SAUSALITO (KPIX 5) — Scientists and Bay Area lawmakers on Wednesday took part in a public forum in Sausalito to discuss the importance of marine sanctuaries.
The event came as President Trump considers reducing the size of those protected areas.
Congressman Jared Huffman was joined by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and several scientists for the forum to talk about marine sanctuaries.
Four large safe zones along California’s coast may be at risk under President Trump’s executive order.
The Greater Farallones Islands are considered one of the richest areas for marine life. But the President views parts of the coastal U.S. as rich in other ways.
“Our country is blessed with abundant offshore natural oil and gas reserves, but the federal government has kept 94 percent of offshore areas closed for exploration and production,” said the President last April. “And when they say closed, they mean closed. This deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of wealth.”
The President made that statement when he signed an executive order to review marine sanctuaries as potentials for off-shore oil drilling.
The move put political leaders like Nancy Pelosi and environmentalists in a panic.
They believe the more than 15,000 square miles of marine sanctuaries in California should stay as sanctuaries.
“The foolishness of degrading the protections of these waters have broad lasting consequences,” said Pelosi at the forum.
“We have reason for concern,” said Huffman. “This is not a drill.”
But the President views marine sanctuaries like the Farrallones, the nearby Cordell Bank, Monterey Bay and the area around the Channel Islands as waters with a potential for wealth his administration may want to tap into.
“We need these sanctuaries,” said Noah Oppenheim, the Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Association. “I mean, ocean protection is critical to my members, to their fishing operations, to their jobs and to the coastal way of life in California.”
“We have huge abundance of marine life. If were to have oil drilling and an oil spills in the area, all these animals could be destroyed in one fell swoop,” said Dr. Frances Gulland, senior scientist with the Marine Mammal Center.
“So many things sound of absurd — a wall along the border — but they are deadly serious about pursuing these things,” said Huffman. “So we have to stand and fight we have to remind them, people of California are not going to stand for this.”
In the past decade, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush declared several ocean areas protected. After President Trumps executive order, the department of commerce is re-evaluating their sanctuary status.
No decision has been made yet on whether any marine sanctuaries should be opened up to drilling.
But by Thursday, the President is expected to decide on land monuments.
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, the Sequoias, Mojave Trail, and the San Gabriel Mountains are a few areas that may lose their protections.