Sonoma Coast Volunteer Programs:

Sonoma Coast Volunteer Overview
Seal Watch
Pinniped Monitoring
Whale Watch
Visitor Center in Jenner
Environmental Living
Marine Education
Trail Crew
Marine Debris Monitoring
Seabird Monitoring

In 2009, Stewards began a partnership with the Sonoma County Water Agency to monitor pinnipeds at or near the Russian River mouth in response to the need for a federal permit for incidental harassment of marine mammals during the activities associated with the requirements of the biological opinion.

For more information, contact Michele Luna via email or phone at (707) 869-9177 x 1#.

Seal ColonyThe biological opinion (BO) is a 15-year recovery plan to implement the mandates of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as they relate to threatened and endangered fish in the Russian River and its tributaries. More information is availabe on the Sonoma County Water Agency website.

Trained citizen monitors are counting seals at numerous locations in and around the Jenner Estuary during breaching activities and during the outlet channel formation that is recommended in the BO. Monthly baseline data collection is also scheduled twice a month.

Citizen monitors have the option to receive a daily stipend instead of counting their hours for a day-use pass. 

Reporting Wildlife Disturbances or Concerns

Email Stewards Staff -  report a problem or concern from your shift. 

Marine Mammal Center - report abandoned or injured marine mammals.

Wildlife Disturbance Form - Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary form for reporting seabird and marine mammal disturbances. Be sure you understand how to use the form before you fill it out. 

Volunteer Hours

Volunteers who participate in the State Park "Volunteers in Parks" program are eligible for an annual day-use pass. Volunteering for 24 hours a year provides a Russian River/Mendocino distict-wide pass. Volunteering for 200 hours or more provides a state-wide day-use pass at most State Parks in CA (with the exception of Hearst Castle, the Railroad Museum and a few others). Volunteer hours must be submitted to Stewards by the end of each calendar year or more frequently in order to receive a pass. 

Report Volunteer Hours by logging into your account and choosing "Record Volunteer Time."

Reports Pertaining to the Russian River Estuary
Pinniped Monitoring Project

An important message from Andrea Gemmer Pecharich, Environmental Specialist at the Sonoma County Water Agency:

Hello pinniped monitors!

I hope you all have had a chance to stop by and see the harbor seals and their pups at Goat Rock State Beach. I was out this week and counted up to 25 pups, including 13 newborns. 

I know many of you were not able to attend our classroom training and summary presentations held earlier this month, so I wanted to update you on a few changes. This year in our Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) permit application we recommended changes to our monitoring efforts. These proposed changes were accepted by the National Marin Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Protected Resources and are now incorporated into our revised Pinniped Monitoring Plan (attached).

The main change is that we will be increasing our monitoring effort at the Jenner haul-out by reducing monitoring of the peripheral haul out sites.  Data gathered from years of monitoring these small coastal and in stream peripheral resting areas did not provide information that was useful in meeting our monitoring program goals. This change is also going to allow us to increase the frequency that the Jenner haul out is monitored which we are hopeful will enhance our ability to meet our monitoring program goals. One reason for proposing this change is to help us better estimate the number of pups born here each spring. If an outlet channel is successfully implemented for more than 3 weeks, we would then begin monitoring the peripheral sites again.

The second change to the monitoring plan is that the length of time the Jenner haul out will be monitored in a day has been reduced from 8 hours to 4 hours. Since volunteers were already scheduled for a 4 hour shift it means there will only be one shift per monitoring day, but there will be a minimum of 2 monitoring days available each month. I know that this is a reduction in the total amount of volunteer shifts available, but I hope that there will be an opportunity for all who are interested to participate.  We have been fortunate to maintain a core group of experienced monitors for many years and your skills are valuable to the program. 

Changes to the schedule take effect in May.

Want to sign up? Contact Jazzy at


Russian River Estuary IHA Report 2014

Russian River Estuary IHA Report 2013

Russian River Estuary IHA Report 2012

Russian River Estuary IHA Report 2011

Russian River Estuary Pinniped Monitoring Plan - Revised 2/2011 - pdf file

Russian River Estuary IHA Report 2010 - pdf file

Russian River Estuary IHA Report Appendices - 4.6 mb pdf file

Federal Registry  IHA Renewal - April 26, 2011

IHA Renewal Package - April 21, 2011 to April 20, 2012

Link to Russian River Estuary Management - Draft EIR - Public comments ended on February 14, 2011

Pinniped Monitoring
The following are documents useful for citizen monitors:

Monitoring Protocols - Jenner - pdf file

Russian River Pinniped Surveys - 2009 to 2012 - pdf file

Marine Mammal Protection Act and Monitoring Program - pdf file

History of the Jenner Seals - pdf file

Estuary Monitoring Program Information - pdf file

Stewards' Scope of Work - pdf file

Incidental Harrassment Authorization from National Marine Fisheries Service - pdf file

Peripheral Monitoring Locations- pdf file

CA Pinniped Presentation - pdf file

CA Pinniped handout

Neonate Indentification - pdf file

Harbor Seal Birthing Photos

Data Sheets and Instructions - pdf files

Volunteer Stipend Form

Live Chat Software
Photo: Harbor Seal and Pup Photo: Harbor Seals at Goat Rock State Beach Photo: Harbor Seals at the Russian River mouth Photo: Sonoma Coast Harbor Seal and Pup
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Office: 17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, CA 95446
Mail: PO Box 2, Duncans Mills, CA 95430 · (707) 869-9177
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