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The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) is a Federally protected marine area offshore of California's central coast.

Stretching from Rocky Point in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, to the town of Cambria in San Luis Obispo County, the MBNMS encompasses a shoreline length of 276 miles (444 km) and 5,322 square miles (13,784 km2) of ocean surrounding Monterey Bay. Supporting one of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems, it is home to numerous mammals, seabirds, fishes, invertebrates and plants in a remarkably productive coastal environment. The MBNMS was established in 1992 for the purpose of resource protection, research, education, and public use of this national treasure. The MBNMS is part of a system of 13 National Marine Sanctuaries administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


Product or Project Highlights

The MBNMS's research and monitoring program seeks to:

  • Understand changes in the Sanctuary ecosystem through the Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network (SIMoN).
  • Facilitate collaboration between regional research groups.
  • Address research issues related to resource management.
  • Interpret research information for decision makers and the public.

The MBNMS addresses resource management issues through a variety of means to reduce or prevent detrimental human impacts. Approaches include collaborative multi-stakeholder management efforts to identify and reduce impacts, reviewing and commenting on projects which may impact the Sanctuary, regulations on prohibited activities, issuing of permits with conditions to minimize impacts, and where necessary, enforcement. Resource protection issues are also addressed through response to emergency events such as spills, through educational outreach to assist the public and businesses in minimizing impacts, and by monitoring to more closely target management efforts.

The MBNMS's education and outreach program seeks to:

  • Provide outreach programs and educational resources.
  • Interpret research and monitoring information.
  • Provide multicultural education and outreach.
  • Provide outreach on key resource management issues.
  • Provide interpretive facilities and displays.
  • Collaborate through key partnerships with other organizations.


MBNMS often uses a collaborative approach to identifying and resolving resource management issues, involving a wide array of partners in developing and carrying out plans to protect Sanctuary resources.

  • The Sanctuary Advisory Council's twenty voting members represent a variety of local user groups, as well as the general public, plus seven local and state governmental jurisdictions. In addition, the respective managers for the four California National Marine Sanctuaries (Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary), the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and the United States Coast Guard sit as non-voting members. Members are appointed competitively by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and serve three-year terms. The Advisory Council meets bi-monthly in open sessions located throughout the almost 300-mile boundary of the Sanctuary.
  • Working groups of the Council: Research Activities Panel, Sanctuary Education Panel, Conservation Working Group, Business & Tourism Activities Panel
  • Numerous regional partnerships
  • B-WET (Bay Watershed Education and Training Program): a grant program to provide funding and support for environmental education for students, teachers, and communities throughout the Monterey Bay watershed.

Events and Activities

See the MBNMS event calendar for a list of meetings, as well as volunteer events such as Urban Watch, First Flush (water quality monitoring programs), and TeamOCEAN (kayaker naturalist program).

Public Involvement/Volunteer Opportunities

1. Research Interests E-mail list: announcements and opportunities for marine-related research in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
2. Education Discussion Group: an email listserve to communicate about sanctuary news and events.
3. Internships and volunteer opportunities (water and beach surveys, shoreline interpretation, naturalist programs)
4. Resource materials for teachers and students


There have been five Superintendents of the MBNMS since its inception -

  • Terry Jackson - 1992 to 1997 - Terry was a NOAA Corps officer that was assigned to the MBNMS as its first manager in 1992. As a NOAA Corps officer, Terry's land-based assignment ended in 1997. Terry retired from the NOAA Corps in 1998. Over the course of the next year, Terry hired the first MBNMS staffers, including:
  • Mark Pickett - Assistant Superintendent - Mark was also a NOAA Corps Officer.
  • Marilyn Mayo - Administrative Assistant
  • Julie Anderson - Research Coordinator - Julie was hired through the Presidential Management Internship Program, but quit the program and left after only a few months on staff.
  • Liz Love - Education Coordinator - Liz had been previously working for the Monterey Bay Aquarium on educational activities there. As of March 2008, Liz continues to work at the MBNMS as a part-time Education Specialist.
  • Aaron King - Resource Protection Specialist - Aaron had been previously working for NOAA's Fisheries Service in Silver Spring on "Highly Migratory Species" issues. Aaron initially held the positions of resource protection coordinator, network manager, permit coordinator, public affairs officer, and was the first Sanctuary Advisory Council (SAC) Coordinator. Aaron left the MBNMS in late 2000 to work for NOAA's newly created "Marine Protected Areas Center."
  • Patrick Cotter - Water-Quality and Dredging Specialist - Pat was brought on to staff via a Federal inter-agency personnel agreement, and worked half-time with the California Coastal Commission office in Santa Cruz. In 1996, Pat became a full-time NOAA employee at the MBNMS. Pat left the MBNMS in late 1999 to go back to the EPA and work on international marine conservation issues.
  • Scott Kathey - Marine Affairs Specialist - Scott was first brought on as a graduate intern in the summer of 1993, but was then hired as a full-time employee in the summer of 1994. When Julie Anderson left, Aaron took over the Research Coordinator position and Scott took on the jobs of permit coordinator and public affairs officer. As of March 2008, Scott continues to work at the MBNMS as the Enforcement Coordinator.
  • Carol Fairfield - June and July, 1997 - A call for Superintendent applicants went out in the spring of 1997. However, that initial process was ended by the National Marine Sanctuaries Chief, Stephanie Thornton, because she "did not believe any of the current applicants had the skills she was looking for to be the MBNMS Superintendent" (quote from public memo issued by Thornton). This was despite the fact that three former and current National Sanctuary Superintendents, and one program director at headquarters, were applying. The call for applicants was re-advertised, and Carol Fairfield (an employee with the NOAA's NMFS Protected Resources Program) was selected. Carol was selected in June and spent her first month at the Sanctuary Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. While there, she was involved in an explosive argument with Stephanie Thornton over the ATOC issue, and was fired from her position several days later while she was en-route to Monterey. The Superintendent selecting committee was required to meet again, and selected William Douros, the Santa Barbara County regulatory manager of the oil and gas industries there. The offshore area of the Santa Barbara coast is an important area along the California coast for oil drilling. That area is particularly known for the large offshore 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill.
  • Joanne Flanders - At the time of Terry Jackson's departure, Joanne Flanders (another NOAA Corps Officer) was in the role of Assistant Superintendent. In the crisis that followed Carol Fairfield's firing, Joanne was appointed as the "Acting Superintendent" for a period of about six months.
  • William Douros - 1997 to 2006
  • Paul Michel - 2006 to Present

Northern Boundary Controversy

While the MBNMS currently stretches between Cambria in the south, to Marin County in the north, the section from the Santa Cruz-San Mateo county line north is managed by the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS). The history behind this is a matter of politics, not jurisdictional necessity.

In early-1993, soon after the MBNMS was declared a National Marine Sanctuary, the long-time Superintendent of the GFNMS, Mr. Edward Ueber, contacted Terry Jackson (the first MBNMS Superintendent) and suggested that the GFNMS could help out the fledgling MBNMS by overseeing the northern third of the MBNMS for a one year period. This would enable Jackson to concentrate more fully on the hiring of staff and setting up a permanent office. Jackson thanked Ueber, and agreed to ask the NOAA Sanctuaries Chief (Cpt Francesca Cava - a NOAA Corps officer) to sign a memo that would pass authority over to Ueber for one year. The two men exchanged faxed drafts of the memo until they were both satisfied with the language. Ueber then said he would work with Cava to get the memo signed. However, when a final signed copy of the memo[1] was faxed back to Jackson, the sunset clause of a "one year" duration had been removed. Thinking the edit was a typo, Jackson did not pursue the matter further, so he could concentrate on more pressing issues.

Less than a year later, conflicts started to arise between the management styles of Ueber and Jackson over the northern third of the MBNMS. When Jackson told Ueber that he would not be re-newing the memo for another year, Ueber said that the "no sunset clause" authority had been set up by him in the memo intentionally, and that if he or anyone tried to remove the authority from his office, he would bring in the weight of influential San Francisco based politicians, including Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, and Dianne Feinstein.

The NOAA Sanctuaries Headquarters refused to intervene in the issue, or rescind the memo based on these political threats. A new National Sanctuaries Program Chief (Stephanie Thornton) in 1997 made the issue even worse, by proposing a massively complicated authority sharing scheme between the two sanctuary offices. The scheme was never instituted because of its unwieldy, costly, and complicated nature.

Utilizing the time delays to resolve the issue, the GFNMS started setting up programs and practices in the northern MBNMS section that owed their origins and funding to the GFNMS program office. Over time, the public concept of the northern section of the MBNMS being managed by the GFNMS program became assumed in everyone's mind. Another round of negotiations was initiated in 2001 between the two Sanctuary offices and their headquarters, instituted by a new National Sanctuaries Program Chief (Mr. Daniel Basta). Again, this process could not achieve resolution of the issue, and so the National Sanctuaries program finally bowed to historical precedence and assigned ongoing authority over the region to the GFNMS.

Fisheries Regulation vs. Marine Protected Areas Controversy

During the years prior to the MBNMS designation in 1992, efforts were being made by NOAA and the Sanctuary proponents to build a large consensus among the region's various factions. These factions included the farming community, the tourism community, the boating community, and the fishing community (both recreational and commercial). Some of these communities had grave reservations about allowing that Federal program, with its broad mandates and authorities to regulate activities within a designated Sanctuary, into the mix of regulatory bodies already involved with central California's coastal waters. The central California fishing community, especially the commercial sector, were especially suspicious of this new proposed authority.

At that time, Leon Panetta was a Congressman to the area, and a person respected by the fisheries community. Panetta was also a supporter of the Sanctuary designation as a means of ensuring the Bush Administration did not follow through on the leasing of offshore oil tracts, predominantly along the San Mateo and northern Santa Cruz county coastlines. Panetta met on several occasions with the fishing community in the years and months leading up to the designation of the MBNMS. In order to quiet the suspicions of the fishing community, Panetta told them that he would ensure that the MBNMS never regulated fishing. He told them that fishing would be restricted to management by the California Department of Fish and Game, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Panetta followed through with his promise, and ensured that the "MBNMS Designation Document" (the official document that outlined the Sanctuary program's authorities within that area) stated that the MBNMS would not became directly involved in fisheries by issuing regulations that curtailed fisheries from carrying out their "traditional fishery methods."

Since the days in which the MBNMS was designated, this language in the MBNMS Designation Document has been interpreted to mean that the MBNMS can advocate and lobby to the fishery authorities on issues, and can even conduct research on fishery topics, but cannot issue any fishery restricting regulations. This interpretation was honored by the first couple of MBNMS Superintendents. However, as the issue of creating fully "Marine Protected Areas" (MPAs) became an increasingly hot topic in marine resource management and protection circles, pressure began to build on the MBNMS to establish MPAs within the MBNMS. Beginning with the management of Bill Douros as Superintendent, and continuing with Paul Michel, the MBNMS began looking at ways to establish such zones, while also adhering to the letter of the Designation Document prohibition of regulating fisheries.

The logic that was proposed by the Sanctuaries program and the proponents of MPAs was that the rationale for establishing MPAs in the MBNMS was not to regulate fishing. The rationale for the creation of an MPA by the MBNMS was to protect biodiversity, or some component thereof. In this way, any regulations that were passed prohibiting fishing in an MPA area, were not to be worded as a "fishing" prohibition, but as an "extraction" prohibition. In other words, it was proposed that fishery regulations are intended to protect a resource stock from being overexploited (such as fishery quotas, bag limits, size limits, etc.). However, a "no-extraction" regulation that was established to protect the "biodiversity" of an area did not meet the definition of a "fishery regulation", and could be created by the MBNMS.


1. Final Memo - Dated: March 19, 1993. From: Francesca Cava. To: Ed Ueber and Terry Jackson. Title: Delegation of Responsibility for Northern Portion of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS).


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External links

36°48′N 122°30′W / 36.8°N 122.5°W / 36.8; -122.5



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