The Ocean

 
 
California sea lions
California sea lions swim offshore at Channel Islands National Park

Brett Seymour

Nearly half of Channel Islands National Park is located beneath the surface of the sea, extending out one nautical mile around each island in the park. Within these waters lies one of the most astonishing collections of marine life on the planet. Marine plants and animals thrive here because conditions are favorable to both cold- and warm-water species due to a unique mixing of cold, nutrient-rich waters from the north and warmer waters from the south. Such mixing is made possible by factors including upwelling, currents, long-term cycles, the diverse geography of the seafloor, and the islands’ location at the intersection of two different biogeographic provinces.

The ocean environment within Channel Islands National Park encompasses rocky reefs with towering kelp forests that support over 1,000 marine species, seagrass beds that act as nursery grounds for numerous fish and invertebrate species. Adjacent deep submarine canyons and towering pinnacles attract unique assemblages of species in search of food and shelter. The park waters also help sustain a wide variety of seabirds and shorebirds that rarely occur together such as black oystercatchers from the north and American oystercatchers from the south. These, and several other northern and southern species, nest on the islands.

 
California brown pelican soaring over blue water
California brown pelicans are among the many seabirds that live in Channel Islands National Park and rely on the ocean as a source of food.

Jessica Weinberg McClosky / NPS

The living marine resources in Channel Islands National Park are managed by the State of California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. The State’s jurisdiction includes the three nautical miles of water around each island. These same waters out to six nautical miles around each island form the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The National Park Service, State of California, and National Marine Sanctuary work closely together to preserve and protect the marine resources at the Channel Islands.

 
Map of Channel Islands National Park and surrounding waters
Nearly half of Channel Islands National Park is located beneath the surface of the sea extending out one nautical mile around each island. The State of California's jurisdiction includes the three nautical miles of water around each island. These same waters out to six nautical miles around each island form the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
 
A diver records data for Channel Islands National Park's Kelp Forest Monitoring Program
Recording data for Channel Islands National Park's Kelp Forest Monitoring Program

NPS

Channel Islands National Park’s ocean waters were designated as Areas of Special Biological Significance in 1974 by the State of California. This designation ensures that ocean water quality in the park is monitored and maintained. In 2003, the State also established a network of Marine Protected Areas which prohibit fishing in 20% of park waters. These marine reserves provide a refuge for marine life, as well as many opportunities for recreation, education, and science.

Channel Islands National Park’s Kelp Forest Monitoring Program collects information on the status of the marine life in the park and marine reserves to help the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to better understand and protect its marine resources. Closer to shore, the park’s Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Program collects data on additional marine species found in rocky intertidal habitats. Both programs began in the early 1980s and represent some of the oldest and largest datasets in the National Park Service and the world.

 
Pacific Ocean Education Team (POET) Newsletters
POET is a team of National Park Service employees and partners committed to educating the public about the resource that is our Pacific Ocean. Below are newsletters that have been produced as part of that outreach effort.

Last updated: December 28, 2017

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1901 Spinnaker Drive
Ventura, CA 93001

Phone:

(805) 658-5730

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