National Wildlife Refuge System

Web Cam on California's Galapagos

A first-ever web cam is now providing live images of bird and ocean activity from remote Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, 27 miles off the coast of San Francisco.

Farralon Refuge, celebrating its centennial this year, is closed to the public in part because it hosts the largest seabird colony in the continental United States. Approximately 350,000 seabirds of 13 species breed, along with thousands of seals and sea lions. Gray, blue and humpback whales migrate and feed off the islands along with great white sharks.

The webcam is the result of a partnership among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Academy of Sciences and PRBO Conservation Science. The solar-powered camera is perched atop a lighthouse on Southeast Farallon Island, one of four island groups in the refuge.

The camera is considered a tool for scientists who will be able to gather information that will guide conservation decisions. The new information will add to 40 years of data collected by PRBO Conservation Science and the Service – data that have contributed to the establishment of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary as well as state laws protecting white sharks and restricting the use of commercial gill nets.

“We're proud to have this outstanding partnership and pleased to provide virtual access to these beautiful and amazing islands to the public," says Gerry McChesney, acting refuge manager. "This way anyone can appreciate what it's like to be on this very sensitive wildlife refuge."

"The Farallon Islands are California's Galapagos – truly a jewel of the San Francisco Bay Area," says Ellie Cohen, President and CEO of PRBO Conservation Science.

The webcam is hosted on the California Academy of Science Web site.

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Last updated: August 19, 2009