Twenty-five miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, the waters around the Channel Islands host an incredible array of marine life and habitats. Here, warm and cold water currents collide to create a transition zone where cold water species blend with warm water species to create unique and diverse marine communities.
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park were both designated in 1980 to protect these communities and to preserve cultural and archeological treasures.
The sanctuary sits amid some of California’s richest fishing grounds. To help protect and restore this fragile ecosystem, 10 state marine reserves closed to all fishing and two state marine conservation areas open to limited fishing have been set aside. Between them, these protected areas cover 188 square miles. The national park also protects the five islands and waters out to one nautical mile.
Visitors to the islands can walk along sandy beaches and rocky shores studded with tide pools. Seagrass meadows thrive in shallow, soft-bottomed areas. Giant kelp form dense underwater forests of amber and gold that attract sport divers from around the world.
Elephant seals, harbor seals, California sea lions and northern fur seals use the islands as rookeries, hauling out to give birth to their young. The islands provide important nesting sites for Black Storm Petrels and Xantus’ Murrelets and Anacapa Island is the only permanent rookery in California for endangered California Brown Pelicans.