Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz Island

Photograph by Shane Anderson


About 25 miles (40 kilometers) off the coast of Santa Barbara, California

Protected Area
1,658 square miles (4,294 square kilometers)

Date Designated
September 1980

Kelp forests
Rocky shores
Sandy beaches
Sea grass meadows
Pelagic, or open, ocean
Deep, rocky reefs

Key Species
Blue shark
Brown pelican
California sea lion
Elephant and harbor seals
Blue and gray whales
Western gull

Cultural Resources
Chumash Indian artifacts
Historic shipwrecks

Undersea forests of giant kelp skirt Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara, the five islands whose surrounding waters constitute the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary is located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) off the coast at Santa Barbara, California. Here, the mingling of cool, southbound currents and warm, northbound currents around the islands produces an amazingly fertile and diverse marine environment.

The sanctuary’s kelp forests shelter a wealth of sponge, kelp crab, spiny lobster, octopus, squid, and fish. More than 20 species of shark cruise the islands, including the bottom-dwelling Pacific angel shark and the fearsome great white. Many come looking for the thousands of seals and sea lions that frolic in the sanctuary waters and bask on the rocky islands’ shores.

More than 27 species of whale and porpoise frequent the islands at various times of the year, including the rare blue, humpback, and sei whales. The endangered brown pelican maintains a key rookery in the islands, and the only nesting site in the United States of black storm-petrels is also located there. The sanctuary’s seabed harbors its own treasures—fossils, well over a hundred shipwrecks, and artifacts of the Chumash tribe, whose members lived on the islands and nearby mainland and plied the surrounding waters in sturdy wooden-plank canoes.

For more information,
check out NOAA’s Channel Islands profile:

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
113 Harbor Way
Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Tel: +1 805 966 7107
Fax: +1 805 568 1582
Sanctuary Web site:


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