Just north and west of San Francisco Bay a large expanse of Pacific Ocean along with nearshore tidal flats, rocky intertidal areas, wetlands, subtidal reefs, and coastal beaches were designated in 1981 as Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
Like the crucial piece of a jigsaw puzzle, the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary links the Monterey Bay NMS to Cordell Bank NMS. Together, the three sanctuaries form a seamless swath of protected waters covering much of the Northern California coastline.
The Farallones sanctuary includes such diverse aquatic terrain as coastal beaches, tide flats, salt marshes, the continental shelf and the fascinating offshore islands. Its waters are spawning grounds for commercially important stocks of anchovies, crab, rockfish and flatfish, The sanctuary is home to 33 species of marine mammals, 15 species of breeding seabirds (the largest concentration of breeding seabirds in the continental U.S.) and one-fifth of California’s breeding harbor seal population.
This 1,255 square mile area (948 square nautical miles) is larger than the state of Rhode Island. The Farallon Islands, 30 miles (26 nautical miles) west of the Golden Gate Bridge in the south central part of the sanctuary, are a national wildlife refuge, offering resting and breeding sites for marine mammals and seabirds, lured by nutrient-rich waters. The sanctuary has thousands of seals and sea lions, and is home to the largest concentration of breeding seabirds in the continental U.S. While protected from land predators, seals and sea lions must be on the lookout for predatory killer whales and white sharks found around the islands.
Best Diving Destinations in Fallarones
Recreational diving is not encouraged inside the sanctuary. Ocean conditions can be brutal and the only real diving options are found in the remote Farallon Islands, which are also the feeding grounds for white sharks. Common recreational uses of the sanctuary include fishing, whale watching and tide pooling.
It’s possible to go cage shark diving with the worlds largest Great White Sharks at the Farallones Islands where you can regularly see adults ranging in size from 15 to 20+ feet (4.5 meters to 6.1 + meters). It is a bit of a controversy if cage shark diving operatiors should be allowed in the area at all.