Sanctuaries in a Sea of Oil

by on July 18, 2017 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

July 26 is the deadline for public comments to defend our Marine Monuments and National Marine Sanctuaries!

By David Helvarg / Blue Notes #159

In late April President Trump issued his “America First Offshore Energy” Executive Order that, along with threatening to put an end to the only significant safety regulation resulting from BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, also ordered a review of 27 national monuments that had been declared or enlarged over the last 20 years. He then doubled down with instructions to reconsider recently expanded marine monuments and sanctuaries.

I wrote about this latest threat to our ocean and coastal economy in the July 7 edition of the Los Angeles Times. You can read the full story here.

To recap briefly: Land and sea monuments are designated by presidents under the Antiquities Act of 1906; marine sanctuaries are established by the Secretary of Commerce or Congress under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act of 1972.

But it was not until the 1980s that Marine Sanctuaries expanded dramatically including in California and Florida thanks to growing public fear that these waters might otherwise be opened up to oil drilling.

Trump’s new attempt to roll back National Monuments and shrink Marine Sanctuaries is based on concern about lost “opportunity costs” of not being able to drill for oil or mine for sub-sea minerals. These, along with waste dumping, are the main activities not allowed in Marine Sanctuaries.

Of course this “loss” ignores the many ‘gained opportunity benefits’ for coastal economies, communities and ecosystems that come from protecting exceptional parts of our public seas; kelp forests, coral reefs, historic shipwrecks and the like. Not to mention the science that tells us we need to leave most of our known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground and under the seabed if we are to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Your comments concerning the eleven Marine Monuments and Sanctuaries at risk are due within the week.

These include Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea which, at half a million square miles is the world’s largest protected wilderness, and also home to over 70 percent of the nation’s coral reefs . Blue Frontier has already signed a marine conservation letter requesting an extension of the 30-day comment period – another request has gone out from members of Congress.

Ironically, given one of the alleged reasons for this review was lack of stakeholder input (ignoring years of citizen engagement at all levels) the limiting of the comment period to a month plus lack of any public hearings in places like California where four sanctuaries are threatened, puts the lie to that claim. Clearly it is not about what ‘we the people’ have to say, it is about oil and the political money behind it.

For templates of the sort of comment letter you might want to submit you can go to put up by the Ocean Foundation’s Richard Charter or the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation site at You can also give your opinion directly!

Click Here to File Your Comments Now!


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