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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

August, 2005

 


The State Of The National Marine Sanctuary
By Submission

NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program has released the 2004 State of the Sanctuary Report. Highlighted in this year's report are findings that SEALS, a volunteer monitoring program, has dramatically reduced harbor seal pup mortality in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off San Francisco. Other activities and accomplishments throughout the sanctuary and National Marine Sanctuary System are highlighted in the 2004 report.
"Throughout the year, the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary conducts a variety of activities, from scientific monitoring to resource protection, to education and outreach," said Maria Brown, sanctuary manager. "The State of the Sanctuary Report is important because it allows the public to see how diverse efforts such as outreach, education and resource protection come together for the successful stewardship of their sanctuary."
After seven years of effort, the steady decline in harbor seal pup mortality has been reversed at the sanctuary's two largest rookeries, Bolinas Lagoon and Tomales Bay. The sanctuary, home to one-fifth of California's harbor seal pup population, recruited volunteers for its Sanctuary Education, Awareness and Long-term Stewardship (SEALS) program to help stem the decline due to human disturbance. Volunteers monitored seals on their rookeries, documenting disturbances by birders, clambers, and other visitors. Bright flags were deployed to create buffers around haul-outs to warn people of their proximity to seals, and volunteers educated visitors on how to view the seals without disturbing them. Pup counts have rebounded from the 20s in 1998, to more than 80 in 2003.
The report highlights other accomplishments that took place in the sanctuary. The Common Murre, a seabird, had an unprecedented breeding season at the Farallon Islands colony, increasing from an estimated 53,000 birds in 2000 to 169,000 most recently.
Scientists link the increase to four years of high productivity in the sanctuary and an absence of oil spills, allowing chicks born from 1999-2002 to reach sexual maturity. Food-rich sanctuary waters sustain over a quarter-million nesting seabirds at the Farallon Islands, the largest rookery in the contiguous United States.
The sanctuary also launched its Sharkmobile outreach program in 2004, which is geared to students in grades four through six. The program covers shark-related myths, evolution, feeding strategies, adaptations, special senses, reproduction and conservation. White sharks play an important role in maintaining ecosystem balance by keeping seal and sea lion populations in check. The Gulf of Farallones Marine Sanctuary hosts one of the world's most significant populations of white sharks.
The 2004 State of the Sanctuary Report also details activities throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System. Examples include: continuing efforts to designate the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve as the nation's 14th marine sanctuary; preservation of key artifacts from the famed Civil War ironclad USS Monitor; recovery of 3,500 coral colonies from harbor dredging in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; and discovery of a new marine species at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.
"This past year was important for national marine sanctuaries and the world's oceans," said Daniel J. Basta, director of the National Marine Sanctuary Program.
"The 2004 report reflects how a wide range of activities and people came together with the common goal of understanding and conserving our ocean and Great Lakes treasures."

Copies of the 2004 State of the Sanctuary Report can be obtained by sending requests to [email protected] Electronic copies can also be downloaded at http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov, where information is available on other activities and accomplishments taking place throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System.
The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) seeks to increase the public awareness of America's maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one coral reef ecosystem reserve that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America's ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.
The NOAA National Ocean Service manages the NMSP and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation's coasts and oceans. The National Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.
The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources.

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