Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures
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Guide to America's National Marine Sanctuaries

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Voyage to Kure
Sharks at Risk
The Gray Whale Obstacle Course
  cordell bank

Return to the Amazon
Sea Ghosts: Belugas
Call of the Killer Whale

Strawberry Sea Anemone

Featured Creature
Strawberry Sea Anemone

The strawberry sea anemone is part of the larger family of sea anemones, which derives its name from its resemblance to a familiar land flower. The strawberry sea anemone has a column-shaped body. At one end is an adhesive foot that it uses to attach to surfaces, and at the other end is its mouth. A close relative of the jellyfish, anemones have stinging tentacles surrounding their mouths, which they use both for capturing food and for defense, injecting their prey with paralyzing neurotoxins. Some sea anemones can grow up to 6 feet in diameter, but the strawberry anemone generally grows to only about an inch. Like their close relative, the coral, strawberry sea anemone are relatively immobile and tend to grow in large groups. They often aggregate under rocky ledges or in rocky areas in coastal waters. Learn more about this creature at the Encyclopedia of the Sanctuary (at

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Official Web Site (at
Video Gallery (at
Encyclopedia of the Sanctuary (at

Cordell Bank was designated a National Marine Sanctuary in 1989 by President George Bush. The area first came into the public eye in 1977, when Cordell Expeditions ( explored the underwater region. Ten subsequent years of divers' efforts documenting organisms and bringing back images of the biological diversity were instrumental in the creation of the sanctuary.

What's Underwater
Sitting on California's continental shelf, Cordell Bank is a 5-mile-by-10-mile granite bank, with mountain-like pinnacles reaching up nearly 300 feet to within 120 feet of the ocean surface. The bank's location near the prevailing ocean currents and its unique undersea topography result in turbulent upwellings of nutrient-rich water, making it one of the most biologically productive areas on the West Coast. Brimming with life, the sanctuary waters are home to hundreds of species of fish, and its granite towers are carpeted with sponges, anemones, hydrocorals and sea stars. The bank is also a feeding ground for many migratory fish, seabirds and mammals, including the endangered blue and humpback whales.


Wildlife Watching
The sanctuary encourages people to enjoy the incredible opportunity to view wildlife from vessels at and around the bank. A few commercial operators run trips to Cordell Bank. The best time for trips is late summer and fall, when humpback and blue whales are in the area. Visitors are advised that the 20-mile trip out to the bank can be strenuous if ocean conditions are rough. The sanctuary also hosts an annual wildlife-watching seminar that incorporates a land-based presentation and a boat trip to the bank, focusing on shearwaters, petrels, albatrosses and other pelagic seabirds as well as blue whales and other marine mammals. More information at

Visitor Centers
The sanctuary has informational displays in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center (, the Bear Valley Visitor Center at Point Reyes National Seashore ( and Bodega Marine Lab (

Virtual Tour
Watch videos of wildlife at Cordell Bank, including giant Pacific octopuses, humpback whales, albatrosses, jellyfish, torpedo rays and more at


Research Projects

  • In partnership with other organizations, the sanctuary is conducting a long-term study, initiated in 2001, to classify habitats and monitor fish and macroinvertebrates (very small invertebrates) on and around Cordell Bank.
  • The sanctuary participates in the Cordell Bank Ocean Monitoring Project, whose goal is to describe the planktonic and vertebrate fauna in the waters over Cordell Bank. The effort targets the distribution of key populations of birds and marine mammals as well as biological productivity. Data is shared with other West Coast sanctuaries to promote understanding on a larger scale.
  • The sanctuary is involved in a program tracking the black-footed albatross. Efforts are specifically geared toward providing needed information about the conservation status of this threatened species, the birds' foraging grounds and their movements across the northeastern Pacific Ocean.

Challenges Facing the Sanctuary

  • Increasing the awareness of and appreciation for these special ocean areas.
  • Protecting sanctuaries from negative impacts associated with human activities.
  • Improving understanding of Cordell Bank's complex ecosystem for more effective management of the site.

Success Stories

  • Stopped oil exploration and drilling in the Bodega Basin.
  • Prohibits the discharge of materials into the sanctuary.
  • Worked with partners to protect benthic habitat and invertebrates on the bank by prohibiting the use of bottom-contact fishing gear.
  • Established long-term monitoring programs to evaluate the health of ocean communities.
  • Hosted a one-hour radio show promoting ocean conservation.