Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Welcome to the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary Resource Protection 
web site. Here you'll discover the marine life and extraordinary habitats that make up your nation's 
marine sanctuaries and our continuing efforts to conserve these ocean and coastal treasures.

Protecting the sanctuary's resources is a collaborative process involving local, State and Federal agencies as well as numerous nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). With the help of our partners, the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary staff focuses on education, permitting,
regulations, and appropriate enforcement, to help protect the sanctuary's resources. In addition the Sanctuary Superintendent meets regularly with the sanctuary advisory council to receive advice and recommendations regarding the protection and management of the sanctuary. For more information, please click on the program area links to the left.

Reducing Ship Strike Impacts on Whales

In June 2011 a consortium of environmental organizations petitioned NOAA to establish a 10-knot speed limit for vessels greater than 65 feet traveling within all California sanctuaries in order to protect whales from vessel strike and other negative impacts. See petition and NOAA's response to the petition.

In 2012, a Joint Vessel Strikes and Acoustic Impacts Working Group of Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones national marine sanctuaries' advisory councils provided recommendations to the advisory councils on ways to reduce impacts from ship strikes and vessel noise on whales. The Joint Working Group was comprised of multiple agencies, scientists, environmental organizations, and the shipping industry who came to consensus on what steps need to be taken to reduce the potential for vessel impacts to whales. The Joint Working Group's report was unanimously adopted by both advisory councils. The sanctuary superintendents reviewed it for implementation actions.

Download the 2012 report here (3Mb pdf)

Shipping Lanes Adjustment June 2013

For more information on what sanctuaries are doing to reduce ship strike risk to whales click here

Preparing for Emergency Response During an Oil Spill

The Sanctuary acts as a resource trustee during oil spills or other emergency situations that could potentially impact sanctuary resources. To be better prepared for a spill, in 2011, the sanctuary advisory councils for Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries formed a Joint Vessel Spills and Oil Spill Response Technologies Working Group.

The Joint Working Group included technical members who discussed inter-agency coordination and response, dispersant decision protocols, oil spill trajectory models, response technologies and toxicology. The Joint Working Group provided a report with recommendations to the advisory councils on the use of various oil spill response technologies. The report was unanimously adopted by both advisory councils. The sanctuary superintendents reviewed it for implementation actions.

There is a continuing risk of vessel spills that could impact marine mammals, seabirds, other biota, and cultural resources in and around Cordell Bank and Gulf of the (now "Greater") Farallones national marine sanctuaries. The sanctuaries' staffs are continually working to better understand the resources and their uses in and around the respective sanctuaries.

Download the 2012 report here (1.5Mb pdf)


National Marine Sanctuary regulations are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at Title 15 - Commerce and Foreign Trade, Part 922. These may be accessed on the U.S. Government Printing Office Electronic CFR web sitelink leaves the site

Note: regulations covering the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries/generally applicable to all sanctuary sites are found at Title 15, Subtitle B, Chapter IX, Subchapter B, Part, 922 Subparts A through E) and regulations specifically covering Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary are found at Title 15, Subtitle B, Chapter IX, Subchapter B, Part 922, Supart K.

As part of the expansion process for Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, a final rule (538KB pdf) with revised regulations was published in the Federal Register on March 12, 2015. The regulations and revised Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary management plan became effective June 9, 2015. The notice of the effective date of the regulations (7 KB) was printed in the Federal Register on June 15, 2015. The notice also announced that effective June 15, 2015, NOAA changed the name of Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary to "Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary" and made some corresponding technical corrections to the regulations. In addition to expanding the sanctuaries' boundaries, the regulatory changes are intended to clarify and strengthen protections for marine habitats, sensitive species, water quality, and historical resources, while allowing uses compatible with resource protection.

Possible Changes in Regulations for CBNMS and GFNMS to Exempt Certain USCG Discharges

Pursuant to a request from the United States Coast Guard (USCG), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is considering developing future rulemaking to allow the following USCG discharges within part or all of Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones national marine sanctuaries (CBNMS and GFNMS): untreated vessel sewage, vessel graywater (as defined by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act [FWPCA]) that does not meet the definition of clean, and ammunition and flare materials used in USCG training exercises for use of force and search and rescue. NOAA has delayed the date for the regulations covering these discharges to take effect; see the most current Federal Register notice published May 31, 2016 about this.

The process for this action is composed of four major stages:

1. Information collection and characterization (scoping);
2. Preparation and release of a draft environmental assessment under NEPA, and any proposed amendments to the regulations if appropriate;
3. Public review and comment on the draft environmental assessment and any proposed amendments to the regulations; and
4. Preparation and release of a final environmental assessment, and any final amendments to the regulations if appropriate.

NOAA accepted comments in the first stage of this environmental process between April 21 and May 31, 2016, to gather information to determine the relevant scope of issues and range of alternatives to be addressed in the draft environmental assessment. NOAA accepted comments electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portallink leaves the site, by mail, and at three public scoping meetings in 2016, held May 10 (Sausalito), 11 (Bodega Bay) and 12 (Sausalito).

See the Federal Register notice published April 21, 2016 for additional information.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary Permitting

A NOAA National Marine Sanctuary permit is usually required when an individual wishes to conduct an activity within a sanctuary that is otherwise prohibited by national marine sanctuary regulations. The types of activities able to be permitted typically include research, education, and activities that support sanctuary management, among others.

How to Apply
Please read the Frequently Asked Questions information to help determine if a national marine sanctuary permit is required for your proposed activity, when to apply, and for other guidance. To apply, complete an Office of National Marine Sanctuaries permit application. Instructions, application forms, and related information are below: Information about permits for artificial reefs or special uses may be found here.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary reviews activities on a case-by-case basis. Permit requests are evaluated based on their potential single and cumulative impacts to sanctuary resources versus the potential benefits the activity may provide in terms of resource protection.

Where to Apply
Submit completed applications to the office for the sanctuary in which you plan to conduct the activity. For Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, email the application to Lilli Ferguson, the Sanctuary's permit coordinator, at Applications may be also be submitted by mail or fax.

Sanctuary Prohibitions
Activities prohibited in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary can be found in the sanctuary regulations. If your proposed activity includes any prohibited action, a permit is likely required.


Enforcement at Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is challenging due to the site's remote location. The sanctuary relies on the watchful eyes of users for information, and partnerships with state and federal agencies to enforce regulations. Educating users about sanctuary regulations and sensitive resources is an important part of the site's resource protection strategy.

Help Us Out
You are an integral part of our enforcement effort. Please share with others what you know about the sanctuary and encourage their compliance with sanctuary regulations.

NOAA Office of Law Enforcement
To report an incident anonymously, call 800-853-1964 or via the web at leaves the site

Let Us Know
Report unusual activity, or if you see or hear of prohibited activities taking place in the sanctuary, contact Michael Carver, the Sanctuary's Resource Protection Coordinator, at: 415-464-5262 or

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