Southern California Local Marine Life

The local marine life of the Santa Monica Bay consists of gray whales, bottlenose dolphins, kelp, mussels, and other shellfish. Kelp doesn't grow just anywhere, the water temperature needs to be in the low 60's for it to grow (the Pacific Ocean off of our coast averages 55 - 65 degrees). Kelp is necessary to support local communities of fish, plankton, etc. Some of it is even harvested for commercial use (like shampoo and new-age medicine). Here are some of the animals living off of the Southern California Coast.


GaribaldiGaribaldi - A beautiful, bright orange fish with willowy fins and a big attitude. According to info from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, these territorial fish can become quite aggressive with the aquarist for being too close in proximity while in the tank. The Channel Islands and Catalina Island are home to a good number of these fish - in Lover's Cove and around the rocky bottom surrounding Catalina Island. They are protected by the California Department of Fish and Game and grow to an average length of about 12 inches.
Sea Lion Sea Lions - this breed of Sea Lion is a very intelligent mammal that lives from the southeastern Alaska down to the Gulf of Mexico. They enjoy the beaches of California for feeding on fish, clams, and squid and "hauling-out" on the rocky beaches of Catalina near Twin Harbors to escape predators or relax or sunbathe. You may find a solitary sea lion on a barge or buoy or marina area. the male sea lions can grow to 7 feet in length and weigh as much as 800 pounds. Female sea lions average about 6 feet in length reaching a weight of 220 pounds.
Gray Whale Grey Whale - These large whales travel the longest migratory route of any mammal, from 10,000 miles to 16,000 miles round trip from the Northern Pacific waters off of Alaska to the Gulf of California in Mexico and then back North each year. The Alaskan waters are a great place for the whales to feed in the summer and the Gulf in Mexico provides warmer waters in the winter months and a safe place to have calves away from their predators such as orcas and sharks. The whales can be seen migrating off of the coast of California from December through January and again from March through April.
Sand DollarSand Dollars - A flattened sea urchin found in the intertidal zone to lower depths of beaches around the world. The appearance of the skeleton (or test) is similar to that of an American Coin Dollar. The urchin has a velvet skin that may be violet, green, or many colors with cilia that allow them to move on the sea floor. They eat copepods, diatoms, and algae.
Kelp Kelp - Large brown algae found in the shallow waters off of the coast. Kelp can grow as much as 12 to 18 inches in a day. They need lots of sunlight and cold, nutrient rich water - exactly what the Pacific Ocean has right off of the beaches: 55-65 degree water and plenty of sunshine. Kelp forests provide protection as well as food for fish, seals, otters, whales, birds, and other animals. Kombu, or Pacific Kelp, is used to flavor broths and in cooking rice and other dishes. Alginate, a kelp product, is used to thicken ice cream, toothpaste, jelly, and salad dressing.
Sea GullSea Gulls - The Western Gull resides on the beaches here in southern California. These mostly white birds with grey colored wings eat krill, squid, jellyfish, fish, starfish, limpets, and snails as well as any food left unattended by a beach goer who decided to take a dip in the ocean for a few minutes. Seagulls are also attracted to the brighly colored packaging of a Doritos or a Cheetos bag and will tear at it until it opens and happily eat the contents before the hapless beach goer returns to the towels to find an empty bag. Western Gulls live from 15 to 25 years.
Bottlenose DolphinsDolphins - Living in pods of 10 to 30 members, the Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins can be seen swimming not far from shore at any So Cal beach during a summer day. They range from 6 to 8 feet in length and weigh from 330 to 1500 pounds. They feed mostly on fish, crustaceans, and squid. Their main predators are sharks in the wild. They also get caught in fishing nets for tuna as they travel in pods when feeding on fish, especially fast moving tuna. They communicate with other dolphins through 6 air sacs near the blowhole to make sounds and clicks.
Kelp Growing California Sea Lion


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