Source: Mercury News Science & Environment
Author: Paul Rogers
A new effort to convince President Barack Obama to establish a huge new national monument in the Pacific Ocean off California before he leaves office six months from now is gaining momentum.
More than 100 scientists — including some of the top marine biologists in the world — and two dozen environmental groups are pushing a proposal that would ban offshore oil drilling, undersea mining and potentially some types of fishing in nine areas between San Diego and the Oregon border.
The areas singled out are a collection of underwater mountains, known as seamounts, along with several dormant underwater volcanoes, deep-sea ridges and concentrations of natural vents that spew hot water. Ranging from 45 to 186 miles off the California coast, and plunging more than 1 mile under the ocean’s surface, the remote locations are rich with sharks, whales, sea turtles and exotic sea life, including forests of coral, sponges and sea urchins. Many of the species have been discovered only in recent years as deep-sea exploration technology has improved.
“There are a lot of people who recognize the importance of this,” said Lance Morgan, president of the Marine Conservation Institute, a Sonoma County environmental group that has been spearheading the plans. “It’s moving forward; people are interested.”