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Natural Environment: Biological Resources
Twenty-six species of marine mammals (whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions) are known to frequent the waters around Cordell Bank. The Sanctuary is one of the most important feeding grounds in the world for the endangered blue and humpback whales. These whales travel from their breeding areas in Mexico and Central America to feed on the abundant krill and schooling fish that aggregate near the bank. In late summer, breaching humpbacks are frequently seen around the bank. Pacific white-sided dolphins are attracted by plentiful food resources and can be seen in large numbers. California sea lions, elephant seals, northern fur seals, and Steller sea lions frequent Sanctuary waters to feed on krill, squid, and juvenile fishes.
Cordell Bank's food rich waters make it a major foraging locality for thousands of seabirds. This includes resident species that nest on the nearby Farallon Islands as well as highly migratory and vagabond pelagic birds.
The sanctuary is known as the "albatross capital of the northern hemisphere," as five of the fourteen albatross species have been documented in the Sanctuary. Watch a Black-footed Albatross movie clip.
The granite towers and reef areas between 120 ft (36 m) and 165 ft (50m) are a brilliant cascade of colors. Space is limiting at these depths as sponges, ascidians, anemones, hydrocorals, and sea stars carpet the hard substrates, often one on top of the other. Many of the bottom dwelling organisms that live on Cordell Bank started life riding the currents of the Pacific Ocean as free floating larvae. The upper reef areas are proof of successful settlement on the bank. The same currents that delivered these organisms to the bank also provide them with food. Species density is highest on the bank, at depths shallower than 50 meters.
Cordell Bank is a Sanctuary. It's brimful of life.
The fish are never cranky. The place is very swanky.
--Jimmy Gilardi, West Marin School
The habitats in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary support an abundance of fishes. Flatfish such as sanddabs live on the mud and sandy bottom of the Sanctuary. Solitary bottomfish and schooling fish find refuge among the Bank's granite rocks and pinnacles. The area around Cordell Bank supports more than 246 species of fish, including 44 species of rockfish, ranging in size from the 8-inch pygmy rockfish to the 3-foot yellow-eye rockfish.
Even though Cordell Bank is offshore and it is usually quite a rough experience to get there, sport-fishing boats regularly venture out to the bank from Bodega Harbor to catch albacore and salmon.