The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, also established in 1972 and managed by NOAA, has 25 reserves covering more than 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) in 17 states and Puerto Rico. The reserves are representative of the various regions and estuarine types found in the United States and its territories.
The Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is one of the United States' 13 National Marine Sanctuaries that protect and preserve ocean ecosystems in the U.S. Cordell Bank is a seamount approximately 50 miles northwest of San Francisco where the ocean bottom rises to within 120 feet (37 meters) of the surface. The seamount was discovered in 1853 by the U.S. Coast Survey, and named for Edward Cordell, who surveyed the area more thoroughly in 1869. It was extensively explored and described during 1978-86 by Robert Schmieder, who published a monograph about it [Schmieder, 1991]. It has been protected as a sanctuary since 1989. The protected area encompasses 526 square miles (1347 km²) of ocean.
The seamount is largely composed of granite, and 93 million years ago was part of the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. The Pacific Plate sheared northwest, moving the seamount to its current location. Continental drift continues to move the seamount at about 3.5 inches (9 cm) per year. During the most recent glaciation, 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, Cordell Bank may have been an island, since sea level was 360 feet (110 meters) lower.
This unusual granite mountain is surrounded on three sides by deep waters, which allows the flow of deep nutrient-rich waters over relatively shallow waters with sufficient light to support photosynthesis. The central coast of California, including the Cordell Bank area, is one of the Pacific's great upwelling regions. The result is that Cordell Bank is an unusually biologically productive area, supporting large and diverse populations of marine life, including many seabirds and marine mammals.
Sanctuary waters support seabirds both from the nearby Farallon Islands and Point Reyes, as well as migratory birds from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, and the Hawaiian Islands. Several species of albatross are known to frequent Cordell Bank, most commonly the Black-footed Albatross. Twenty-six different species of marine mammals inhabit the sanctuary, including Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, and Steller's Sea Lions. Late summer is the most likely time to find large cetaceans migrating through using the Bank's abundant food resources. Leatherback Sea Turtles also inhabit sanctuary waters.
Sanctuary regulations prohibit extraction of hydrocarbons (oil, natural gas), the removal of benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms, discharge of wastes, and removal of cultural resources. Recreational scuba diving is not recommended in the sanctuary due to depth and currents.
Future: A bill (H.R. 5352) was recently proposed to Congress by local Representative Lynn Woolsey to expand the size of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the neighboring Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary by 1,094 square miles.
Schmieder, Robert W., 1991, Ecology of an Underwater Island, Published by Cordell Expeditions, Walnut Creek, CA, http://www.cordell.org. See also: Schmieder Bank
Stallcup, Richard. 1990. Ocean Birds of the Nearshore Pacific, Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Stinson Beach, CA. 214 pp.
SCIENTISTS RECORD FIRST 'MEGAPCLICKS' FROM FEEDING HUMPBACK WHALES IN NOAA'S STELLWAGEN BANK NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY
Aug 28, 2007; The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration issued the following press release: For the first...