The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary: Planning for Climate Change
The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), located off the southern coast of California, consists of approximately 1,110 square nautical miles of ocean and coastal waters. The primary objective of the CINMS is to conserve, protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy of marine resources surrounding the Channel Islands for current and future generations. In 2009, a final management plan for the sanctuary was released that sets out priority management issues and actions for the next five to ten years. Although climate change impacts are not explicitly addressed by this plan, the CINMS is poised to develop regional plans to adapt to a modified landscape from climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is in the process of updating the CINMS Management Plan.
The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), located off the coast of southern California, includes approximately 1,110 square nautical miles of coastal and ocean waters, as well as the five northern Channel Islands (San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara). It was designated a national marine sanctuary in 1980, with the primary objective of conserving, protecting, and enhancing the biodiversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy of marine resources surrounding the Channel Islands. The unique ecosystems of the Channel Islands support a diverse suite of species including giant kelp, invertebrates, fishes, marine mammals, and seabirds.
State and federal agencies including the California Department of Fish and Game, the Channel Islands National Park, and the National Marine Fisheries Service have overlapping jurisdiction in the CINMS and work together (e.g., as the Sanctuary Advisory Council) to manage the impacts of human activities in the sanctuary. The CINMS manager and staff work with the Sanctuary Advisory Council to identify and resolve management issues. In 2009, the final Sanctuary Management Plan was released; it describes a strategy to identify, assess, and respond to emerging issues, including climate change. Potential effects of climate change on CINMS ecosystems include increasing sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and increased severity of storm events.
In January 2009, the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries released the final version of the CINMS Management Plan. The Sanctuary Management Plan for the CINMS is a road map for sanctuary management that serves to guide site management toward achievement of the Sanctuary’s goals and inform constituents about management actions it has planned for the next five to ten years. The final plan also outlines a strategy to identify, assess, and respond to emerging issues, including climate change.
Outcomes and Conclusions
The CINMS 2009 Management Plan does not fully address climate change. However, the CINMS is aptly prepared to bring the issue to the Sanctuary Advisory Council as well as local, state, and federal agencies to plan for and adapt to the potential impacts of climate change. Recommendations for applying the CINMS emerging issues strategy (e.g., identify, assess, respond) to climate change include:
- Identify potential impacts of climate change (e.g., ocean warming, ocean acidification, ocean circulation shifts, sea level rise)
- Assess potential impacts of climate change. Monitoring and research to detect the effects of climate and ocean change (e.g., monitor species, environmental variables [e.g., water temperature, sea level, dissolved oxygen, pH, currents]).
- Respond to climate change. Increasing public awareness and understanding in order to adapt to climate change. Opportunities to focus the sanctuary education and outreach program include incorporating climate change information into volunteer and adult education programs; expanding the sanctuary’s Ocean Etiquette program to increase awareness about individual activities that contribute to climate change; and hosting climate change workshops for teachers, students, and the public.
The NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is working to update the CINMS Management Plan. The process began in 2019 with the release of the second CINMS Conditions Report, which highlighted climate change impacts on CINMS, including water temperature fluctuations, ocean acidification, water quality, and sea level rise. In the fall of 2019, public comment on the plan update was solicited through a public scoping period. Commenters suggested 16 actions for the CINMS Management Plan related to climate change including developing a climate action plan, developing partnerships to conduct monitoring, conducting a public education campaign, expanding sanctuary boundaries, and establishing a legal framework for rapid changes to sanctuary boundaries to respond to climate-related shifts.
Kershner, J. (2021). The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary: Planning for Climate Change [Case study on a project of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: https://www.cakex.org/case-studies/channel-islands-national-marine-sanctuary-planning-climate-change (Last updated October 2021)