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Local News

NOAA Releases Plans for Managing Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

The documents address key issues, including resource protection, vessel discharge and water quality.

The NOAA has released the final management plan, regulations and final environmental impact statement for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

The final plan provides a framework for the sanctuary to expand its research, education, outreach and enforcement programs, create and enhance partnerships, enhance wildlife protections, develop a water quality program, and reduce ocean impacts from vessels.

Priorities listed in the plan include expanding multicultural education, aerial monitoring of sanctuary resources and collaborative marine research programs, and studying the social and biological effects of marine reserves.

The plan also calls for the completion a new sanctuary office building and education center on the UCSB campus, monitoring and inventorying maritime heritage resource sites, and “greening” sanctuary operations.

“We developed the new management plan with extensive community involvement, and we are proud that it charts a forward-looking course to protect the sanctuary’s rich marine ecosystems while allowing compatible, sustainable human uses,” sanctuary superintendent Chris Mobley said.

The result of years of study, planning and extensive public input, these detailed documents are major revisions of the sanctuary’s original management plan and address key issues, including resource protection, wildlife disturbance, vessel discharge, non-native species and water quality.

The final plan consists of nonregulatory actions, but some changes to sanctuary regulations clarify and strengthen protections for marine habitats, sensitive species, water quality and submerged cultural and historical resources. Highlights of the regulatory changes include:

» protecting natural ecosystems from the introduction of non-native species

» protecting the area’s water quality by prohibiting harmful vessel discharges

» prohibiting discharges beyond the boundary of the sanctuary that enter and damage the sanctuary’s resources

» improving habitat protection by limiting or prohibiting activities that impact the sea floor

The final environmental impact statement analyzes potential environmental and economic effects of the sanctuary regulation changes.

A goal of the management plan is to expand the sanctuary’s leadership role in ocean education through programs such as the award-winning Multicultural Education for Resource Issues Threatening Oceans program. The MERITO program earned a 2008 Department of Commerce silver medal, one of the highest forms of recognition awarded by the Secretary of Commerce, for implementing a bilingual outreach program that expands awareness to Latino communities and inspires community involvement in ocean issues.

For a copy of the final management plan, regulations, and final environmental impact statement, visit the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary office, click here or call 805.884.1464.

Shauna Bingham represents the NOAA.

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