Marine Wildlife Research
Gray whale near Cape Flattery.
Seabirds and marine mammals are among the most charismatic and iconic animals that attract
sanctuary visitors and supporters - the spouts and flukes of gray whales in migration, the
colorful feathers and bills on tufted puffins in breeding plumage. For marine wildlife, the
Olympic Coast is a complex and thriving region with highly productive waters that supports and attracts
this nationally significant wildlife breeding and foraging area. For scientists, marine wildlife
are megafauna (or large animals) that can serve as indicators of ecosystem health and productivity.
Pacific white-sided dolphins "porpoising".
including whales and porpoises, seals and sea lions,
and sea otters may be sighted from shore but are typically more elusive and further offshore - spending most of their
daily life under water and out of sight from land. Thus they are a challenge to observe and study.
Even in death, there is much to be learned by responding to marine mammal strandings. Thus OCNMS is
an active partner in the
NOAA's Northwest Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Puffins are one of the easier seabirds to spot because of their bright orange beaks.
The extraordinary character of the coastal islands was recognized as early as 1907 when President
Theodore Roosevelt granted Federal conservation protection under a seabird reserve system to the
hundreds of islands now managed as the Washington Islands National Wildlife Refuges. Much of the
current marine bird research
focuses on basic information like understanding population trends and food chain dynamics, both for
resident nesters and those species that migrate to the rich offshore feeding areas.
Sea turtle swims near the water's surface.
Although Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary does not host breeding colonies or high numbers of
sea turtles, they tend to roam widely in the oceans,
and several species of sea turtles periodically migrate into offshore waters of the sanctuary.
To monitor the long-term trends of marine wildlife populations requires multiple
partnerships. This includes federal and state agencies,
tribal staff, universities and concerned volunteers. And depending on what marine mammal or
seabird is being studied, this monitoring effort may require large ships, aircraft, small boats,
or simply beach monitors.
See Wildlife Research Projects
Contact for page content: Nancy Wright