About The Bay

Photo: Dan Sullivan

"A healthy and vibrant San Francisco Bay is central to the quality of life and economy in the Bay Area."
— David Lewis, Save The Bay Executive Director

San Francisco Bay is a National Treasure and Valuable Ecosystem

As the largest estuary west of the Mississippi, San Francisco Bay is a natural treasure that defines our region, providing recreation, beauty and vital habitat for fish and wildlife. Estuaries– a mix of salt and fresh water – contain more life per square inch than the Amazon rainforest and are among the most diverse and important ecosystems on earth. These ecosystems are responsible for 50 percent of the world's fisheries harvest even though they only make up less than 8 percent of marine waters

Photo: Dan Sullivan

Critical Habitat for Wildlife

One handful of Bay mud contains up to 40,000 organisms, which are a major food source for shore birds, fish and other animals. The Bay supports more than 500 species of wildlife, including 105 threatened and 23 endangered species, such as the California clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse. The Bay's wetlands provide a protective nursery for newborn fish, birds, and marine mammals, and resting places for millions of migratory birds from as far away as Siberia and Patagonia. 

Photo: Russ Juskalian

Wetlands are Lungs of the Bay 

In addition to providing habitat and giving life to hundreds of fish and wildlife species, wetlands or tidal marsh provide major benefits to the community: 

  • Clean water - Healthy Bay wetlands trap polluted runoff before toxics can reach open Bay water, and wetland plants filter this pollution to clean the waters of the Bay
  • Protect Communities from Floods and Sea Level Rise - Wetlands act as sponges, soaking up large quantities of water runoff and sediment from rainstorms, high tides and rising sea levels 
  • Open Space and Recreation – Wetlands provide beautiful areas of open space around the highly urbanized Bay Area, providing residents with areas to hike, bird-watch, bike, kayak, and more
  • Economic benefits - A 1992 case study estimated that California's wetlands provided as much as $22.9 billion in value to the state annually
    • Seven out of ten fish sold in California waters depend on wetlands ($890 million in fish sold) 
    • The SF Bay Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge generates $33.2 million in annual visitor expenditures to the Bay Area
    • Each acre of restored tidal marsh produces $4,650 in flood control compared to engineered dams, reservoirs and channels

Why the Bay needs saving

With the Bay Area population expected to grow another 15 percent to 8.1 million by 2020, the Bay is threatened every day by pollution, inappropriate shoreline development, fresh water diversion and invasive species. If we don't protect the Bay today, the health of future generations is at stake.

As San Francisco Bay's leading champion, Save The Bay offers many opportunities for the community to help protect, restore and celebrate our great natural treasure.