36 species of marine mammals have been observed in the Gulf of the Farallones, just off the west coast of San Francisco. This includes 28 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises; 6 seal and sea lion species and 2 otter species. Gray, humpback and blue whales; Pacific white-sided dolphins; Harbor and Dall’s Porpoises; California and Steller sea lions; Northern fur, Northern elephant and Harbor seals are common.
Every fall, one of the world’s largest concentration of Great White Sharks come to the islands to prey on elephant seals and sea lions, with male sharks showing up every year, and female sharks showing up every other year. While no one knows for sure how more Great White Sharks live in the Pacific Ocean, they probably number no more than a few hundred. Smaller males can be up to 13 feet in length, whereas the larger females can be up to 19 feet in length.
In addition to the Great White Shark, other fish species that can be found include Chinook Salmon, the Cookie Cutter Shark, the Delta Smelt, Mola Mola (Sunfish), Pacific Herring and Tidewater Goby.
More than 300,000 seabirds nest annually on the Farallon Islands – the largest concentration of seabirds in the contiguous United States. More than 400 species of birds have been observed on the islands. In addition to the 13 species that have breeding colonies on the islands, more than 160 species regularly use the sanctuary for shelter, food, or during migration. The world’s largest colonies of Western Gulls and Ashy Storm-petrels (an endangered species) can be found on the islands.
The incredible diversity of wildlife in the Gulf of the Farallones would not exist without the coastal upwelling that brings cool, nutrient-rich water up to support ocean life. The gulf contains one of only five coastal upwelling zones in the world. While coastal upwellings make up only one percent of the ocean, they support 50 percent of the world’s commercial fish catches.
95% of all animal species found here are invertebrates. One of the most important of these is the euphausiid shrimp, or krill. During the upwelling season, more than 100,000 krill per cubic yard can be found at the surface of the gulf. Krill feeds animals as large as the Blue Whale, the largest animal that has ever lived (bigger than any dinosaur).
Both Leatherback and Green turtles can be found in the ocean around the Farallons. Leatherback turtles are the largest turtles in the world, measuring up to 8 feet long, and weighing up to a ton.
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