Marine Life

A humpback whale makes a big splash as it breaches out of the water
Marine life along the Olympic Coast range from tiny ocean drifters, called plankton, to humpback whales. Photo: NOAA

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary supports a variety of marine life, including more than 300 species of fish, more than 100 species of seabirds and shorebirds, 29 species of marine mammals, and a growing list of invertebrates and marine algae.

=A Pacific white-sided dolphin leaps out of the blue waters of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Marine Mammals

Three broad types of marine mammals are represented within Olympic Coast waters: cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), and sea otters.

An albatross glides over the ocean, showing off its tremendous wingspan - often more than seven feet from wingtip to wingtip.


Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is a major feeding area along the “Pacific Flyway” migration path and used by more than 100 species of marine birds and shorebirds.

A bright yellow and black China rockfish swims close to a colorful rocky reef


The cold, temperate waters of the Olympic Coast are some of the most productive habitats for fish in the world.

A jellyfish uses its tentacles to swim horizontally. From its gelatinous yellow bell, purple tentacles surround its frilly white oral arms


The largest group of animals in the sanctuary—and the planet—are invertebrates.

A leatherback turtle, known for its leathery carapace, swims on the surface of the ocean. An adult can get up to six feet long and weigh up to 1,000 pounds.

Sea Turtles

Three sea turtle species (leatherback, loggerhead, and green) occur infrequently within Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Various brown, green, and red algae cover a rock in the intertidal zone


Seaweeds include numerous species of marine algae, from the microscopic phytoplankton to the enormous giant kelp that form forests beneath the sea.