Finally, some good news for American coasts! Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee passed the “Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries Boundary Modification and Protection Act.” The legislation, which Senators Boxer and Feinstein introduced in January, would permanently protect California’s coastal waters and estuaries in Sonoma County and portions of Mendocino County by extending the boundaries of existing marine sanctuaries.
“One of America’s most important natural treasures moved one step closer to achieving permanent protection today,” said Richard Charter, marine policy advisor for Defenders of Wildlife. “Given recent threats to sacrifice local economies and the marine environment to offshore drilling, this is a critical and timely first step toward long-sought preservation.”
The Sonoma and Mendocino coasts are one of the planet’s most biologically productive marine environments. These areas support many species of marine mammals, birds and fishes, including endangered blue and humpback whales. The bill would expand the boundaries of the two existing National Marine Sanctuaries to protect the entire coastline in Sonoma County and as far north as Point Arena in Mendocino County, adding nearly 2,100 square nautical miles to the sanctuaries. The new boundaries would protect the Russian and Gualala River estuaries and the nutrient-rich Bodega Canyon from offshore oil drilling and pollution.
This move couldn’t come at a better time. Just yesterday, the Coast Guard responded to a seven-mile slick off the coast of Louisiana. The oil is believed to be continued fallout from from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Coast Guard has sent pollution investigators to the scene to take samples, which will go to a lab for confirmation.