The proposed expansion of the Cordell Bank and Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries set off alarms in the fishing community when the federal government published a map of the area that also contained all the marine protected areas (MPA) established under the Marine Life Protection Act.

According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), anglers have been bracing themselves against the extension of these MPAs in state waters, into federal waters outside 3 miles.

The National Marine Sanctuary system was established with the support of many fishing organizations because they wanted to protect critical fishing grounds from oil drilling and other industrial uses that could degrade the habitat our fished species depend on.  Over time, however, anglers have witnessed a kind of “mission creep,” with Sanctuary staff seeking authority to make their own fishing regulations.

An example of this was the establishment of no-fishing zones around the Channel Islands.  Indeed the Gulf of the Farallones management plan contains outlines of a system of marine protected areas within its boundaries.

One well-known charter skipper said that NOAA Sanctuaries’ regular support for efforts and proposals which either create or expand no-fishing zones and MPAs is indicative of an agency which is ignoring both the recreational and commercial fishing community.  “There may be no current agenda items related to no-fishing zones at the time that boundary expansion is being considered, but it is certain that such agenda items will come up in the future and NOAA Sanctuaries has an unwavering history of ignoring fishermen during battles over closing areas to fishing,” the captain noted.

Recreational fishermen can find out more about the proposed plan to expand (more than double) the existing National Marine Sanctuaries in Northern California by visiting http://farallones.noaa.gov/manage/northern_area.html where you can also submit your own public comment.

“The RFA submitted a comment questioning why the map originally posted by the Sanctuaries on their website contained the MLPA maps,” said Jim Martin, RFA’s West Coast Regional Director.  “If this is all about protecting the coast from oil drilling, why were they referencing all the new marine reserves?”

According to Martin, with 24 hours of RFA submitting question, a new map was posted without the MPAs.

“Poof, just like that,” Martin said. “I wished it were so easy to get rid of them in reality – and that’s what has us worried about this proposed expansion.”

Josh Russo, President of the Waterman’s Alliance, a statewide divers’ advocacy group, pointed out that the sanctuaries have a regular process by which they can propose new regulations, or expand their boundaries, but in this case they aren’t following their own rules. “If these sanctuaries can circumvent their own established procedure, folks in other areas of the country ought to be concerned that similar moves will be made in other states as well.”

That’s why the RFA is asking our members, across the nation, to weigh in with a brief comment opposing the sanctuary expansion until there are written guarantees for our continued access to public fisheries.  Oppose this “land grab” and demand guarantees for fisheries within the Sanctuary boundaries.

There are two public meetings in Northern California coming up in February where you can comment in person and ask questions about the plan.

Pt. Arena, CA

DATE: February 12, 2013

LOCATION: Point Arena High School

ADDRESS: 185 Lake Street, Point Arena, CA 95468

TIME: 6 p.m.

Gualala, CA

DATE: February 13, 2013

LOCATION: Gualala Community Center

ADDRESS: 47950 Center St., Gualala, CA

TIME: 6 p.m.

“If you can’t make it to one of these public hearings, we strongly urge RFA members to take 3 minutes and submit public comment online,” Martin said.  Public comment must be received by March 1 and can be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.

To mail in your comments, send to

Maria Brown, Sanctuary Superintendent

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

991Marine Drive, The Presidio

San Francisco, CA 94129

Use the sample letter below by copying and pasting into the comments section at



Dear Ms. Brown,

I am writing to oppose the expansion of the Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Banks National Marine Sanctuaries. I do not support additional no-fishing zones.

The Sanctuaries need to guarantee in writing that they will not be proposing, implementing or promulgating fishing regulations within the boundaries of the Sanctuary, including marine protected areas. Until then, we will have a constant battle between the fishing community and the Sanctuaries, rather than a partnership. The Sanctuary does not have staff with the biological expertise, nor the experience with existing fishery management required to get involved with fishery management.

I question whether the Sanctuary has the authority to more than double its size on its own, citing Section 304(e) of the National Marine Sanctuary Act. If it does, what is the limit to Sanctuary authorities?

I question whether simply expanding the Sanctuary will have any effect, one way or another, on the ocean “upwellings” in the area, the “protection” of which is the stated purpose of the expansion.

I request that the public comment period be extended to allow the Pacific Fisheries Management Council to consider the expansion and comment.


(Your Name and address)