Intertidal Zone
Intertidal Zone

Photograph by Kip Evans


Central California coast

Protected Area
5,328 square miles (13,800 square kilometers)

Date Designated
September 1992

Sandy beaches
Rocky shores
Kelp forests
Submarine canyon
Pelagic, or open, ocean

Key Species
Gray whale
Market squid
Sea otter
Brown pelican
Giant kelp

Cultural Resources
Indian midden, or refuse, sites
Naval airship U.S.S. Macon

The United States’ largest marine sanctuary spans north to south more than 350 miles (563.3 kilometers) along central California’s dramatic coastline. It extends on average 35 miles (56 kilometers) out to sea, past rocky promontories and dense kelp forests. Across the center of the sanctuary, the submarine Monterey Canyon, called the “Grand Canyon of the Ocean,” cuts a deep gash in the continental shelf. Exotic fluids bubble up from cold seeps in the sanctuary’s seafloor.

This varied geology attracts a diverse population of marine life to the sanctuary’s coastline and waters. Along the rocky intertidal zone, mussels and ocher starfish cling tenaciously to the reef, while, in early winter, male elephant seals loll about on sandy beaches with their harems. Farther out, the dense kelp canopy shelters abalone, sea urchins, rockfish, and sea otters. In the open ocean bioluminescent organisms fitfully brighten the watery depths with their otherworldly sparkle and glow.

During the year a cavalcade of species passes through the Monterey Bay sanctuary on its way to other destinations. Dolphins, whales, salmon, and the world’s largest creature—the blue whale—are seasonal visitors, as are thousands upon thousands of migratory birds.

Related Site: Monterey Bay
Pilot a pocket size sub, “fly” through an underwater canyon, and meet the beasts!

For more information,
check out NOAA’s Monterey Bay profile:

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
299 Foam Street
Monterey, CA 93940

Tel: +1 831 647 4201
Fax: +1 831 647 4250
Sanctuary Web site:


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