March 31, 2008 - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to protect one of the nation's most beautiful and biologically important stretches of coastline, along Northern California's Sonoma County shores. The bill, HR 1187, sponsored by Representatives Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), will expand the boundaries of the Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Banks National Marine Sanctuaries northward to Point Arena.
The rugged stretch of coastline supports a variety of marine life, including harbor seals and great white sharks. Each spring, gray whales migrate through its waters.
The area is biologically critical because it is home to a rare upwelling source that carries nutrients from the deep ocean to the surface, where fish and can more readily access them. Though there are only four similar upwelling sources in the entire world, they're estimated to support one-half of global fish catch.
"This stretch of coastline is not just one of the most beautiful in the world, it is also an ecological workhorse that sustains much of the marine life along the Pacific Coast," said Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope. "By protecting this critical area as a National Marine Sanctuary, we ensure that it won't be destroyed by oil drilling and other development."
Commercial and sport fishing are allowed in National Marine Sanctuaries, and the San Francisco-based Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations has supported the legislation. But until now, the waters have remained vulnerable to offshore drilling.
"By keeping offshore oil drilling and other development out of these waters, we're not only protecting our marine life, we're investing in the health of our fisheries," Pope said. "We don't need to destroy our sensitive coastlines with oil drilling. Instead, we should be investing in clean energy solutions that will help combat global warming, like wind and solar power."
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