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Quick Facts About the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was established in September 1992. Marine sanctnaries strive to preserve ocean environments that are still relatively pristine while promoting multiple use of the area for enjoyment by everyone. Ninety percent of the U.S. population lives within 200 miles of the nation's coastlines, and competition for use of ocean resources is growing Iapidly.

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Location / Boundaries / Size

The Sanctuary includes ocean waters of the central California coast from Cambria to north of San Francisco, and extends seaward to an average of 30 miles. Monterey Bay proper actually comprises less than 1/15th of the entire sanctuary. Sanctuary boundaries do not include any dry land areas.

The Sanctuary encompasses 5,322 square statute miles. It is the largest marine sanctuary in the United States. It is the largest marine sanctuary in the world by volume, and the second largest in the world by area.

The Monterey Bay submarine canyon is larger than the Grand Canyon.

The deepest point in the Sanctuary is 10,663 feet (3,250 meters).

Average Ocean Temperature

The surface temperature averages 55°F (13°C).

Living Marine Resources

  • 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 over 1,200 animals. Thirty-one percent of the population inhabits the coastal area from Point Sur to Ano NuevolPigeon 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 to the abundance and diversity of marine life 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 sunmler. When the cold water rises to the surface and meets the wanner 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.

Archaeological Resources

The Sanctuary is the final home for over 1,200 shipwrecked vessels.

Current Sanctuary Programs

Staff and volunteers help coordinate the following programs on behalf of the Sanctuary:

  • Water Quality Program
  • Oil Spill Response Plans
  • Vessel Traffic
  • Coast Watch
  • Elkhorn Slough Erosion Abatement
  • Site Characterization
  • Tourism
  • Sanctuary Advisory Council
  • Marine Education
  • Scientific Information Center
  • Interpretive Center
  • Marine Enforcement Support
  • Resource Monitoring


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 material (some specific exceptions)
  • Moving, removing, or injuring a Sanctuary historical 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" outside of the four designated zones and access routes


The Sanctuary has many diverse uses, including the following:

  • Boating, sailing and harbors
  • Board sports and SCUBA diving
  • Commercial and recreational fishing
  • Tourism and recreation
  • Scientific research
  • Kelp harvesting
  • Shipping
  • Military activities
  • Coastal development


Monterey National Marine Sanctuary

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