Ocean Life

fish swimming through group of bull kelp strands underwater
Channel Islands National Park

NPS Photo

From deep, cavernous trenches to shallow intertidal zones, life thrives in all parts of the ocean. Animals and plants of all shapes, sizes, and species make their home in this watery world, with some habitats, like kelp forests, supporting up to 1,000 different species alone. Many of these organisms are important to the survival of ocean ecosystems and to humans. Without alga like kelp, for example, we wouldn’t be able to make many of our everyday products, including toothpaste and ice cream! Understanding, monitoring, and protecting these amazing creatures, from the smallest plankton to the largest animal ever known to have existed, the blue whale, is an important part of the National Park Service mission. Explore the different kinds of marine life found in our parks below.


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