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Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary marks 30th year of coastal preservation

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
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A Leather Star laying across a rock deep in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Marine sanctuary designations in the U.S. began about 50 years ago when Congress passed the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act in 1972. Since then, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has protected 15 marine ecosystems throughout the nation.

Amity Wood is the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. She said Monterey Bay has one of the larger sanctuaries in the U.S.

“It's hard for someone to like wrap their head around it, but if you think about the state of Connecticut that's an equivalent size. So, we can't do it alone. We rely on a lot of people and a lot of partners to help in protecting the species,” Wood said.

This September, Monterey Bay’s sanctuary is celebrating their 30-year milestone of preserving 300 miles of coast with an event called Sanctuary Fest. Wood said there are still a lot of people who do not know the value of the sanctuary, and this event is meant to educate the public about the state’s marine ecosystem.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Ocean Exploration Trust/NOAA
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Octopus lying at the bottom of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

“There's been protection, there's been conservation. There's been incredible economic benefits to having our sanctuary here off the coast, and we want to highlight that,” Wood said.

Wood said their researchers will be at the event to lead science talks and wildlife tours. She said with these activities, they want to educate the next generation to make sure they become good stewards towards the land.

“Some of our researchers are going to come out and talk about the stuff that they do and really engage people in what's happening in their backyard,” Wood said.

Right now, there are three more proposed marine sanctuaries, two on the East Coast and one on the West. On the West Coast, NOAA has begun the process of proposing the Chumash Heritage National Sanctuary that would spread from Cambria to south of Lompoc. It’s expected to go through the public review process this fall.

Sanctuary Fest is happening on September 18 at the Santa Cruz Wharf.

Gabriela Fernandez is a general assignment reporter at KCBX News. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an Associate Producer on the TahoeLand podcast.