Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Source: NMS


The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, created in January of 1981, protects an area of 948 square nautical miles (1,255 square miles) off the northern and central California coast. Located just a few miles from San Francisco, the waters within the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary are part of a nationally significant marine ecosystem. Encompassing a diversity of highly productive marine habitats, the Sanctuary supports an abundance of species.

Management Plan

caption A scientist from the Beach Watch program, collects a feather sample from an oiled bird. Credit: Jan Roletto

All National Marine Sanctuaries are required by law to periodically review their management plans to ensure that sanctuary sites continue to best conserve, protect, and enhance their nationally significant living and cultural resources. The Gulf of Farallones management plan dates back to its original designation date and has not been updated in 20 years. Recent scientific discoveries, advancements in managing marine resources, and new resource management issues may not be addressed in existing plans.

The Gulf of Farallones NMS is reviewing its management plan jointly with Cordell Bank NMS and Monterey Bay NMS. These sanctuaries are located adjacent to one another, managed by the same program, and share many of the same resources and issues.

The Gulf of Farallones relies on public input from local and national communities when reviewing its management plan. This management plan review process began with the release of a "State of the Sanctuary" report that provides information to the public about the Sanctuary, its accomplishments, and current resource management issues. Following the release of this report, the three sanctuaries held twenty public scoping meetings from Gualala in the north to Cambria in the south and Sacramento and Washington, DC. During the scoping process, NOAA received over 12,000 comments on issues the public would like to see addressed in the joint management plan.

The three Sanctuary Advisory Councils participated in one joint workshop, and three site specific workshops to prioritize these issues that the sanctuaries received through the scoping process. NOAA is currently evaluating the priority issues identified by the Sanctuary Advisory Councils and will develop a work plan outlining how the final priority issues will be addressed in the new management plan. The Sanctuary Advisory Council will develop working groups to further characterize some of the most critical resource management issues. Once the working groups have made their recommendations on how to address the specific issues(s) they are characterizing, sanctuary staff will develop action plans for the draft management plan. Formal public hearings on the draft plan will help staff revise the document into a final management plan, which, once approved, will outline the sanctuaries' priorities for the next 5-10 years.

Conservation Science Program

caption A scientist from the Beach Watch program, collects a feather sample from an oiled bird. Credit: Jan Roletto

The Gulf of the Farallones is a complex region with high biological diversity; nationally significant wildlife breeding and foraging areas; significant commercial and recreational fishing; estuarine habitats; numerous federally, state and locally protected marine and estuarine waters; watershed influences and impacts from eight million San Francisco Bay Area residents. Conservation Science will help solve specific management problems, enhance ecosystem protection efforts, and assist in the interpretation of the ecosystem for the general public. The Conservation Science program will ensure that science activities address management issues and are effectively integrated into the education and ecosystem protection programs of the sanctuary and those of other resource trustee agencies.

Implementing an effective conservation science program is a primary management goal of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS). Characterization, monitoring, and research assist protection of sanctuary natural resources by promoting understanding of ecosystem structure and function, detecting environmental problems, tracking health and trends of the various habitats and resources in the sanctuary, and contributing to solutions to management issues throughout the GFNMS.

The following three specific areas are the focus of the research and monitoring plan:

  1. Baseline and characterization studies for populations and habitats whose presence were critical in the sanctuary's designation, yet whose distributions and other basic characteristics remain poorly understood;
  2. Directed monitoring studies focusing on indicator species and representative habitats and undertaken jointly with other sanctuaries and agencies; and
  3. Analytical studies aimed at determining the cause of a condition or impacts and predictive studies to understand trends and variability (e.g., in a specific population).

Further Reading

Gulf of the Farallones Official Page

Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the National Marine Sanctuary. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the National Marine Sanctuary should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.



(2006). Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Retrieved from


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