A report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has identified several threats to the health of California’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
Growing coastal populations, shipping and climate change are among the risk factors reported by the NOAA, despite the organization listing the overall condition of the sanctuary as fair to good. The maritime archaeological resources of the sanctuary also face looting, natural degradation and damage from fishing gear and anchors.
“Marine sanctuaries are designated because they’re so special and diverse,” Chris Mobley, CINMS sanctuary superintendent, said. “It’s really important to keep them around for future generations to enjoy.”
Since 1980, the NOAA has been protecting the marine resources of the 1,470 square miles surrounding the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands. The ocean habitats within the sanctuary contain a vast amount of marine life as well as historical and cultural resources, making the location of the sanctuary desirable for research done at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute and Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.
According to Steven Gaines, the director of MSI, the location is important for researchers.
“It’s a hot spot for biodiversity in the ocean because it’s on the collision of both hot and cold currents, thus making it very unique,” Gaines said. “It’s an area proven to be really valuable to the understanding of climate change, and it can work as an early warning system to how the environment responds to such change, along with being a beautiful place that’s right in our backyard.”
The report said global climate change is already affecting the marine biodiversity and biological productivity of the ocean, resulting in increased seawater temperatures, changes in currents and a rise in sea level. The growing population in nearby cities and counties, as well as vessel traffic and pollution, are shown to be causing fundamental changes in marine and coastal ecosystems and are cause for concern.
Mobley said UCSB students should visit the sanctuary and take part in its preservation.
“Take a trip to the Channel Islands,” Mobley said. “You’ll be blown away after seeing them in person, and it’ll fuel an interest in preserving such a beautiful oceanic resource.”
Mobley said changing oil in one’s car, properly disposing of waste and using recyclable plastic bags are all simple steps that coastal residents can take to help preserve the environment of the ocean.
“We pick up a lot of bags that weren’t properly disposed,” Mobley said. “It’s really all about changing personal habits.”
Breanna Schlags, a fourth-year environmental studies major, said the sanctuary is an important resource and should be protected.
“I feel as a UCSB student that is currently working toward my environmental studies major that it’s extremely important to preserve such a resource and its surrounding environment,” Schlags said. “This is our planet, and this is where we live.”
To view the full NOAA condition report on the marine sanctuary, please visit http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/science/condition.