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 2016

Over the past year, the Cordell Marine Sanctuary Foundation (CMSF) has supported several major projects involving ocean research and education.  Some of these projects are single events, others are long-term, continuing research and education programs.  All have the potential to increase our knowledge of the diversity of ocean life and how it responds to changing conditions along our coast, and communicate those findings to teachers and students and the general public.

  •   The design and production of displays for the new Ocean Exploration Center at the Pt Reyes Lighthouse Visitor Center. These displays are designed to educate the public about the importance and incredible diversity of the underwater environment of Cordell Bank. The Center is visited by 400,000 people per year.
  •   Mooring deployments (2) and data collection at Cordell Bank to support research of hypoxia (low oxygen) conditions in the Cordell Bank region.  Such conditions may have severe impacts on life in the marine environment. This work is related to on-going climate change research of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the U.C. Davis Bodega Marine Lab.
  •   Production and support of a traveling educational exhibition of photographs above and below the surface at Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. This exhibition has been shown in various locations in Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties.
  •   Support for the Beyond the Golden Gate Research Symposium. This symposium is focused on the oceanography, ecology, and geology of the Gulf of Farallones and adjacent waters between Point Arena and Point Año Nuevo – including Cordell Bank, Point Reyes, and central San Francisco Bay.  The symposium encourages conversation and collaboration among researchers and students.
  •   Design and production of a portable model of the underwater dramatic topography of Cordell Bank. This model is shown at education and outreach events in the Greater Bay Area to help explain why Cordell Bank is such a vital feeding area for sea birds, fish, seals and whales.
  •   San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival. CMSF provides direct financial support to the Film Festival program, including cash prizes for the Student film competition.  Middle school students are invited to free screenings and films are shown to students at a special morning Ocean Education program.

If you’d like to help support these programs and more, please donate generously to the Cordell Marine Sanctuary Foundation.  You may also mail your check made out to “Cordell Marine Sanctuary Foundation” to:

Cordell Marine Sanctuary Foundation, 1643 Furlong Road, Sebastopol, CA 95472

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.