Santa Monica Bay has been named by Congress as one of four marine ecosystems to be considered for addition to the National Marine Sanctuary program.
Under the program, the bay would be extensively studied and granted permanent federal protection from major sources of pollution.
A 2-year study will be undertaken by the Department of Commerce to determine if the bay meets the program's criteria. To qualify for sanctuary status, a body of water must be found to have "special national significance due to its resource or human use values."
The beaches surrounding Santa Monica Bay were visited by more than 42.5 million people in 1987, according to the Lifeguard Division of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, making it important enough as a recreational area to be considered for the program.
If the bay is chosen as a sanctuary after the 2-year study, an Environmental Impact Statement and management plan will be drawn up over the following 30 months.