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5 Awesome Things You Might Not Know About Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

by Jenny Stock & Elizabeth Weinberg

This Sunday, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary celebrated its 26th anniversary. Established in 1989, the sanctuary protects 529 square miles off the coast of California.

But while you probably already know such mundane things as the sanctuary's location, and you probably even know that even though the sanctuary is offshore, the Oakland Museum of California hosts a large permanent gallery about the sanctuary in its Natural Sciences Wing, there are at least five things you probably didn't know.

monk seal resting on fishing nets marine debris in the ocean
Photo: Jenny Stock/NOAA Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

1. Cordell Bank -- the underwater feature that the sanctuary is named for -- is made up of granite rock that originated in southern California as part of the Sierra Nevada mountains. 33 million years ago a huge chunk of granite called the Salinian Block started moving north along the San Andreas fault -- and it's still moving!

map showing the movement of cordell bank along the san andress fault line
Map showing the movement of Cordell Bank along the San Andress fault line. Photo: NOAA Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

 

2. Cordell Bank was originally discovered in 1867, but its biological richness was unknown until more than a century later, when a group of intrepid explorers investigated in the early 1980s. You can listen to interviews with the Cordell Expeditions team here!

fish swimming among the coral reef
Photo: Joe Hoyt

 

3. 23 species of cetaceans -- that's whales, porpoises and dolphins -- call Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary home. Many call the sanctuary home in spring and summer when upwelling currents bring nutrients to the area.

monk seal resting on fishing nets marine debris in the ocean
Pacific white sided dolphin Photo: Michael Carver, NOAA Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

 

4. Cordell Bank is a hotspot for black footed albatross and other highly migratory seabirds, which find their way to the sanctuary between April and August when food is abundant. More than 70 species of seabirds have been spotted in the sanctuary. Want to see some seabirds firsthand? Join the sanctuary and the Point Reyes Field Institute on their yearly wildlife watching outing on August 9th!

birds flying overhead while a whale breaches
Photo: Jenny Stock/NOAA Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

 

5. This year, the sanctuary expanded from 529 to 1286 square miles. With the expansion will come greater protection of deep water habitats outside the continental shelf, and of Bodega Canyon, a 20 kilometer long and 1600 meter deep underwater canyon.

Map of expanded Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries
Map of expanded Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries Photo: NOAA