Happy 30th birthday, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary: Here’s to long life and continued good health!


The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary celebrated its 30-year anniversary Sept. 17 with a Santa Cruz gala that was a who’s-who of local leaders, celebrities and activists. Missed it? Watch our video to get a glimpse of the celebrations — including a bevy of blue and green ball gowns and some adorable sea creatures.

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The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

It’s a moment of community history worth remembering because it saw politicians and activists working together to get legislation passed that continues to affect us all.

It came about after a decade of activism by many of the people appearing in this video, including former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (then a congressman) and Dan Haifley, the former executive director of Save Our Shores.

The sanctuary — one of 15 in the nation and the second-largest after Hawaii — is 6,094 square miles (from Marin County south to Cambria) and includes Monterey Submarine Canyon, which plunges 11,800 feet off Moss Landing. It’s like the Grand Canyon underwater.

This video reminds us of the astonishing beauty and biodiversity of Monterey Bay. The nutrient-rich waters offer a home to whales, dolphins, seals, sea otters, sea birds, kelp forests and much more. It is arguably the most biodiverse region in the world, with 36 species of mammals,180 species of sea birds and more than 500 kinds of fish.

You’ll see some of that beauty in this 5-minute video, including a fun close-up on a highly expressive seal.

Here is something you might not know: Monterey Bay — our backyard ocean — owes its life to activists and to politics.

Activists had spent 10 years fighting for the sanctuary and President George H.W. Bush — who was running against Bill Clinton for president — finally endorsed it in 1992 in a bid to win over California voters.

Panetta and other local leaders — including state Sen. John Laird (then a Santa Cruz City Council member), Assemblymember Sam Farr and former Assemblymember and current Santa Cruz mayoral candidate Fred Keeley (then an aide to Farr) — then hustled to get Congress to approve.

They all remembered and feted the historic moment Sept. 17, during the sanctuary’s anniversary gala at the Cocoanut Grove in Santa Cruz. The gala was formal — women wore blue and green ball gowns — the party raised $150,000 and the guest list was a who’s-who of Monterey Bay-area activists and community leaders among the 360 in attendance.

Watch the video for a recap, to spot who was there (hint: Clint Eastwood is among the guests) and as a 5-minute way to contemplate the beauty of our region.

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