2 California Marine Sanctuaries Expanded by Federal Agency

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The expansion of the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones national marine sanctuaries off Northern California's coast took effect on Tuesday, a move that restricts the movements of cargo ships, aircraft and personal watercraft. The move also closes the areas to gas and oil exploration.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the boundaries of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary have more than doubled, from west of Bodega Bay in Sonoma County to a point just north of Point Arena in Mendocino County.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, located 42 miles north of San Francisco, expanded from 529 square miles to 1,286 square miles. Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary grew from 1,282 square miles to 3,295 square miles of ocean and coastal waters. The ocean refuges, designated as marine sanctuaries in 1981 and 1989, covered 2,049 square miles.

The expansion will help protect the region's marine and coastal habitats, biological resources and special ecological features. ``This expansion represents the culmination of a multi-year effort to protect an important part of the ocean,'' said John Armor, acting director of the agency's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

The newly named Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 1981, and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 1989, both contribute greatly to ocean and coastal management by engaging in public outreach and education, the agency said.

The expansion doesn't limit commercial or recreational fishing within the sanctuary zones because the agency does not regulate fishing. But it will curtail the activities of other ocean users, including surfers who ride personal watercraft to reach prime offshore swells, tour companies that use low-flying helicopters or small planes to spot migrating whales, and explorers searching for shipwrecks. The movements of all would be restricted to certain areas or prohibited without a permit.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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