Tomales Bay

egrest along the shore of tomales bay

NEW! Click here for information about the Tomales Bay mooring program

Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (the Sanctuary) protects the waters off the coast of Marin, Sonoma and southern Mendocino Counties including Tomales Bay, which is a wetland of international significance that supports a diversity of habitats, including eelgrass beds, intertidal sand and mud flats, and salt and freshwater marshes. The bay is especially important to approximately 20,000 wintering shorebird, seabirds, and waterbirds. The waters of Tomales Bay are also important to many fish species; including salmon, eel, sturgeon, halibut, endangered Coho Salmon, and the commercially important Pacific Herring that rely on its creeks and extensive eelgrass beds to spawn. The bay also supports a resident harbor seal breeding population.

Tomales Bay Vessel Management Plan:

The Tomales Bay Vessel Management Plan (the Plan), addresses vessel sewage discharge, impacts from moorings, derelict or deserted vessels, introduction of invasive species, disturbance of wildlife, and discharges of oil, fuel, and vessel maintenance products. The Environmental Assessment and Initial Study (EA/IS), which is included as an appendix to the Plan, analyzes the potential environmental effects associated with implementation of the Plan consistent with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and California Environmental Quality Act.

Tomales Bay Mooring Program:

Moored boats have been a familiar part of the Tomales Bay landscape for many years, and moorings have historically been and continue to be concentrated in several areas on the east and west shores of the bay.

The Sanctuary and California State Lands Commission (CSLC) initiated the Tomales Bay Mooring Program on Aug 10, 2015, which requires all private vessel mooring owners to obtain a mooring lease from CSLC. The Mooring Program includes criteria for where moorings can be sited, specifications for allowable mooring tackle, and requirements for the inspection and maintenance of moorings. The Tomales Bay Mooring Program Requirements includes policies and criteria for moorings in Tomales Bay.

The Tomales Bay Mooring Program is based on a precautionary approach and is consistent with the mandates of the agencies that have jurisdiction over the bay. The Mooring Program ensures that boating activities are conducted in a responsible manner—through adoption and implementation of mooring policies and criteria, we can allow for this long-standing tradition of boating to continue, while not adversely affecting the bay. The primary goals for establishing a program for siting and permitting moorings on the bay are to: protect habitat; decrease threats to and disturbance of wildlife; and ensure safe and enjoyable water-related recreation by allowing moorings in appropriate locations with appropriate materials and removing and preventing moorings and mooring materials that can harm the marine environment.

Tomales Bay Interactive Map:

The Tomales Bay Interactive Map visually represents the mooring criteria and other boating-related resources on the bay. This user-friendly interactive map enables the viewer to determine the geographic coordinates of specific locations without the use of specialized software.

Tomales Bay Seagrass Protection Zones:

There are a total of seven no anchoring zones, which comprise 22% of the surface area of Tomales Bay. The location and extent of the no-anchoring zones encompass the known seagrass coverage and are based upon seagrass data provided by California Department of Fish and Wildlife from 1992, 2000, 2001 and 2002. The no-anchoring seagrass protection zones include some areas where seagrass coverage is extensive and other areas where coverage is discontinuous and patchy. All zones extend shoreward to the Mean High Water Line (MHWL).

This prohibition protects seagrass beds in Tomales Bay from harm from anchoring. Seagrass means any species of marine angiosperms (flowering plants) that inhabit portions of the seabed in the Sanctuary. The seagrass beds help trap sediments and reduce excess nutrients and pollutants in the water column and thereby contribute towards the Bay’s water quality. Seagrass provides breeding and nursery grounds for fish such as herring, which attach their eggs to the seagrass blades.

Seagrass beds also provide important habitats for migratory birds, such as shorebirds, who feed upon the abundant fish and invertebrate species that live in the seagrass beds. Seagrass beds also serve as buffer zones in protecting coastal erosion and are a filter for pollutants.

View the map and coordinates (PDF, 2.5 MB) of the designated no-anchoring seagrass protection zones.

Want to know more about Seagrass in Tomales Bay? Download this presentation (PDF, 21 MB) on seagrass given by Dr. Suzanne Olyarnik, Bodega Marine Reserve Director, University of California, Davis.

Public Process

Throughout the process to develop the Draft Tomales Bay Vessel Management Plan, GFNMS and CSLC were committed to engaging boaters and the local community in providing input for the development of the plan. To that end, Greater Farallones Sanctuary Advisory Council initiated a Working Group for Tomales Bay Vessel Management. The Working Group consisted of representatives of boating associations, shellfish growers, commercial fishermen, boat services operations, conservation organizations, shore-side property owners, and state and federal agencies with jurisdiction in Tomales Bay.

GFNMS and CSLC would like to thank the following Working Group participants for their contributions to the development of the Plan:

  • Dominique Richard, Chair, GFNMS Advisory Council
  • Colin Smith, National Park Service
  • Nanci Smith, State Lands Commission
  • Tom Moore, Dept. of Fish and Game
  • Jerry Abbot, Inverness Yacht Club
  • Mark Bartolini, Tomales Bay Boaters Association
  • George Clyde, East Shore Planning Group
  • John Finger, Hog Island Oyster Company
  • Fred Smith, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin
  • Gordon Bennett, Sierra Club
  • Willy Vogler, Lawson's Landing
  • Gene Maffucci, Herring Fishman
  • Skip Vilicich, Marshall Boat Works
  • Jeremy Fisher-Smith, Fisher-Smith Boat Works

Summaries of Working Group Meetings:


Tomales Bay Interactive Map

A layered PDF was developed by GFNMS staff as a complement to the Draft Plan to provide a geographic context and visual representation of the proposed Tomales Bay Mooring Program criteria and other boating-related resources on the bay. This user-friendly interactive map enables the viewer to overlay several different map layers and to determine the geographic coordinates of specific locations without the use of specialized software. A revised version of the interactive map is being developed and will be available soon.


Previous Documents & Presentations

Vessel Usage Scoping Document

In 2007, GFNMS and CSLC produced the document, "Protecting Tomales Bay by Managing Vessel Usage: A Document for Public Input." The document was a result of a multi-agency effort to coordinate current and future vessel-related activities to improve water quality, protect wildlife and habitat, and protect public health and ensure recreational opportunities in Tomales Bay. The document presented activities currently being implemented by the participating agencies as well as proposed concepts for vessel management. The purpose of this document was to solicit vessel management recommendations from individuals and organizations in the local community and users of Tomales Bay to protect the ecosystem and public health in the bay. The document was released for a 60-day comment period and two "brainstorming" workshops were held.

Download the Draft Vessel Management Plan - EA/IS, released Aug. 23, 2012 (PDF, 3Mb)

Download the Notice of Intent (PDF, 135Kb)

Protecting Tomales Bay by Managing Vessel Usage: A Document for Public Input 2007 (26.2 MB PDF)
Appendix I: Government Agency Jurisdiction and Regulation (352 KB PDF)
Appendix II: Tomales Bay TMDL (72 KB PDF)
Appendix III: Mooring Criteria-GIS Information for Maps (24 KB PDF)

View response to Public Comments
2008 (176 KB PDF)

Presentation by Suzanne Olyarnik, Bodega Marine Lab: Seagrass Beds in Tomales Bay: The Unsung Heroes of Habitat (20.9MB PDF)