Cordell Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Supporting the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary in:

  • Scientific research programs, studying climate change, ocean acidification, and marine life
  • Education, outreach, and increasing public awareness of the Sanctuary and it’s programs
  • Conservation and protection of the Sanctuary resources, including whales, seabirds and corals

The sanctuary was established in 1989 to protect and preserve the extraordinary ecosystem, including marine birds, mammals, and other natural resources of Cordell Bank and its surrounding waters. The Sanctuary encompasses brilliant and diverse marine life, above and below the water.

map_expanded_boundaries_6-15_bigThe Sanctuary protects a very productive offshore area of 1,286 square miles off the northern California coast. The combination of ocean conditions and undersea topography creates a rich and diverse marine community. The prevailing California current flows southward along the coast, and the upwelling of nutrient-rich deep ocean water provides the foundation for a flourishing marine ecosystem. The upper reef crests of Cordell Bank are carpeted in lush invertebrate cover, including hydrocorals, stony corals, sponges, anemones, hydroids, macroalgae and tunicates, providing critical habitat to a variety of first-year juvenile and adult rockfish species. Cordell Bank is truly a biologically diverse and unique place.

The Sanctuary supports healthy resident populations and is a destination feeding ground for many migratory marine mammals, seabirds, and fishes. Invertebrates proliferate on the Bank and in the surrounding water column.

The centerpiece of the sanctuary is an offshore granitic bank 4.5 miles wide by 9.5 miles long. The bank is located on the continental shelf, about 49 miles northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge and 23 miles west of the Point Reyes Lighthouse.  The actual sanctuary boundary starts just 6 miles offshore of the Lighthouse.

This rocky submerged island emerges from the soft sediments of the continental shelf, with the upper pinnacles reaching to within 115 feet of the ocean’s surface. The continental shelf depth at the base of the Bank is roughly 400 feet.

Cordell Foundation Projects in 2015

In 2015, several major projects were supported by funding from the foundation, including the following.

The second annual installation of moorings and equipment to measure oxygen and temperature in subsurface waters of the sanctuary.  These measurements will help analyze the impact of changes in ocean currents and upwelling, as well as form the basis for long-term monitoring of potential climate change impacts on the Sanctuary.

The deployment of an acoustic mooring (one of 11 around the North American continent) that will measure natural and human-generated sounds in the sanctuary waters for the next two years.  Every sound, from whale calls to ship engines, will be recorded and measured in this large-scale effort to determine the volume and prevalence of sounds of all sorts in the coastal waters of North America.

The Foundation supported the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival.  These films help educate the public by creating compelling visual representations of the many issues facing sea life and human dependence on healthy seas.

The new Ocean Interpretive Center at the Point Reyes Lighthouse will offer coastal visitors a sheltered place to learn more about the Sanctuary and the life it supports.

In addition, the Foundation provides ongoing support for the day to day activities of Sanctuary staff that are focused on protecting, studying, and educating people about the Cordell National Marine Sanctuary in particular and oceans in general.

If you’d like to help us with our work, please give generously.  Click here to Donate.

View a Story Map of the Cordell Bank NMS

Take a visual tour of the Sanctuary via this story map.  Photos and video taken with a remote operated vehicle (ROV) in 2014 illustrate the abundance of life in the Sanctuary.  Sanctuary scientists add text that explains why this offshore area, 52 miles northwest of San Francisco, is so vital to the health of sea life in the region.  The tour explores the geology of the Cordell Bank, potential impact of global climate change and ocean acidification, invasive species monitoring in the Sanctuary, and the ROV as a tool for scientific research.  Take the ROV dive tour to learn more about the Sanctuary and see it for yourself!  Click HERE to take the tour!

Whale Spotter Application – Preventing Ship Strikes

Cordell Marine Sanctuary Foundation and others initiated a whale spotter program to help reduce ship strikes. People on ships or at promontories such as Point Reyes and the Farallon Islands can report whale sightings in near-real time. Learn more and watch the video.

Hypoxia Monitoring Moorings Deployed at Cordell Bank

Two moorings outfitted with oceanographic instruments are again positioned at Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS) for the second year in a row after CBNMS staff worked with Bodega Marine Lab scientists to re-deploy the moorings on May 19, 2015 for the spring through fall seasons.  Cordell Marine Sanctuary Foundation again provided funding to CBNMS for the project this year and Danielle Lipski, CBNMS Research Coordinator, worked with Dr. John Largier and Matt Robart at Bodega Marine Lab (BML) to build and instrument the moorings.   Low oxygen water naturally occurs in the deep ocean but shallow intrusions of hypoxic (meaning “low oxygen”) water has been found in more shallow waters along the US west coast in recent years.   Low dissolved oxygen levels had been recorded along the north central California coast for the first time in 2013 by BML and in 2014 CBNMS and BML worked together to place sensors at Cordell Bank to learn if low oxygen water was present at the bank.  The bank is inhabited by a vibrant invertebrate and rockfish community which could be vulnerable to hypoxic conditions.  Results from 2014 showed that hypoxic or near-hypoxic conditions were recorded at the buoys for about two weeks in June and July following strong winds and upwelling conditions.

See the KTVU video of the deployment and interviews with scientists.