Marine Protected Areas

Oil Spill Threatens the Galapagos of North America

California leads the nation in marine protection with the largest network of marine protected areas in the country. The Gaviota oil spill puts ten years of cooperation between fishermen and conservationists to protect the state’s crown jewels at risk.

Harbor Seals

Media Contact:
Greg Helms
Manager, Fish Conservation Program
805-886-8645
ghelms@oceanconservancy.org

May 20, 2015

Statement from Greg Helms, manager, Fish Conservation Program, and Santa Barbara-based marine protected area expert:

Santa Barbara, CA: “Yesterday’s crude oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara County, resulting from an inland pipeline break, is a reminder that oil and water don’t mix. California leads the nation in marine protection with the longest network of marine protected areas in the country. In the Gaviota Coast area with its world-class and irreplaceable marine life, the community has just completed years of work establishing four marine protected areas due to its very special nature. The currently four-mile long oil slick puts ten years of cooperation between fishermen and conservationists to protect the state’s marine crown jewels at risk. The threat that this oil spill poses to important locally harvested species like sea urchin, squid and lobster as well as marine mammals and seabirds, and the Naples Reef and Kashtayit State Marine Conservation Areas that serve as their feeding and breeding grounds concern us. The companies must be held fully accountable for the impacts of this spill. This spill is a wake-up call for us to look at how we as a state prioritize the different uses of our ocean and the risks associated with them. ”

Greg Helms is a 25-year resident of Santa Barbara. He manages fisheries programs on the West Coast for Ocean Conservancy, and was a key player in the planning process that created marine protected areas at the Channel Islands (effective in 2003) and the southern California coast (effective in 2012). He is a scuba diver and surfer, and very familiar with the geography around the oil spill.

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