landscape view of the pt arena lighthouse
Point Arena Lighthouse, which sits near the northern boundary of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: Matt McIntosh, NOAA


Final Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Point Reyes - Farallon Islands Marine Sanctuary & Response to Comments published.

President Jimmy Carter designates the Point Reyes - Farallon Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

1982 – 83
Based at the Point Reyes National Seashore, the sanctuary develops management, research, and education plans and programs.

The ship Puerto Rican spills 1.4 million gallons of oil in the sanctuary. An estimated 2,874 birds die, representing twenty-six seabird species, and seals are oil-fouled. Affected commercial species include Dungeness crab, shrimp, krill and rockfish larvae. Approximately eight million crabs are lost.

The oil barge Apex Houston spills approximately 20,000 gallons of oil between San Francisco and Long Beach Harbor. At least 9,000 seabirds are killed. The sanctuary funds the initial three years of research on endangered humpback and blue whales in the region, now one of the most extensive studies of these threatened species in the Eastern North Pacific.

The renamed Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary publishes its first Management Plan.

The sanctuary hosts the first biennial symposium on research within the region.

The sanctuary relocates offices to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco.

The United Nations designates the sanctuary as part of the Golden Gate Biosphere, an internationally important ecosystem.

The Loma Prieta earthquake causes a slide that closes Highway 1 near Stinson Beach. Road crews dump debris into the sanctuary. Five years later the southern end of Bolinas Lagoon would be cleared of toxic waste as part of mitigation for the illegal dumping.

Santa Rosa sewage project to discharge wastewater into the sanctuary is stopped.

The sanctuary assumes management of recently designated (1989) Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

The sanctuary initiates long-term assessment and monitoring of rocky intertidal habitats on the South Farallon Islands. The Sanctuary assists the California Department of Fish and Game with abalone tagging and monitoring.

The sanctuary participates in an inter-agency cruise to sample sediment and long-lived fish at a shallow radioactive waste dump-site.

The sanctuary relocates to the historic Coast Guard Lifesaving Station in the Presidio.

On designation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Farallones staff takes on management of its northern section from Marin County to Año Nuevo.

The sanctuary establishes Beach Watch, the first formal volunteer program within the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and later receives Congressional recognition.

Using new technology, radioactive barrels are located and photographed on the sea floor in a joint research project.

Bolinas Lagoon is cleared of toxic waste and landfill.

The non-profit Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association (FMSA) is established.

Rocky intertidal monitoring begins at seven mainland sites.

The first northern fur seal pup birth in over 170 years is recorded at the South Farallon Island.

The inter-agency Common Murre Restoration Project begins to re-establish abandoned a Common Murre colony at Devil's Slide Rock following the T/V Apex Houston oil spill. The first murre chicks fledge after many years of absence.

In October, an oil spill from the dry docked tanker Cape Mohican leaks oil into San Francisco Bay and the Sanctuary. Beach Watch surveyors participate in incident response. The Beach Watch Program wins congressional recognition as a significant volunteer program of the U.S Department of Commerce. Manager Ed Ueber receives commendations from Congresswoman Pelosi and the California State Assembly. He is also named an "Ocean Hero", in association with the Smithsonian's Ocean Planet Exhibit.

The SEALS citizen science program is established to document and reduce the impact of human activity on harbor seals in Tomales Bay and Bolinas Lagoon.

“Mystery” tarballs wash ashore at Point Reyes National Seashore, source unknown, but later Beach Watch samples are used to trace tar balls to the SS Jacob Luckenbach shipwreck.

The sanctuary opens the first Sanctuary Visitor Center on Crissy Field in the Presidio of San Francisco, now reaching over 40,000 people a year.

The sanctuary's Beach Watch surveyors collect tar ball evidence from the T/V Command oil spill. The vessel leaves port at night leaking fuel down the coast and is finally apprehended by the US Coast Guard off Costa Rica. The oil samples collected by Beach Watch are used to prosecute the case. Funds totaling $4.05 million in penalties are secured for seabird restoration. 

Bolinas Lagoon, critical habitat for resident and migratory birds, marine mammals, fish and invertebrates, is designated a Ramsar site - a Wetland of International Importance.

The U.S Geological Survey and the British Geological Survey conduct a follow-up cruise with the sanctuary to investigate radioactive levels at an inactive dump site on the continental shelf.

Beach Watch receives the NOAA Volunteer Recognition Award for responding to the T/V Command oil spill.


The sanctuary, through the SEALS program, eliminates disturbance by clam diggers to harbor seals at Tomales Bay during pupping season. The sanctuary begins to coordinate the Northern and Central California harbor seal census. By 2005, the seals' 15-year decline in pup survival is reversed. FMSA initiates a Responsible Wildlife Viewing program to educate boaters how to view wildlife without disturbing them.

The National Marine Sanctuary System and The National Geographic Society start the Sustainable Seas Expedition (SSE) at the sanctuary. The major thrust of the program is education and testing submersible research methods at all of the National Marine Sanctuaries.

FMSA sponsors the first marine sanctuary outreach fair, Ocean Fest.

The sanctuary develops it's first Emergency Response Plan.

Management Plan Review begins, addressing issues such as wildlife disturbance, invasive species, water quality, impacts from fishing, and impacts from oil spills. Over 12,000 public comments are received.

The Gulf of the Farallones transfers $4.3 million in settlement funds to the National Park Service to help acquire the 562-acre Waldo Giacomini Ranch for the purpose of restoring Tomales Bay wetlands.

FMSA initiates Visitor Center school programs. Executive Director Maria Brown is honored with NOAA's Environmental Hero Award. High school intertidal monitoring program is established at Duxbury Reef. The program evolves into LiMPETS.


To prevent wildlife disturbance, motorized personal watercraft are prohibited.

The Sanctuary Advisory Council, comprised of constituents in education, maritime activities, research, and conservation is established to provide advice on sanctuary management.

Tomales Bay becomes the second Farallones sanctuary site to be designated a Ramsar Site - a Wetland of International Importance.

The sanctuary's Beach Watch program collected evidence identifying the source of "mystery" oil spills as the S/S Jacob Luckenbach and assists the U.S. Coast Guard in removing 100,000 gallons of oil from the sunken vessel.

Beach Watch volunteer, Gordon Bennett, receives the National Marine Sanctuary Volunteer of the Year award.

The sanctuary maintains management of the San Mateo and Marin County portions of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on all issues except water quality.

The sanctuary launches At Your School, with a Sharkmobile program to educate 4th-6th grade students about shark biology and conservation issues. At Your School has now expanded to include the Crab Cab, Seabird Shuttle, and more.

Sanctuary Beach Watch monitoring shows a 160% decrease in oil pollution from peak 1997-1998 rates after the 2002 removal of oil from the leaking shipwreck Jacob Luckenbach.

The Seabird Protection Network is established to protect nesting colonies from boater, pilot, and hiker disturbances.

The sanctuary participates in one of the largest multi-agency oil spill drills of its kind, "Safe Seas 2006," to evaluate agencies' response readiness and areas for improvement.

Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and Congresswomen Lynn Woolsey and Nancy Pelosi honor Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary with Congressional resolutions celebrating 25 years of ocean stewardship.

The sanctuary publishes Socioeconomic Profile of Fishing Activities and Communities Associated with the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries prepared by Ecotrust.

The sanctuary and the Environmental Protection Agency successfully settled with Dutra Dredging, one of the largest dredging companies in the state, securing $750,000 dollars in fines for dumping or spilling dredged mud into sanctuary waters.

The sanctuary with partners launch the “seabird shuttle”, a seabird curriculum for third to fifth graders that teaches seabird natural history, marine food webs, and how teachers and students can help protect seabirds.

On Nov 7, the freighter Cosco Busan leaks over 53,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay, and into the Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries. Beach Watch data is used by the sanctuary to secure cleanup of effected sanctuary beaches. The sanctuary actively engages in response and damage assessment.

GFNMS staff receive a NOAA General Counsel's Award for exceptional performance and significant contributions to the Office of the General Council on the Cosco Busan oil spill.

Sanctuary Superintendent Maria Brown receives Manager of the Year award for outstanding contributions to the protection of our Nation's special ocean places.

Beach Watch volunteer, Mary Cantini, receives the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Volunteer of the Year Award for her outstanding contribution during the Cosco Busan oil spill.

Sanctuary receives "Thank You Ocean Campaign" Coastal America 2007 Partnership Award.

The California Academy of Sciences' Steinhart Aquarium unveils a major exhibit on the region's sanctuaries and highlights the Gulf of of the Farallones.

The sanctuary releases the Bolinas Lagoon Ecosystem Restoration Plan, which includes recommendations for restoration and management of the Wetlands of International Significance.

The sanctuary hosts the first Biennial Ocean Climate Summit bringing together resource managers, scientists, and educators to learn about the impacts of climate change to the ocean and develop a call for action.

The sanctuary releases its revised Management Plan and new regulations to protect white sharks, water quality, eelgrass, and reduce wildlife disturbance.

Sanctuary receives PRBO Conservation Partner Award.

Beach Watch celebrates 15 years of shoreline monitoring in the sanctuary.

Sanctuary discovers new seabird breeding colony off Rodeo Beach.

Sanctuary receives NOAA Bronze medal for response to M/V Cosco Busan oil spill.

Krill harvesting is prohibited in the sanctuary.

The sanctuary files a motion to intervene and successfully recommends denial of an inappropriately-sited hydrokinetic energy facility in the sanctuary.

Phase One of the Beach Watch online query system goes public, allowing conservation, resource protection, education and management staff, as well as the public, near real-time access to Beach Watch data.

The sanctuary partners with Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and PRBO Conservation Science in Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies (ACCESS) to document the distribution, abundance, and demography of marine wildlife in the context of underlying physical and oceanographic processes to inform resource managers, policy makers, and conservation partners.

The sanctuary Green Operations Plan is published and distributed nationally as a model for other sanctuaries. The sanctuary Green Team implements 80% of the Green Operations Action Plan Strategies and reduces the sites carbon emissions by 0.83 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent per person.

With the California Academy of Sciences, the sanctuary trains over 500 volunteers to educate aquarium visitors about rocky intertidal habitats and creatures, and launches the Duxbury Reef Rocky Shore Naturalist Program, a volunteer effort to study and reduce human impacts on Duxbury Reef.


Climate Change Impacts report for the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries is published.

The sanctuary hosts the 2nd Biennial Ocean Climate Summit in partnership with the California Academy of Sciences and the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The Ocean Climate Center for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary opens to facilitate the exchange of technical, scientific, policy and education information and ideas.

The sanctuary works with the California Department of Fish and Game to establish seven special closures around sensitive coastal and island seabird breeding and rooting sites in the sanctuary.

The sanctuary releases its first comprehensive Condition Report on the status and health of its biological and maritime cultural resources.

The Command and Torch Trustee Councils expand the GFNMS led Seabird Protection Network to other sites along the coast of California.

Sanctuary funds new interpretive stairway and 17 interpretive trail signs at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in San Mateo County and helps train 25 docents. Docents currently provide personalized tours for over 100,000 students and families.

Marin County and Farallones Association partner to remove invasive species to restore Kent Island as a dynamic flood shoal island in Bolinas Lagoon.

The sanctuary in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife and Point Blue Conservation Science establish the Bay Area Ecosystem Climate Change Consortium  to coordinate and partner on climate change adaptation planning along the coast and bay.

The Seabird Protection Network, working with airport managers and the Federal Aviation Administration, achieve an unprecedented 100% success in preventing seabird displacement at the 2011 Pacific Coast Dream Machine Air Show.

NOAA issues a Notice of Intent for the proposed inclusion of the waters extending from Point Bonita to Point San Pedro as part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This launches a series of public scoping meetings.

NOAA issues a Notice of Intent for the proposed northward expansion of the Farallones and Cordell Bank sanctuaries along the Sonoma and Mendocino county coasts. This launches a series of public scoping meetings.

The Farallones and Cordell Sanctuary Advisory Councils publish Vessel Strikes and Acoustic Impacts Report recommending actions to protect endangered and threatened whales in the sanctuaries.

The Farallones and Cordell Sanctuary Advisory Councils publish Vessel Spill Response Technologies Report recommending best management practices for cleaning up oil spills.

NOAA on behalf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank sanctuaries with the support of the United States Coast Guard request the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to adjust the vessel traffic lanes approaching San Francisco Bay to reduce ship collisions with endangered and threatened whales. The shipping lanes are narrowed and extended further offshore.

Farallones sanctuary and partners explore and document rare deep water coral and sponge habitats in the sanctuary discovering new species and new habitat.

After an extensive 10 year process involving consulting 10 local, state, and federal agencies, the Farallones sanctuary in partnership with the California State Lands Commission publish the Tomales Bay Vessel Management Plan, to improve water quality and protect sensitive eelgrass and essential fish habitat.

Farallones sanctuary and partners host the third sold out Biennial Ocean Climate Summit and publicly release Our Coast Our Future, an online sea level rise decision support tool for resource managers as well as the Climate Indicators for the North-central California Coast and Ocean.

LiMPETS helps document in sanctuary waters an unprecedented sea star die-off that is affecting the Pacific Coast.

Ocean Climate Indicators: A Monitoring Inventory and Plan for Tracking Climate Change in the North-Central California Coast and Ocean Region is released by the sanctuary.

Staff receive the Energy and Environmental Stewardship Award for the renovation of the Ocean Climate Center on the sanctuary campus.

Staff receive the Department of Commerce Bronze Medal for assistance in shoreline cleanup damage assessment from the Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Researchers discover new deep sea coral species in the sanctuary, Swiftia farallonesica

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Maritime Heritage Program begins a multi-year effort to document shipwrecks within and adjacent to the Farallones sanctuary, confirming the locations and conditions of the vessels Noonday, the City of Chester, City of Rio, and Selja, among others.

The sanctuary releases the draft White Shark Programmatic Environment Assessment for public comment.

Beach Watch celebrates 20-years of monitoring sanctuary shoreline.

Focal resources for climate change adaptation planning are identified at an expert workshop followed by a vulnerability assessment of the focal resources.

On June 19, 2015 the expansion of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary northward to Manchester Beach in Mendocino County becomes effective increasing the area of the sanctuary to 3,295 square miles and eliminating the threat from petroleum development among other impacts. Administrative and regulatory changes also take effect for the entire sanctuary. The name of the sanctuary is officially changed to the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

Beach Watch volunteer Richard Metzinger wins the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Award for Volunteer of the Year for his outstanding service with both the Beach Watch program, monitoring beaches and developing computer programs for data and volunteer management, and the Seabird Protection Network, automating wildlife disturbance reporting.

Paper published in the Monographs of the Western North American Naturalist as a series of research articles on California Islands looks at the long-term decrease in the density and percent cover of upright algae and some invertebrates at the Farallon Islands.

No black abalones are found during assessment at Farallon Island.

Commerce Department Gold Medal recognizes NOAA teamwork that was instrumental in the International Maritime Organization changing the placement of shipping lanes within and around four California national marine sanctuaries to improve protection to threatened and endangered whales.

The sanctuary climate efforts are highlighted as a case study by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change during COP 21. At CPO 21 NOAA Administrator, Dr. Sullivan uses the sanctuary’s climate work as an example of NOAA’s efforts to address climate change in the marine environment.

The sanctuary hosts climate-smart training webinars to international audiences.

Staff that worked on the expansion of Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries receive the NOAA Administrator’s Award for dedication and perseverance.

Resilient Lands and Waters Designation
California's North-central Coast and Russian River Watershed was selected as one of seven priority landscapes under President Obama's Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative to help build the resilience of valuable natural resources and the people that depend on them and to showcase the benefits of landscape-scale management approaches.

The USS Conestoga, which lies in the sanctuary, is listed in the National Register as a site of national significance.

Paper published on the new coral species discovered on joint CBNMS, GFNMS deep sea coral cruise.

ACCESS records highest density of whales observed during the surveys.

Climate Adaptation Leadership Award:
The planning team for the GFNMS project "Climate-Smart Adaptation for the North-central California Coast and Ocean" was selected as an Honorable Mention for the inaugural 2016 Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for Natural Resources for demonstrating exemplary leadership in reducing climate-related threats and promoting adaptation of the nation’s natural resources.


Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association changes its name to Greater Farallones Association.