Decades' old marine sanctuary proposal revived

Caring for the coast

A 29-year-old plan that would extend the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary on California's central coast to include the waters of San Luis Bay is experiencing a revival—in part due to paddler support. Kayak surfer, sea kayaker and videographer Vincent Shay has partnered with the Surfrider Foundation chapter of San Luis Bay to launch an "online television show to educate the public about the benefits of a marine sanctuary." Shay's Flow TV features a series of interviews with Karl Kempton, the author of the 1990 San Luis Bay proposal, to explain the functions, funding and organization of a marine sanctuary.

Shay says recreational sea kayakers, kayak surfers and a growing contingent of kayak anglers use the San Luis Bay area extensively. Initially, Shay admits that he was put off by the marine sanctuary proposal because of fears of having to navigate a complex network of rules and regulations just to go paddling. But in learning more about the potential of a marine sanctuary from Kempton and Surfrider representative Jennifer Blonder, Shay says he's convinced that a community-based approach to managing marine resources and recreation will better ensure the central coast's appeal to paddlers over the long term.

"People are afraid that [with a marine sanctuary] everything will be closed off," says Shay. "But that's not the way it works. The local community would decide what goes on here."

Caring for the coast

A key reason to create a federally-funded marine sanctuary in San Luis Bay is to encourage scientific research in the area. "Our area is so untapped," says Shay. "It's always been in the middle of SoCal and NoCal and no one's ever really taken the time to figure out what's going on here environmentally." According to Kempton, the marine sanctuary proposal suggests that the central coast's Santa Lucia Bank is "among the richest sea communities in the world," with its complex ocean currents and persistent upwellings of nutrients providing habitat for 13 species of whales. "It feeds not only this area but a large portion of the North Pacific," says Kempton in a Flow TV interview.

The federal marine sanctuary program is funded and administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agency but has multi-tiered management that's driven by the consensus of local communities and resource users. The Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary, located immediately north of the proposed San Luis sanctuary, is the largest in the United States and was created in 1992. – Conor Mihell

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