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Oceans: Feds eye expansion of California marine sanctuaries

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California marine sanctuaries to be expanded.

Input sought on changes to protected areas off northern California coast

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A biodiversity hotpot off the coast of California could soon be expanded, as NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries begins a process to review the boundaries of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries.

The sanctuaries already protect about 2,000 square miles of ocean near the coast of San Francisco. The proposed expansion area is north of the existing sanctuaries and extends from Bodega Bay in Sonoma County to Alder Creek in Mendocino County. This area encompasses Point Arena — North America’s most intense “upwelling” site — which is home to diverse species and a productive ecosystem.

“The waters off the northern California coast are incredibly nutrient-rich and drive the entire natural system and, for almost a decade, local communities have been petitioning their elected officials to expand sanctuary protection to these areas,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of the NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Continue reading

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Oceans: Science team reports new finds in Farallones Sanctuary

Corals, rockfish and sponges found at unprecedented depths

Black coral (Antipathes species) with a rosy rockfish in it on “Cochrane Bank,” -95 meters depth, 9.5° Celsius. This coral is two meters across and suspected to be at least 100 years old. The coral had many crabs and juvenile fish living in it. The stems/skeletons of black corals are black, but the living tissue is usually orange or white. Photo courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The foggy wave-torn coast of northern California may not seem like a haven for coral at first glance, but NOAA researchers say they’ve recently discovered a treasure trove of new deep sea habitats in the Gulf of Farallones Sanctuary, not far from San Francisco.

The area is a melting pot for deep sea corals, sponges, rockfish, and other species.

A partnership of federal and independent scientists found the rocky reef habitats in October in an area at depths  of up to 457 meters, where such corals and sponges had not been seen before. Continue reading

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