Marine Sanctuary Update
by Marilyn Hope Smulyan on October 01, 2007
In February 2007, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey reintroduced H.R. 1187, a bill to expand the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries to include the entire Sonoma coast and parts of Mendocino, making those areas off-limits to oil drilling as well. Given that the seasonal ocean currents would drive oil spilled off the Sonoma coast directly into the existing sanctuaries, this bill would provide an important buffer for some extremely productive and sensitive marine ecosystems.
However, in a setback for ocean protection, Congress approved legislation in 2005 that would allow oil companies to conduct taxpayer-financed seismic surveys within national marine sanctuaries. Not only would the discovery of oil deposits lead to pressure for drilling in the sanctuaries, but the high-intensity sonic blasts in the surveys would likely disturb and injure marine life. Fortunately, while it authorized the program, Congress has failed so far to appropriate funds to implement it.