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March 18, 2013

California National Marine Sanctuary Expansion Plans

Expect major additions to the Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is wrapping up public hearings on its final revised management plan for major additions to the Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries. Last December, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries of NOAA announced expansion plans for these areas, encompassing an additional 2,700 square miles extending up the coast of northern California. Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary currently covers nearly 1,300 square miles of coastal waters surrounding the Farallon Islands. 

Cordell Bank NMS is a 529-square-mile sanctuary named for the underwater mountain that rises to within 115 feet of the ocean’s ­surface off Point Reyes, California, creating an upwelling of ­nutrient-rich deep water that supports a flourishing ecosystem around the bank. 

The proposed expansion area is north of the existing sanctuaries and extends from Bodega Bay in Sonoma County to Alder Creek in Mendocino County. This area encompasses Point Arena, North America’s most intense “upwelling” site, which is a home to diverse species and is a highly productive ecosystem. 

The sanctuaries, and the proposed expansion, will accommodate recreational fishing. The primary intent of the proposed expansion is to ensure protection for this productive region against the damage that would result from the development of drilling for oil and gas in these waters. For more information, go to www.farallones.noaa.gov.