In 1972, in response to a growing awareness of the value of our coastal waters, Congress passed the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act. The Act authorized the designation of National Marine Sanctuaries to protect significant waters and secure habitat for aquatic species, shelter historically significant shipwrecks and other cultural resources, and serve as valuable spots for research, fishing, wildlife viewing, boating, and tourism.

Under the authority of National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the waters and submerged lands along the Coast of California north and south of Point Reyes Headlands, between Bodega Head and Rocky Point and surrounding the Farallon Islands, were designated Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) for the purposes of preserving and protecting this unique and fragile ecological community. Read the Designation Document (PDF).

Within the area designated as GFNMS, the Act authorizes the promulgation of regulations that are reasonable and necessary to protect the values of the Sanctuary. The Act also authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to establish sanctuary advisory councils to provide advice to the Secretary of Commerce regarding the designation and management of national marine sanctuaries. This authority has been delegated to the Director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. The Director established the Sanctuary Advisory Council.