Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is recognized for its unique and abundant wildlife,
relatively undeveloped condition, and productive ecosystem. In addition to the sanctuary, the area
is protected by other government entities: Washington State's Washington Seashore Conservation Area,
Olympic National Park's coastal strip, the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Washington Maritime
National Wildlife Refuge Complex, and the Quinault Nation, Hoh, Quileute and Makah tribes. The
Olympic Coast's extraordinarily natural values were acknowledged and protected as early as 1907 when
seabird colonies on the coast's islands were first granted federal conservation protection under a
seabird reserve system by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Contact for page content: George Galasso
The phrase "wildlife disturbance" includes noise, physical and visual disturbances caused by human
activities that can have physical and behavioral impacts on wildlife above, below and on the water
surface. Nesting birds respond to disturbance by leaving their nesting roosts. Marine mammals flee
from haul-out or pupping areas, or abandon the area. Sources of wildlife disturbance in the sanctuary
include low-flying aircraft, motorized personal watercraft, fireworks, close approach to wildlife
aggregation areas (either humans on foot or in a vessel) and other excessive noises that originate
from various sources.
The sanctuary enforces overflight regulations that require pilots to remain above 2,000 feet over
beaches, offshore rocks and islands.
"Watchable Wildlife" guidelines inform sanctuary visitors to maintain
critical distances from marine mammals and other wildlife. This both protects the animals from the
stress of human encounters and assures that observes experience "natural" wildlife behaviors, such
as grooming and social interactions, rather than fearful animals in flight from human observers.
Beached or injured seals, sea lions and whales are relatively common in the wild. However,
approaching injured, diseased or dead marine mammals is hazardous and removal of bones and teeth
and other body parts is illegal under federal law. See our page of
precautions for stranded marine mammals.
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary participates in the
Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
Our staff report and respond to marine mammal strandings in cooperation with federal, state and tribal partners.