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Designated in 1992, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a federally protected marine area offshore of California’s central coast. Stretching from Rocky Point (just north of the Golden Gate Bridge) to Cambria (south of the Big Sur coastline), it encompasses nearly 300 miles of shoreline, 6,094 square miles of ocean, and extends from mean high tide to a seaward boundary an average of 25 miles offshore. At its deepest point, the sanctuary reaches down to 10,633 feet (more than two miles).

The diversity of habitats and upwelling ocean current patterns reviewed in this web site make the sanctuary one of the most productive marine areas in the world. With 33 species of marine mammals, 94 species of seabirds, 525 species of fishes, 4 species of turtles, 31 phyla of invertebrates, and more than 450 species of algae, the sanctuary is an outstanding area for wildlife viewing and marine research.

Human Impact

Approximately 8 million people live within fifty miles of the sanctuary shoreline, and many rely on its resources for pleasure or work. Human uses of the sanctuary include diving, kayaking, boating, fishing, surfing, tidepooling, and wildlife viewing. Coastal tourism, agriculture, and commercial fishing are important to the regional economy, with direct links to the sanctuary.

Associated with human uses, human impacts have to be managed to protect the sanctuary for future generations. The sanctuary staff, along with stakeholders and the public, have developed over 20 plans to address issues such as: coastal erosion, harbor dredging, submerged cables, trawling fishery impacts, introduced species, beach contamination, water quality, cruise ships, and wildlife disturbance. Each of these plans has a scientific monitoring component.


Monitoring natural resources is necessary to assess human impacts, assess effectiveness of management actions, and to distinguish between natural and human caused changes. The goals of the SIMoN program are to (1) integrate existing and historic monitoring in sanctuaries; (2) establish and maintain essential, long-term monitoring programs; and (3) disseminate timely information to resource managers and decision makers, researchers, educators, and the general public. We share information largely through this web site and public symposia (e.g., Sanctuary Currents).

Integrating monitoring information is key to the Sanctuary program, because these summaries are needed for decision making on a wide variety of resource management issues. Through an array of database and display systems, and information provided from close to 100 research institutes, we have the best available comprehensive view of the sanctuary. Because much of the sanctuary has yet to be explored, our information is still incomplete. We are also working on ways of integrating information across habitats into ecosystems models, to detect large-scale events.