California’s coastline north of San Francisco is well-known for rocky cliffs, small coves with sandy shorelines, and numerous offshore rocks of all shapes and sizes. Some of the larger offshore rocks in these cold waters are important to sea birds and marine mammals because they provide vital refuges for long-traveling sea birds, rookery areas (bird resting and rearing locations), and haul-out areas (onshore resting locations) for marine mammals. Here amongst the craggy offshore rocks, about 16 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge and approximately 800 feet offshore, is Double Point/Stormy Stack Rock Special Closure in Marin County.
Smaller than marine protected areas (MPAs), California’s 14 special closures provide localized protection for sea birds and marine mammals, which can be easily disturbed when humans get too close. By restricting access to these important areas, special closures help to decrease the chances of humans flushing sea birds and marine mammals from their nesting and resting spots.
Identified as the second largest sea bird breeding colony location along this section of the coast, as well as an active marine mammal haul-out site, Double Point/Stormy Stack Rock Special Closure was created to protect the many species that use the area. Species commonly found here include sea birds like the common murre, Brandt’s cormorant, pelagic cormorant, pigeon guillemot, ashy storm-petrel and brown pelican, as well as the harbor seals and California sea lions that haul-out on the rocky shore.
Aptly named for the easily identifiable headlands adjacent to Stormy Stack Rock, as well as the neighboring Double Point Area of Special Biological Significance, Double Point/Stormy Stack Rock Special Closure received its dual name designation during the Marine Life Protection Act planning process. Designed by a sub-group of members from the larger, cross-interest North Central Coast regional stakeholder group, this special closure provides year-round protection from human disturbance with boundaries that extend from the mean high tide line 300 feet out to sea, surrounding the entire rock.
How was this specific location chosen for a special closure designation? At the beginning of the planning process, sub-group members used local knowledge and scientific data to identify areas where special closures and other MPA designations could be applied. Suggested MPA and special closure locations were then brought to the entire regional stakeholder group, which decided on proposed designations to be included in their regional MPA proposal. Final proposals were then sent to the California Fish and Game Commission for adoption. Double Point/Stormy Stack Rock Special Closure was implemented in 2010 after an extensive public process, and is now one of six special closures in the North Central Coast region.
If you decide to hike in to see this remote special closure and view its offshore rocks, or go boating or kayaking in these cold California waters, grab your binoculars to take a closer look! You will likely see a vibrant marine community in the Double Point/Stormy Stack Rock Special Closure, just remember to look from at least 300 feet away!
Double Point/Stormy Stack Rock Special Closure is one of 14 special closures that are part of California’s statewide MPA network. Please visit CDFW’s MPA website for more information about the state MPA network, and sign up to receive updates about the MPA Management Program.
post by Elizabeth Pope, CDFW Environmental Scientist
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