Intertidal habitat invites exploration.
One of the Ocean's most astonishing qualities is the diversity of living things that live there.
The complete list of animals in the seas has never been - and may never be - compiled.
From microscopic organisms that drift unseen in the currents, to the largest whales, the wildlife
of the Olympic Coast reminds us that humans share our ocean planet with other inhabitants. Learn
more by following the links below to begin your marine wildlife journey in Olympic Coast National
Rock outcrops and islands bark and roar where sea lions haul out to rest.
Twenty nine species of
reside in or migrate through Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
Toothed and baleen whales, seals and sea lions and sea otters all represent the adaptation of
land-based animal forms for survival in the marine environment. Gray whales, sea otters, harbor
seals and Steller and California sea lions can be spotted from land at many locations along the
coast at some time during the year. Other whales including humpback whales can only be seen
from boats as they feed miles offshore.
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is part of the
Pacific Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network
- follow this link to learn more about whale strandings, and how to avoid injury to yourself and
a marine mammal if you encounter an injured, abandoned or stranded animal.
More than 56 species of seabirds and 24 species of shorebirds may be found here.
, ranging in size from tiny storm-petrels to majestic
black-footed albatross roam over the wave tops offshore in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
Sea stacks and islands provide critical nesting habitat for common murres and tufted puffins.
Sand and gravel beaches furnish habitat for shorebirds, crows, gulls and a host of others.
The coastline forms an important migratory pathway for millions of birds that pass through each
year, guiding ducks, geese, cranes and raptors toward northern breeding areas during the spring and
southward, as winter approaches.
Slow growing, long-lived rockfish may not reproduce until they are 15-20 years old.
Cold, temperate waters of the Olympic Coast are some of the most productive
-growing habitats in the world.
Long known for salmon, and halibut, the Olympic Coast is also rich in rockfish and other
ecologically-important fish species. Historically, many commercial fisheries were developed on
the Olympic Coast, including harvests of halibut, hake and salmon. Before that, Native Americans
fished the plentiful waters using a wide variety of net and line techniques. Most important,
however, is the sheer abundance and diversity of fish species that are not used by people, but
which form the web of living things holding the complex ecosystem together. Predator and prey
alike, from vast shoals of herring to solitary ocean sunfish, fish are indicators of ocean health.
Competition for food and space in the intertidal zone increases diversity.
Life-forms in the ocean take on a multitude of shapes and sizes, ranging from the familiar to
the bizarre. Invertebrates
(animals without backbones) are the largest group of animals on the planet. In the ocean, they
reveal every conceivable function and design that Evolution could muster. Some are simple digestive
systems encased in a gelatinous film. Others, like the octopus with its complex eyes, show
powerful evolutionary development, not unlike that of mammals. Intertidal invertebrates like sea
stars must live in two worlds, submerged by high tide and exposed at low. Bottom dwellers, like
basket stars, live in strangely stable environment of darkness, pressure and cold.
One indicator of the Olympic Coast's productivity is its diverse communities of
. Our seaweed flora includes green, red, and brown algae
along with surfgrass, a true flowering plant.
Welcome to the dazzling world of the Olympic Coast's marine wildlife.
Contact for page content: Jacqueline Laverdure