North Coast marine sanctuaries formally expanded 

 Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Two North Coast national marine sanctuaries have formally been expanded to include an additional 2,769 square miles of ocean between Bodega Head to just north of Point Arena, permanently protecting the important stretch of critical habitat from oil drilling.

The expansion — the culmination of decades of effort by regulators, legislators, area residents and environmentalists — was formalized Tuesday, said Mary Jane Schramm, a spokeswoman with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which administers the nation’s underwater sanctuaries.

“We are delighted with the outcome,” she said Wednesday.The newly renamed Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary now extends from northwest of the San Francisco Bay to Point Arena. Together with the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, west of Bodega Head, they cover 4,581 square miles of ocean.

It’s the most significant expansion of ocean protection in California since 1992, when the 4,601-square-mile Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary — which stretches from Marin to Cambria — was established.

“This is a huge deal,” said Richard Charter, a senior fellow with the Washington D.C.-based Ocean Foundation who has been working on getting the expansion approved since the mid-1970s. The addition means that nearly 40 percent of the California Coast is protected from oil drilling. Fishing is allowed in sanctuaries.

But the work isn’t done. Even as they celebrate reaching one goal, North Coast environmental activists are looking toward the next.

Read more at: North Coast marine sanctuaries formally expanded | The Press Democrat