The Obama Administration has announced plans to nearly triple the size of two major marine sanctuaries off the coast of Northern California. After more than a decade of public comment and research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary will expand from 529 square miles to 1,286 square miles and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary will expand from 1,282 square miles to 3,295 square miles. Together, the two sanctuaries will be nearly the size of Connecticut. When combined with the nearby Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a a stretch of more than 150 miles of coastal waters will now be protected.
Described as the “blue Serengeti” by scientists for their nutrient-rich areas, the sanctuaries support a diverse array of marine life, including 25 endangered or threatened species, 36 marine mammals, and more than a quarter million breeding seabirds, the largest colony of seabirds in the U.S. While the broadening of these wildlife havens had near unanimous local support in the Bay Area, previous attempts in Congress to pass their expansion had failed due to oil and gas industry opposition. Extending north of San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the sanctuaries will now be permanently off-limits to drilling.