Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary


The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary lies off the California coast to the west and north of Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. It includes nearshore waters up to the mean high tide line from Bodega Head to Rocky Point in Marin County and offshore waters extending beyond the Farallon Islands and the continental shelf.

The sanctuary was designated in 1981 because these waters provide important marine and nearshore habitats for a diverse array of marine mammals and birds in addition to fishery, plant, algal and benthic resources. The marine mammals and seabirds present in abundant numbers on the Farallon Islands and along the mainland coast depend as much on the integrity and productivity of these adjacent ocean and estuarine waters as on the preservation of the shore areas they use for breeding, feeding and hauling out.

The sanctuary contains a complete spectrum of marine habitats, ranging from unique inland estuarine and intertidal areas to pelagic and deep-oceanic environments. These productive marine environments support an abundance of living resources, including: The sanctuary provides many examples of the marine life and habitats that are characteristic of cold temperate waters of the eastern Pacific marine region from Point Conception to British Columbia. For example:
Farallon Islands
South Farallon Islands, known to ancient sailors as the Devil's Teeth. Photo: Jan Roletto
There are also many significant nearshore habitats represented within sanctuary boundaries, such as the inland-reaching Estero de San Antonio and Estero Americano, Tomales Bay and Bolinas Lagoon, and the large intertidal and subtidal reef at Duxbury Reef. For maps, tables, and analyses of the sanctuaries' biological resources, please see A Biogeographic Assessment off Northern and Central Califonia published by NOAA's Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment.

The sanctuary illustrates how important the ocean and its wildlife and habitats are for the economic and social well-being of the region:
Managing an area with such a rich abundance and diversity of marine life near the bustling San Francisco Bay Area's nearly eight million residents brings a great number of challenges. Water quality, habitat destruction through development, wildlife disturbance, invasive species and other issues must be continually evaluated and addressed. However, the rewards and opportunities are great as well, as the sanctuary partners with many agencies, organizations and individuals to protect, study, manage and teach about this precious resource.

Map showing the boundary of Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and adjacent sanctuaries. Map: Tim Reed, SIMoN/GFNMS