olympic coast national marine sanctuary

Remotely operated vehicles help scientists get a close-up view of rarely seen deep-sea animals. 

In August 2011, researchers spotted this spiny dogfish patrolling the seafloor in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary! Spiny dogfish can live up to 70 years, and tend not to mature until they around about 25 years old. 

(Photo: NOAA)


Whoosh! Can you hear the bubbles as these sea lions whiz past in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary? 

Found throughout West Coast national marine sanctuaries, sea lions are graceful and acrobatic swimmers. They use this speed and maneuverability to catch an assortment of small fish and squid! 

(Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)

These little specks aren’t bugs – they’re sea otters! 

Sea otters often gather in loose-knit groups called rafts. Last June, researchers spotted a huge raft of sea otters in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, near the mouth of the Hoh River. These 687 otters represent nearly 40 percent of the Washington sea otter population! While typically rafts of sea otters include only males or females and pups, this one included all three. 

(Photo: WDFW)

⭐ Happy sea star Sunday! ⭐

NOAA biologist Greg Williams examines an ochre star on Tatoosh Island in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. This August, Greg and other science divers collected information on kelp forest communities within the sanctuary. Kelp forests are an important habitat within the sanctuary, providing refuge to juvenile fish, invertebrates, and more, which in turn feed predators like seabirds and sea otters. 

(Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)

After decades of being hunted for their fur, sea otters were once extinct from the shores of Washington State – but they’ve made an otterly amazing recovery! 

In 1969 and 1970, 59 sea otters were relocated to Washington from Alaska. Today, the population has grown to more than 1,800! Many of these individuals live in the waters of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, where you can sometimes spot them feeding and resting. 

(Photo: Kristine Sowl/@usfws)

Though they might look barren from afar, rocky cliffs and seastacks in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary provide key habitat for many marine species.

Crevices and caves offer shelter to small invertebrates, while channels and passageways allow fish to roam with relative protection. Beneath the waves on these rocky reef habitats, you’ll find animal life clinging to every surface, and seaweeds thriving in the upper layers of the water. 

(Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)

Otter up! 

Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Jessica Hale spotted this male sea otter through a telescope while studying sea otter eating habits in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. One way you can tell male and female sea otters apart is that males have much thicker necks, which this little guy is exhibiting well! 

(Photo: Jessica Hale)

Happy anniversary to Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary! 

This coastal treasure protects more than 3,000 square miles of marine waters off the rugged Olympic Peninsula. Here, you’ll find 48 miles of wilderness beaches, waiting for you to explore the rocky shoreline’s tidepools and seastacks. Plus, during annual migrations, more than a million birds travel along the coast. Offshore, orcas, gray whales, sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, and more feed in some of the most productive habitats in the world. 

(Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)

There’s a whole world to discover in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary tidepools! 

These are giant green anemones, which can often be spotted in the rocky tidepools lining the sanctuary. Their brilliant green color comes from symbiotic algae that live within their tissues! 

(Photo: Shawn Sheltren/NPS)

Itching to get out this weekend, but don’t want to get wet?

You don’t have to be a diver to enjoy a national marine sanctuary! Landlubbers visiting Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary can hike along beachside cliffs, enjoy marine life from the shore, and spot nearshore islands like Cannonball Island.

(Photo: Robert Steelquist/NOAA)

Stories from the Blue: Quinault Indian Nation Razor Clam Dig

Located off the coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary works closely with four indigenous communities: the Quinault Indian Nation and the Hoh, Makah, and Quileute tribes. These communities have forged inseparable ties to the ocean environment, maintaining traditions of the past while they navigate the challenges of the present.

Razor clams are an important resource for the Quinault Indian Nation. Historically, razor clams provided sustenance and served as trade items; today, annual razor clam digs help supplement Quinault income.

Watch our Stories from the Blue video to learn about the Quinault Indian Nation’s razor clam digs and how the nation and the sanctuary work together to protect culturally-important ocean ecosystems.

Success for the sea otter!

Sea otters were once locally extinct from the Washington coast, but in 1969 and 1970, 59 sea otters were relocated there from Alaska. These otters have thrived: today more than 1,800 individuals call the Washington coast home! Most of them live in the waters of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. 

Each year, researchers survey the population – the 2016 census was organized by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, with assistance from volunteers and staff from the sanctuary, Seattle Aquarium, and Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. One large raft of over 600 sea otters was observed off the mouth of the Hoh River! 

(Photo: NOAA)

oceansv  asked:

Hi 😊 I wanted to ask you something. Sea lions often approach divers and people they find swimming where they are. As people must keep a certain distance and not go and approach some animals (whales and dolphins, for example) unless the animal decides to get close, I was wondering if it's okay to be so near them in the water, in case sea lions are the ones that approach people. Thank you!

It’s a great question! Watching marine mammals in their natural habitat can be a great way to learn about the environment and promote conservation (plus, it’s fun!). But it’s always important to give animals lots of space to live their lives and carry out their daily activities. Getting too close can make it harder for animals to feed or rest, which in turn makes it harder for them to survive. With that in mind, as you point out, the Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits harassing marine mammals in the wild. 

In general, guidelines include:

  • observing wild dolphins, porpoises, and seals from a safe distance of at least 50 yards by land or sea
  • observing large whales from a safe distance of at least 100 yards by land or sea
  • using binoculars or telephoto lenses to see better without getting too close
  • avoiding abrupt movements or circling and entrapping marine mammals between watercraft, or between watercraft and shore.

Still, like you say, sea lions and other animals are quite curious and often do approach divers! Case in point:

Photo in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary; credit David J. Ruck/NOAA

So what do you do when this happens?

Typically, if you see an animal or it approaches you, the best way to go is to remain calm, watch it, and don’t attempt to interact with it. Don’t get any closer than it wants to get, and when it decides to swim away, let it; don’t follow it!

Basically, you shouldn’t closely approach or attempt to interact with marine mammals in the wild – but if they come to you, you can watch calmly. But never attempt to pet, touch, or feed them!

You can find more information about viewing guidelines here and about good ocean etiquette here.

Thanks for taking care of our ocean’s amazing mammals!

The ocean is vast, so how do researchers at national marine sanctuaries study what lives there? They listen! 

The sounds fish and other marine organisms make are species-specific, so listening to them is a great way to determine what’s in the sanctuary. Researchers at Stellwagen Bank, Gray’s Reef, Florida Keys and Flower Garden Banks national marine sanctuaries deploy shallow water hydrophones to record ambient sound, like that of fishes and boats. Researchers have also deployed deep-water hydrophones in Cordell Bank, Channel Islands, and Olympic Coast national marine sanctuaries to record sounds like whales and ships. These listening stations will help us learn how noisy our sanctuaries are. 

(Photo: NOAA, taken in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary)