An invitation to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: Come visit California’s national marine sanctuaries.
Watch blue whales feeding and elephant seals breeding in the Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones national marine sanctuaries off the Marin and Sonoma County coasts.
Explore tide pools along the rocky shores in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a swath of California’s central coast nicknamed the Serengeti of the Sea for its rich marine life.
More than 150 shipwrecks are located within the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Perhaps that’s why the islands are such a popular destination for scuba divers. The Channel Islands also have been home to the Chumash people for more than 13,000 years.
These environmental and cultural treasures are under your stewardship, Mr. Secretary.
They’re also among the 11 protected ocean areas established or expanded since 2007 that President Donald Trump has directed you to consider for oil, gas and mineral exploration and development.
Over the next 29 days, your department will be collecting public comments on the president’s order. Here’s ours: This is a monumentally bad idea.
Some of the world’s most productive ocean ecosystems are found off the California coast — kelp forests, coral reefs, natural habitat for endangered species and large populations of whales, sharks, seabirds and other marine life.
Scientific research in the state’s marine sanctuaries is providing a wealth of data about ocean conditions that can affect weather patterns as well as insight into climate change.
California also is home to one of the nation’s largest commercial fishing industries, Mr. Secretary, supporting — according to a recent report from your department — 113,900 jobs, $4.5 billion in income and $21.6 billion in sales.
Some of that fishing takes place in marine sanctuaries. So does research aimed at maintaining healthy, sustainable fisheries.
Surely you’re aware that tourism and recreation are enormous contributors to California’s economy, the sixth largest in the world, and pristine beaches and the Pacific Ocean are symbols of the Golden State recognized worldwide.
None of these activities are compatible with offshore oil drilling, and a Deepwater Horizon-type blowout would be disastrous.
California has firsthand experience with oil spills. A blowout near Santa Barbara in 1969 was, at the time, the worst oil spill in U.S. history. It’s still No. 3 on the list. More than 80,000 barrels of crude oil from an offshore platform fouled beaches from Santa Barbara to Ventura, killed thousands of shore birds and saddled fishermen, hotels and beachfront homeowners with losses in the millions.
The state Lands Commission hasn’t approved an oil lease in state waters since then, and Congress approved a series of moratoriums that banned new drilling in federal waters for more than 25 years.
Even some oil industry representatives get it. “I am not aware of any of our members chomping at the bit to pursue the opportunity (to drill offshore) in California,” the president of the Western States Petroleum Association told the San Jose Mercury News this week.
From our perspective, the case is clear. California’s national marine sanctuaries have enormous commercial and conservation value, and they should remain intact. Mr. Secretary, if you come and see for yourself, we think you will agree.