and Enforcement Philosophy
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) enforces fourteen federal
regulatory prohibitions designed to preserve
and protect the natural and cultural resources and qualities of the ocean
and estuarine areas within its boundaries. Prohibitions restrict seabed
disturbance, discharges, wildlife harassment, and disturbance of historical
resources. Due to the nature of these prohibitions, violations often produce
damage or injury that cannot be easily or readily remediated. The MBNMS
enforcement philosophy is therefore based on preventive enforcement, with
a strong emphasis on public outreach and education.
Primary law enforcement responsibilities for the MBNMS rest with the Office
of Law Enforcement (OLE) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA). Federal Officers and Special Agents, stationed in Monterey, conduct investigations
into violations of the National
Marine Sanctuaries Act and regulatory
prohibitions in coordination with State, local and other Federal law
enforcement counterparts. They also conduct land/air/sea patrols and address recurring enforcement
problems through Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (COPPS)
techniques, which emphasize involving the community to resolve problems.
a cooperative enforcement agreement was signed between NOAA and the State
of California to authorize the deputization of State Fish and Game Wardens
and State Park Rangers as Federal Sanctuary enforcement officers. These
State peace officers work together with OLE to
conduct patrols and investigate potential violations within the MBNMS.
Wardens patrol the Sanctuary using small boats and large patrol vessels. They also conduct coastal patrols by land and air. State
Park Rangers in the Big Sur and Cambria regions conduct coastal patrols
and investigations, and monitor the Northern Elephant Seal breeding/pupping
area at Piedras Blancas.
to the cooperative assistance by the State, the U.S. Coast Guard conducts
air and sea surveillance within the MBNMS and has broad Federal enforcement
authority within the Sanctuary. OLE Officers and Special Agents also work
with other Federal enforcement agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Federal Bureau
of Investigations (FBI) to investigate violations of environmental laws
within the Sanctuary.
Violation of Sanctuary regulations is punishable by civil penalties of
up to $140,000 per day of violation. In addition to fines, violators may
also be required to pay for emergency response, environmental damage,
and remediation costs. Any property involved in a violation (e.g. boats,
equipment, tools) may be seized and held by enforcement officials, pending
legal action. In many cases, violation of Sanctuary regulations also involve
violation of other Federal and State laws and carries the potential for
additional fines, property seizures, detainment, and criminal prosecution.
Interference with a Sanctuary enforcement investigation or officer is
a criminal offense.
Most individual violations tend to be confined to small areas for short
time durations. However, some types of violations occur frequently throughout
the Sanctuary, such as marine mammal/bird harassment and marine discharges.
The vast majority of recorded violations are detected within 10 miles
of shore due to the large concentration of human activities near the coastline.
Disturbance of marine mammals and seabirds is the most common reported
violation, followed by discharges, seabed alteration, and unauthorized
MPWC operation. The chart below displays the type and relative percentage
of Sanctuary violations in a typical year:
Visitors to the Sanctuary may not realize that pulling an invertebrate
from a rock or approaching too close to a seal can result in serious consequences
for the animal, and sometimes the visitor as well. When such seemingly
minor disturbances are multiplied by the hundreds of thousands of visitors
to the Sanctuary each year, the effects to the ecosystem can be chronic,
leading to a slow decline in the health of wildlife and habitats. To address
such issues, the Sanctuary Enforcement Team applies Community Oriented
Policing and Problem Solving (COPPS) techniques, developing programs to
inform the public and enlist their help in protecting the Sanctuary ecosystem.
The MBNMS inaugurated Team Ocean in 2000, a program that sends interpreters
to sea in kayaks to speak to summer boaters in the nearshore areas of
Monterey and Elkhorn Slough. The interpreters explain the best ways to
approach and view wildlife without frightening the animals away. Each
time an animal is forced to dive or swim away, it must stop feeding or
resting and burns precious energy reserves during evasion. Repeated disturbance
by successive visitors can stress an animal to the point that it becomes
fatigued and susceptible to illness and disease. Team Ocean interpreters
share these facts with visitors, giving them a better appreciation and
concern for the animals and habitats they have come to see. The Sanctuary
Enforcement Team has also worked successfully with volunteers and other
agencies to reduce escalating elephant seal disturbance near Piedras Blancas.
Volunteers staff a docent field program to provide for organized visitation
of the elephant seal rookeries, while Federal and State officials
assure that willful disturbance of the animals is corrected.
on the Coast
The Sanctuary develops and promotes many educational programs to inform
the public about activities that can harm the marine environment and Sanctuary
resources. The Sanctuary strongly encourages public participation and
vigilance in protecting the Sanctuary from threats such as oil spills,
toxic discharges, wildlife harassment, habitat alteration, unauthorized
resource extraction, and damage or removal of historical artifacts. Public
involvement is the only way that we can truly protect these resources
over the long-term, and Central California coastal communities have proven
their commitment to protecting the Sanctuary. Many citizens contact the
Sanctuary and other government agencies to report activities that may
be violations or threats to Sanctuary resources. These "eyes on the
coast" are a valuable asset to guard and protect the ocean resources
important to us all.
an incident of concern or a suspected violation, click
If you have additional questions regarding enforcement activities in the
MBNMS Enforcement Coordinator
99 Pacific Street, Bldg. 455A
Monterey, CA 93940
Phone: (831) 647-4251 / Fax: (831) 647-4250