Management plan frequently asked questions

A sanctuary advisory council meeting
The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council meets in public every two months. See announcements here. Photo courtesy: Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District

The management plan is a road map that: (1) guides site programming and management actions toward achievement of the sanctuary's goals; and (2) informs sanctuary constituents, including the general public, about the sanctuary and planned actions by NOAA and our partners for the next five to 10 years. The management plan contains information about the sanctuary's environment and resources, staffing and administration, regulations and boundaries, and priority management issues and actions proposed to address them. The sanctuary's current management plan was published in 2009, and is available online.

Over time, all management plans should be reviewed and updated to adapt to changing conditions and needs. Since the adoption of the current management plan in 2009, new partners, technologies, and opportunities have emerged, as have new resource management issues. An evaluation of what has been implemented and what else Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary needs will allow site managers and partners to shift efforts to new priorities. A new condition report, published in 2019, sheds light on the status and trends of sanctuary resources, and reveals emerging issues of concern that can be evaluated for potential management attention.

Condition report

The process began with the release of a new condition report to inform the management plan update process. The condition report was published in July 2019, ahead of the first management plan review public comment period. The report sheds light on the status and trends of the sanctuary's marine resources, and reveals emerging issues of concern for potential management consideration. An introduction to the condition report is found online here, and the report can be downloaded here.

Notice of intent

Next, publication in the Federal Register of a notice of intent will announce the start of the management plan review process. The notice of intent, published in October 2019, provides information about public scoping meetings and opened a public scoping comment period that extends through November 15, 2019.

Public scoping

Public scoping meetings will be held in Santa Barbara and Ventura, California. These meetings will provide the public with an opportunity to learn about the sanctuary and to suggest issues and strategies to be included within the scope of sanctuary management considerations and priorities over the coming five to 10 years. Comments will be recorded at the meetings, and may also be submitted in writing. The anticipated public comment period will extend from October 1 through November 15, 2019. See “How can I provide input to the scoping process?” below for more information.

Issue identification and action plan development

After the public scoping period, sanctuary staff will review all comments. Staff will work with the Sanctuary Advisory Council and subject matter experts to identify and prioritize issues to be addressed in the management plan. Tailored action plans will be developed to address these priority issues, and will form the foundation of a draft management plan.

Draft environmental review and draft management plan

A draft management plan will be prepared. The draft will contain a series of action plans to address resource protection and general management of the sanctuary. An environmental analysis of the activities proposed within the plan will accompany the draft management plan. This will be guided by the National Environmental Policy Act and take the form of a draft environmental assessment or draft environmental impact statement. In addition, if sanctuary regulatory changes are proposed, a proposed rule will be developed.

Public review and comment

The draft management plan, draft environmental assessment or draft environmental impact statement, and proposed rule (if needed for any regulatory changes) will then be released for public review and comment, and public hearings will be held to invite comment. After the close of the public comment period, sanctuary staff will review comments and make any necessary changes to plans and environmental analyses.

Final environmental review and final management plan

To close out to the process, a final management plan, final environmental assessment or final environmental impact statement, and final rule (if needed for any regulation changes) will be released.

The entire process is estimated to take two to three years, starting with the initial scoping period expected to take place in October and November 2019. Priority topics for the revised management plan will be selected in early 2020. Action plan development is expected to occur through 2020. A draft management plan and a corresponding National Environmental Policy Act compliance document will be released in 2021, and final documents are expected by the following year.

At the onset of a management plan review, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries holds public meetings to "scope out" or receive input from sanctuary users, interest groups, government agencies, and other members of the public on resource management issues. Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary staff will hold a scoping meeting on October 22, 2019, in Santa Barbara, and another scoping meeting on October 23, 2019, in Ventura, California (see “How can I provide input into the scoping process?” below). The input received at these meetings will help define the range of issues to be addressed during the management plan review process.

The scoping meetings provide a forum for the public to meet sanctuary staff, discuss ongoing programs, and provide comments. They are not decision-making meetings. At the beginning of each scoping meeting, staff will provide all participants with an introductory presentation about the sanctuary, including a summary of the management plan revision process and the scoping meeting format. Following the introduction, the group will break up into discussion groups consisting of about eight to 10 people. At each table, a group leader will help facilitate the discussion and ensure everyone has the opportunity to talk and provide comments. Each group will have a recorder to write each of the comments on a presentation pad so the group can confirm the recorded comments.

Members of the public may submit comments during the scoping period by any of the following methods:

By electronic submission

Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to and enter the docket number NOAA-NOS-2019-0110. Click on the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

By mail

UCSB Ocean Science Edu Bldg 514
Mail Code 6155
Santa Barbara, California 93106
Attn: Management Plan Revision

In person

Public comments will be taken at two public scoping meetings to be held in Santa Barbara and Ventura:

  • Tuesday, October 22, 6-8 pm, Faulkner Gallery, Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 E. Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.
  • Wednesday, October 23, 6-8pm, Poinsettia Pavilion, 3451 Foothill Road, Ventura, CA, 93003.

Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA. All comments received are part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NOAA will accept anonymous comments. (Enter "N/A" in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

As expressed in the current 2009 management plan, and derived from the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, goals for the sanctuary are to:

  1. Protect the natural habitats, ecological services, and biological communities of all living resources inhabiting Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and the sanctuary's cultural and archaeological resources, for future generations;
  2. Enhance public awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the marine environment and the natural, historical, cultural, and archaeological resources of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary;
  3. Support, promote, and coordinate scientific research on, and long-term monitoring of, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary resources;
  4. Where appropriate, restore and enhance natural habitats, populations, and ecological processes within Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary;
  5. Provide comprehensive and coordinated conservation and management of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, as well as the activities affecting it, in a manner complementing existing regulatory authorities;
  6. Create models of and incentives for ways to conserve and manage national marine sanctuaries, including the application of innovative management techniques;
  7. Facilitate to the extent compatible with the primary objective of resource protection, public and private uses of sanctuary resources not prohibited pursuant to other authorities, and enhance such uses where they are wise and sustainable;
  8. Cooperate with national and international programs encouraging conservation of marine resources; and
  9. Develop and implement coordinated plans for the protection and management of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, with appropriate federal agencies, state and local governments, Native American tribes and organizations, international organizations, and other public and private interests concerned with continuing the sanctuary's health and resilience.

The federal NOAA regulations in place at Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are listed here.

In preparing for public scoping, sanctuary staff reviewed pressures placed upon sanctuary resources (see the “Driving forces and pressures on the sanctuary” section [pages 43-62] in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary condition report), and considered the potential need for additional or modified approaches to sanctuary regulations. Staff have not identified the need for any changes to sanctuary regulations.

However, regulatory changes may be considered based on a review of public scoping comments and, if pursued by NOAA, would be presented for public review with the publication of a proposed rulemaking.

During the last Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary management plan review process (completed in 2009), NOAA gave consideration to expansion of the outer sanctuary boundary. A decision was deferred until a future point, citing the need for additional information and assessment.

In the ensuing years, NOAA completed a biogeographical assessment of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and surrounding marine habitats to inform a variety of boundary change concepts. In July 2015, community groups from the San Luis Obispo county area nominated a Chumash Heritage national marine sanctuary through NOAA's sanctuary nomination process. The area nominated comprises a majority of the waters that had previously been considered for Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary boundary expansion. In October 2015, NOAA determined the nomination to have successfully met the national significance criteria and management considerations described in the sanctuary nomination process. The area is currently under consideration by NOAA for national marine sanctuary designation

With consideration to NOAA's separate process underway to consider the proposed Chumash Heritage national marine sanctuary candidate site, and the interest of the nominating communities in seeking separate national marine sanctuary status for the area, NOAA is not seeking to expand the outer Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary boundaries at this time.

Public scoping comments on this issue will be considered, and, if any Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary boundary changes are pursued by NOAA, they will be presented for public review with the publication of a proposed rulemaking.

For more information, or to be added to the distribution list for management plan review updates and announcements, please contact the sanctuary office:

NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Management Plan Review
UCSB Ocean Science Education Bldg 514
Santa Barbara, CA 93106