Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Living Sanctuary section includes Marine Life, Habitats, Ocean Environment, History and Culture
Welcome to the Olympic Coast National Marine 
Sanctuary web site. Here you'll discover the marine life and extraordinary habitats 
that make up this sanctuary and our continuing efforts to conserve 
these ocean and coastal treasures.
Photo of fish swimming around a rock in a kelp forest. Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary represents one of North America's most productive marine ecosystems and spectacular undeveloped coastlines.

In size, the sanctuary covers an area comparable to the following:

  • Over one and a half times larger than the entire Puget Sound
  • Almost two and a half times larger than Olympic National Park
  • The same size as Puerto Rico
  • The states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined
See a map of the sanctuary.

photo of two sea otters in the water
Northern sea otters: a recovery success story unfolding.
Marine life, ranging from minute ocean drifters called plankton, to humpback whales, thrive here. Twenty nine species of marine mammals and scores of seabird species spend parts of their lives here; gray whales visit as part of the longest mammal migration on earth and albatross gather food here to return to nestlings on mid-Pacific islands and atolls. Sea otters munch on macro-invertebrates such as urchins, which in turn graze on majestic kelp forests. Fishes occupy myriad niches from the deepest ocean canyons to the shallowest tide pools.

photo of a tidepool filled with starfish
The high energy shoreline creates diverse communities of intertidal marine life.
The sanctuary includes habitats as varied as broad sandy beaches, tide pools, rocky reefs, the open ocean surface and deep sea canyons. These habitats provide for shelter, feeding, nesting and other basic needs to sustain diverse and abundant marine wildlife populations.

The Olympic Coast is an example of the temperate Northeast Pacific ocean ecosystem. The ocean environment is influenced by global patterns of ocean currents and climate that interact with the unique geology of the Olympic Mountains, continental shelf and deep sea floor. The sanctuary is large enough to observe both variety and stability in the ocean processes - important qualities for studying short- and long-term changes.

photo of a person looking at an exposed shipwreck
The Olympic Coast historical record is preserved in shipwreck remains.
The human story is important too. History and culture have left the indelible imprint of people and their relationship with the ocean. For millennia, Native American cultures have lived and prospered in a unique bond with the ocean's bountiful resources. And beginning in the 16th century, European exploration and eventually settlement have left a compelling historical legacy on the Olympic Coast.


 

Contact for page content: Robert Steelquist


Photo of peach coral
Revised January 30, 2013 by Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary   |    Contact Us   |    Report a broken link  |
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