Since it became federally protected water in 1980, the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), located 25 miles off the Santa Barbara Coast and encompassing the waters around the Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara Islands, has not been extended.
This morning, the CINMS Advisory Council meets to consider doing just that.
Members of the council and the public will discuss potential boundary-expansion alternatives for the National Marine Sanctuary from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Goleta.
Environmentalists seek to extend the sanctuary’s 1,252 square miles, and to designate some of that area as marine reserve, which would increase regulations against fishing, nearby drilling and other use. As a sanctuary, the Channel Islands area is closed to oil drilling, but open to other commercial uses.
“The National Marine Sanctuary’s name is misleading; they don’t restrict much,” UCSB Marine Science Institute Director Steve Gaines said. “They restrict oil development, but no restrictions whatsoever on fishing, collecting … they make it harder for researchers than for fishermen.”
Fishermen have actively argued against turning the sanctuary into a reserve. The CINMS Science Advisory Panel has concluded that a reserve size 30 to 50 percent of the area of the sanctuary would protect the goals of both conservationists and fisheries. At a meeting last October, local fisherman Tom Cushman said, “A 30- to 50-percent no-take zone might result in a 30- to 50-percent loss in our income.”
The panel stated that a minimum reserve size of 70 percent of the sanctuary would sustain the inhabiting species, while 35 percent would maximize the fisherman’s take.
“Because species diversity increases with area, and because some species require larger areas to maintain self-sustainability, marine reserves for conservation must be as large as possible within the [economic] constraints imposed by fishers and other users,” a panel report stated.
Environmentalists say the sanctuary must be extended to cover a bigger sample of the ecosystem, and the increased territory would prevent companies interested in oil drilling from expanding.
“Every chance we don’t take to increase protection is perhaps leading down a very slippery slope to opening places for oil drilling,” California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG) Director Jeanette Gayer said.
Conservationists also hope to extend the area of the sanctuary. The National Marine Sanctuaries Program seeks to “maintain, restore, [and] enhance living resources by providing places for species that depend on marine areas to survive and propagate,” Michael McGinnis, deputy director of UCSB’s Ocean and Coastal Policy Center, wrote in “The Natural Limits of Consensus: The Case of Marine Ecosystem Management.”
McGinnis said that while making the sanctuary larger could help, it is important to extend the protections for the species on the island described as “diverse as the Gal