go to content go to search box go to global site navigation

Marine life

Marine mammals & fish

Perhaps no native fish gets more attention than salmon, whose spawning runs up Pacific Coast rivers are famous spectacles. However, both Pacific and Atlantic salmon are considered endangered; hatcheries release millions of young every year, but there is debate whether this practice hurts or helps wild populations.

As for marine life, gray, humpback and blue whales migrate annually along the Pacific Coast, making whale-watching very popular. Alaska and Hawaii are important breeding grounds for whales and marine mammals, and the San Juan Islands in Washington are visited by orcas.

The Pacific Coast is also home to ponderous elephant seals, playful sea lions and endangered sea otters. In California, Channel Islands National Park and Monterey Bay preserve unique, highly diverse marine worlds.

For coral reefs and tropical fish, Hawaii and the Florida Keys are the prime destinations. The coast of Florida is also home to the unusual, gentle manatee, which moves between freshwater rivers and the ocean. Around 10ft long and weighing up to 1200lb, these agile, expressive creatures number around 3000, and may have once been mistaken for mermaids.

The Gulf of Mexico is another vital marine habitat, perhaps most famously for endangered sea turtles, which nest on south-coast beaches.