A diversity of habitats support 309 species of fish, including 34 species of rockfish.
Habitats are building blocks in the living ecosystem. A habitat is like an organism's home address
- the place where it finds food, water, shelter, and space - everything it needs in order to survive.
Marine habitats, like those on land, form the key to healthy communities of marine wildlife. The
Olympic Coast contains many different habitats - some we see from land and others hidden beneath
Rocky outcrops that form tidepools dominate the northern Olympic Coast.
At the water's edge is the intertidal zone
a habitat that alternates between the dry and wet worlds.
Tide pools occur where boulders and rocky outcrops trap seawater when the tide recedes. At high
tide, they form surge channels, crevices and cracks that are home to many familiar seashore animals,
like seastars, hermit crabs and sea anemones.
The harsh intertidal habitat encourages adaptation and diversity.
Because they contain so many interesting life forms, tide pools are often damaged by careless
trampling and collecting. Enjoying tidepool life calls for special
tide pool etiquette
in order to experience and enjoy these
special habitats without damaging them.
The kelp forest is habitat for a variety of life including urchins, sea otters, and fish.
The kelp forest
is another important habitat visible from the water's edge. Gently swaying blades of bull kelp and
giant kelp form the Olympic Coast's most important kelp habitats. Kelp beds form dense stands
resembling old growth forests of the land, in which many species of fish and invertebrates thrive.
Sea otters are most often seen rafting and resting in and near kelp forests.
Rocky reefs are perfect habitats for seastars like this one.
Other habitats are found underwater.
form important structures that attract many types of fish,
invertebrates and seaweeds. On the Olympic Coast, reefs are underwater extensions of rock formations
on land. Complex layered sedimentary rocks create rugged underwater landscapes that can be covered
with attached organisms and furnish shelter for nearshore fishes.
Open ocean is habitat for an assortment of life, from the sea jelly to the blue whale.
The open ocean
, from the sea surface to the bottom,
is a vast reservoir of life. Always in motion from wind and currents, the water teems with living
organisms from its surface layer to the seafloor. Where currents converge, drifting plankton
concentrates, attracting predators all the way up the food chain. When seen from a submersible,
the ocean appears to be filled with "marine snow," particles of once-living debris and minute
organisms so dense that they block light from penetrating deep into the ocean. Schools of fish
roam the midwaters, harvesting plankton and smaller fish and invertebrates. Jellies and other
lifeforms drift, wiggle, rotate and dart as they hang in the currents. And far offshore, the pelagic
ocean sustains wandering flocks of pelagic seabirds, and migrating whales.
Some sea floor habitat is home to brightly colored cold-water coral.
in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
is comprised mainly of sand and silt, grading into gravel and cobbles. These habitats support many
species of bottom fish and invertebrates, like sea stars. Rocky habitat occurs as patches – scattered
outcrops or steep canyon walls – habitat that supports communities of deep sea corals and sponges.
Colorful coral "gardens" provide habitat for important fish, including rockfish.
Contact for page content: Jacqueline Laverdure