Marine mammals - 26 species
Seabirds - 94 species
Fish - 345 species
Turtles - 4 species
Invertebrates 31 phyla
Marine algae (plants) - 450+ species
Approximately 21 endangered and threatened animals spend all or part of their lives in the Sanctuary.
Grey whales are seasonal migrants, traveling close to shore during two annual migrations between Alaska and breeding grounds in Baja California. Blue whales are found in the Sanctuary from late spring to late autumn. Other cetaceans include Minke whales, Fin whales, Humpback whales, Pacific Right whales, Sperm whales, and several porpoise and dolphin species.
The sea otter population within the Sanctuary is estimated to be more than 1,200. Thirty-one percent of the population inhabits the coastal area from Point Sur to Año Nuevo/Pigeon Point. An official California Sea Otter Game Refuge extends from Carmel south to Santa Rosa Creek near Cambria, encompassing about half of the otter's established range.
Upwelling (the movement of deep, nutrient rich ocean water to the surface) is a critical element in the Sanctuary. The cold, nutrient rich water from the ocean floor triggers a food web that feeds a remarkable mix of organisms from the smallest microscopic plants (phytoplankton) to Earth's largest creature, the endangered Blue whale. Upwelling occurs on the West Coast during the summer. When the cold water rises to the surface and meets the warmer air temperatures, marine fog is produced.
Giant kelp is the fastest growing plant on earth; it grows up to 14 inches a day in water as deep as 100 feet. The kelp supports biological communities among their protective canopies, and is a favorite resting spot of the sea otter, which naps in the protective bed of floating strands. When the kelp is washed ashore, it continues to support communities of invertebrates, crustaceans and birds.
You can view many of these marine species at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, while scuba diving or along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail.
The Sanctuary has many diverse uses, including the following:
- Boating, sailing and harbors
- Board sports, SCUBA diving, free diving and snorkeling
- Commercial and recreational fishing
- Tourism and recreation
- Scientific research
- Kelp harvesting
- Military activities
- Coastal development
Federal regulations prohibit the following activities within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary:
- Exploring for, developing or producing oil, gas or minerals
- Discharge or deposit of any materials (some specific exceptions)
- Moving, removing or injuring a Sanctuary historic resource
- Altering the seabed (some specific exceptions)
- Disturbing marine mammals, sea turtles or marine birds
- Flying motorized aircraft below 1,000 feet in certain areas
- Possessing any historical resource, marine mammal, sea turtle or marine bird
- Interfering with enforcement of Sanctuary laws or regulations
- Operating "personal watercraft" (Jet Skis) outside of the four designated zone