Plan Bay

Offshore orcas, rarely seen anywhere, appeared near Moss Landing on Friday, Nov. 12. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s 10-year plan will reflect an ongoing focus on protection.

Change is afoot off the Central Coast. Since Nov. 8, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has been operating under a new superintendent. Lisa Wooninck, who has worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for more than two decades, takes over the Sanctuary’s top post at an interesting time. Only a week into her tenure, MBNMS on Nov. 15 adopted its new management plan, a guiding document six years in the making that offers a blueprint for how the federally protected bay will be managed over the next decade.

The last management plan was released in 2008 and Wooninck says much has changed over the last 13 years. The previous plan listed climate change and desalination plants as “emerging issues.”

Wooninck says climate change and desalination have fully emerged as priority issues for the Sanctuary in the new management plan. The new batch of emerging issues is highlighted by coastal and offshore energy development. Might the Monterey Bay eventually have offshore wind turbines? The answer is not a hard no, says Wooninck.

“Ten years ago we didn’t even have the technology for offshore wind so we weren’t talking about it as an issue,” she says. “We’re concerned about the release of greenhouse gases and any way we can reduce dependence on fossil fuels would be great. But to have an offshore wind installation in the Sanctuary, we’d have to really figure out where that would be allowed.”

Wooninck says the Sanctuary’s responsibility is less about maintaining the status quo and more about keeping up with the dynamics of a changing ocean and bay.

Historically, the Sanctuary has been focused on protection but, citing the gradual decline of kelp forests, Wooninck says the organization may have to start leading on restoration as well.

Christopher Neely covers a mixed beat that includes the environment, water politics, and Monterey County's Board of Supervisors. He began at the Weekly in 2021 after five years on the City Hall beat in Austin, TX.

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