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in-depth: stakeholders
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In-Depth: Stakeholders

Sharing Our Waters
by Kelly Whalen

Commercial Fisher: Chris Hoeflinger
Diver: Eric Kett
Sanctuary Manager: Chris Mobley
Conservationist: Greg Helms
Recreational Fisher: Merit McCrea
Click on the titles above to learn more about the individual perspectives of each stakeholder within the sanctuary.

One hundred years after the birth of the National Park System, the United States made a similar commitment to protect our oceans. The Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 created a federal program to designate and protect certain environments as marine sanctuaries with special national significance. Nearly 35 years later, 13 sanctuaries and one National Marine Monument have been established under the law, encompassing more than 150,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters. Together, the areas represent a wide variety of rich aquatic environments, from deep ocean gardens to near-shore coral reefs, from whale migration corridors to underwater archeological and shipwreck sites.

In the early half of the 20th century, concerns over the protection of public areas in the United States were almost exclusively focused on land. But as toxic oil spills and illegal dumping in our oceans began to devastate marine life, fears that our coastlines would become “dead seas” inspired a movement to save our waters for future generations.

But, unlike wilderness areas with full protective status, the country’s marine sanctuaries allow for compatible recreational and commercial activities. These waters are visited by a multitude of users, from commercial and recreational fishers, to divers, ocean photographers, conservationists, researchers and educators. However, balancing the many users and their impacts is a constant and arduous effort. As the ocean areas and their marine life have changed through the years, so, too, has the definition of “compatible use.”

Today, some sanctuaries are zoned to include “no-take” reserves, allowing only some areas within their boundaries to be accessed for multiple use. For example, at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Southern California, 20 percent of the waters were recently made off limits to fishing. Responding to plummeting stocks of rockfish, abalone, sharks and other species, in 2002 the California legislature created 10 zones prohibiting any extractive use by fishers and others. These areas make up the largest marine reserve network in the continental United States.

In this feature, we introduce various stakeholders from the fourth-largest sanctuary, revered for its giant kelp forests, rocky reefs and deep underwater canyons where approximately 800 species of ocean life make their homes here at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Many of the stakeholders are participants on the sanctuary’s advisory council and play active roles in the ongoing public debate over how to best manage and protect the underwater treasures.

Click on the titles listed at the beginning of this article to learn more about the individual perspectives of each stakeholder within the sanctuary.