NOAA has released final revised management plans, regulations and a joint final environmental impact statement for Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries.
The plans include the expansion of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary by 775 square miles to include the Davidson Seamount, one of the largest known underwater mountains in U.S. coastal waters and home to a wide variety of marine species.
"The new management plans offer a vision and course for protecting the rich marine ecosystems of three adjacent national marine sanctuaries in California while continuing to allow compatible, sustainable human uses," said William J. Douros, West Coast regional director for the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. "The management plans for the three sanctuaries are tailored to address the challenges facing each sanctuary."
The result of more than seven years of study, planning and extensive public input, these detailed documents are major revisions of the sanctuaries' original management plans and address key issues including ecosystem protection, wildlife disturbance, vessel discharge, water quality, non-native species and coastal development.
The final plans consist primarily of non-regulatory 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
- restoring the original limitation of motorized personal watercraft to four areas off the harbors in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and including a wintertime zone for tow-in surfing at the famous "Maverick's" surfing spot
- protecting the area's water quality by prohibiting harmful discharges from cruise ships
- expanding protections for white sharks at the Monterey Bay and Gulf of the Farallones sanctuaries
- prohibiting discharges, beyond the boundaries of Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones sanctuaries, that enter and damage the sanctuaries' resources
- improving habitat protection at the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones sanctuaries by limiting or prohibiting activities that impact the sea floor
The management plans also include proposed actions to expand research, education, outreach, and enforcement programs, create and enhance partnerships, integrate environmental monitoring networks, enhance wildlife protections, increase water quality monitoring, and reduce ocean impacts from coastal development.
The joint final environmental impact statement analyzes the potential environmental and economic impacts from activities and regulations outlined in the three management plans.
Copies of the management plans, regulations and joint final environmental impact statement are available at http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/jointplan