Tomales Bay

egrest along the shore of tomales bay

Tomales Bay is a significant biological community that supports a diversity of habitats; including eelgrass beds, intertidal sand and mud flats, and salt and freshwater marshes. Thousands of species of birds, other vertebrates, invertebrates and plants- including numerous threatened and endangered species- inhabit the bay. The watershed is especially important to approximately 20,000 wintering shorebird, seabirds, and waterbirds, among many other bird species that occur both seasonally and year-round (Kelly, 1998). 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. Several species of marine mammals have been documented in the bay and there is a resident harbor seal population that breeds there- the seal population ranges between 500 and 800 seals depending on the time of year. View the map and coordinates of the designated no-anchoring seagrass protection zones (PDF, 173KB)

Contact Information:
For more information about the Tomales Bay Vessel Management Plan:

Brad Damitz (415) 259-5766;
991 Marine Drive, The Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94129


Tomales Bay Vessel Management Plan

Download the Final Vessel Management Plan and EA/IS(PDF, 7Mb)

tomales bay

The Final Tomales Bay Vessel Management Plan, released April 2013, was developed by Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) staff and the California State Lands Commission (CLSC) staff in collaboration with nine other local, state and federal agencies with jurisdiction in Tomales Bay collectively known as the Tomales Bay Interagency Committee. 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.

The CSLC at their April 26, 2013 meeting approved adoption of a Negative Declaration pursuant to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (§§ 21000 et seq. and 21092, Pub. Resources Code) and the Final Tomales Bay Vessel Management Plan. NOAA is currently reviewing the Plan and the EA/IS to ensure federal consistency and compliance with federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, This review should be completed in June. Once the NOAA review is complete, the final Plan and EA/IS, approved by both NOAA and the CSLC, will be posted here.

The Draft Plan was released for public review on August 23, 2012. During a 30-day comment period, which included a public hearing held in Point Reyes Station on September 18, 2012, GFNMS and CSLC recieved comments from over 50 individuals and organizations, including local stakeholders and the Tomales Bay boating community. Based on these comments and further evaluation of the proposed actions in the Draft Plan, changes and updates were made, which are represented in the Final Plan, dated April 2013.

Once the Final Plan has been approved, a Tomales Bay Mooring Program will be implemented over a set timeframe to ensure adequate time for public notification.

About the Tomales Bay Vessel Management Plan

The Plan is the result of a long-term multi-agency effort to streamline and coordinate vessel management activities for the benefit of the public. The Plan aims to improve water quality, protect wildlife and habitat, protect public health and ensure recreational opportunities in Tomales Bay. It also implements the mandates and regulations of both GFNMS and CSLC. It represents extensive input from the boating community and other local stakeholders, and addresses numerous issues including 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. GFNMS has regulatory authority over all these issues, and the applicable regulations can be found at 15 CFR Part 992 Subpart H.

The intended outcome of the Plan is to have a coordinated, collaborative plan that provides guidance to the agencies and the public for improving the water quality, protecting and restoring the natural resources and ensuring public health and safety of water-related uses of Tomales Bay. This plan does not establish any new legal authorities; none of the proposed actions will alter existing authorities with regard to management of resources or regulation of activities within Tomales Bay.

Proposed 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 primary mooring areas on both the east and west shores of the bay. Mooring vessels in Tomales Bay requires the vessel owner to obtain a lease by CSLC. The proposed Tomales Bay Mooring Program, as described in the Draft Plan, includes criteria for where moorings can be sited, specifications for allowable mooring tackle, and requirements for the inspection and maintenance of moorings.

The main objective of the Mooring Program is to develop a streamlined approach that minimizes, to the extent possible, the time for permitting agency staff to process applications. By doing this, costs to mooring owners applying for a lease would likely be reduced. This efficiency is possible because the Program described in the Plan lays out in advance most of the lease requirements, including where moorings will be allowed, what types of equipment will be acceptable, and how the moorings should be installed, inspected, and maintained. In order for a lease to be issued by CSLC it will be necessary to verify that all of these requirements have been met.

Once the Final Plan is approved by the CSLC Commissioners, GFNMS and CSLC staff will finalize the Mooring Program requirements and protocols, develop a community outreach plan and introduce the program to the community. When the Mooring Program is introduced, a mooring lease application along with instructors and guidance materials will be made available for individuals seeking a CSLC Recreational Lease for mooring of recreational vessels on Tomales Bay. These materials will assist individuals with the application process and will include a Tomales Bay Vessel Mooring Handbook and an interactive map showing mooring zones, restricted areas, and other points of interest.

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)