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Central Coast marine sanctuaries under review

Courtesy of C.King/Simon/MBNMS

Just like the current review of 27 national monuments across America by the Department of the Interior, the federal Department of Commerce is looking to possibly revoke protected designation of 11 marine sanctuaries. 

August 15 is the last day to submit a public comment on a presidential executive order calling for a review of a portion of three established marine sanctuaries in California waters, and another five further out in the Pacific Ocean.

President Trump signed his America First Offshore Energy Executive Order back in April. The move, in part, starts the process to open up the Arctic for energy exploration.

“This is a great day for American workers and families, and today we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs,” President Trump said at the signing. “And it’s going to lead to a lot of great wealth for our country and a lot of great jobs for our country.”

The order also calls for a review of every national marine sanctuary and marine national monument designated or expanded in the last ten years, including a portion of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. 

The area 50 miles off the coast of Big Sur is called the Davidson Seamount. It’s an extinct volcano where a number of deep sea creatures live.

“It’s the shot across the bow by the Administration,” says Democratic Congressman Jimmy Panetta, who represents the Monterey Bay Area. He says under the Trump Administration, any protection of these marine resources will have to come from local opposition.

“It’s going to take people speaking out, making their voice heard and letting the Administration know how against they are to this type of infringement on our sanctuaries,” he said.

In an op ed Congressman Panetta wrote for The Hill, he noted how it would take more than an executive order to open up the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to oil exploration; it would take an act of Congress.

“That will not happen on my watch. I am part of that legacy of people and laws that have been put in place to protect the beauty and resources of the Monterey Bay,” he wrote.

As to whether the Davidson Seamount has any potential as an offshore energy source, it’s likely long gone.

“The only energy resource ever found on or under volcanoes is geothermal hot water, but that is restricted to active or recently active volcanoes such as in Iceland or Hawaii,” said David Clague, Senior Scientist and Volcanologist of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. “Any geothermal resource Davidson once had has cooled down in the 9 million years since it last was active and is no longer a resource,” he continued via email.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has created suggested talking points for public comments. You can find more details here.