaster relief bill following Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the President signed the bill into law.

The National Marine Sanctuary System is considering adding two new sites: the Hudson Canyon off the coast of New York and New Jersey and Chumash Heritage, an area just below the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It will stretch from the southern end of the Big Sur coast to the Channel Islands near Santa Barbara. It is the first tribal reservation and, if completed, will extend protection from Point Arena in Mendocino County to Point Conception in Santa Barbara County. Both have the support of the Biden administration.

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