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Under the Sea: Life in the Sanctuaries

Black Rockfish

(Image credit: NOAA Photo Library /Kip Evans)

Black rockfish are large, powerful swimmers. They, like other rockfish, suspend themselves in the Kelp's stipes so that smaller fish (prey species) can't see them.

Purple Striped Jellyfish

(Image credit: NOAA Photo Library /Kip Evans)

A purple striped jellyfish -- Pelagia panopyra - possesses very potent stingers. This purple striped jellyfish is just one example of the many types of jellies that mysteriously appear and vanish throughout the year in the Sanctuary.

Sea Lions

(Image credit: NOAA, Photo Library/Glenn Allen)

The most abundant pinniped (seals and sea lions) in the Sanctuary is the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus). Over 80,000 California sea lions live and breed in the Channel Islands. Sea lions live in herds and can weigh up to 700 pounds! One will usually see these playful mammals basking in the sun on shore or playing with other sea lions underwater.

A Townsend Angelfish

(Image credit: NOAA Photo Library /Jackie Reid)

A Townsend Angelfish (Queen & Blue mix) taken at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

The Great White Shark

(Image credit: NOAA Photo Library)

Not as big as the dinosaurs, but possibly as old, sharks first appeared 450 million years ago! As the largest predatory fish in the ocean, great white sharks are the top predators of the sea. Shortly after the release of “Jaws,” long behold, sharks had gotten a bad reputation as fearful, harmful, man-eating creatures. Of course, this concept is totally incorrect, as shark attacks on humans are rare.

Black-Necked Stilts

(Image credit: NOAA, Photo Library/Gulf of the Farallones NMS)

Black-necked Stilts rest in the shallow water of an estuary in the Gulf of the Farallones.

Orange Tessellated Blenny

(Image credit: NOAA Photo Library /Jackie Reid)

An Orange Tessellated Blenny taken at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

School of RockFish

(Image credit: NOAA, Photo Library/Cordell Bank Expeditions)

A mixed species school of rockfish hang mid water in the boundless blue ocean above Cordell Bank.

Humpback Whales

(Image credit: NOAA, Photo Library/Dan Shapiro)

Humpback whales engage in cooperative lunge feeding on krill-tiny crustaceans abundant over Cordell Bank. These baleen whales filter the tiny shrimp-like animals from the water column in big mouthfuls.

West Indian Manatee

(Image credit: NOAA, Photo Library/Laurel Canty-Ehrlich)

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is visited by several marine mammal species, including the endangered West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus). Manatees are winter visitors, while species like the spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins can be seen throughout the year.

The Four-Eye Butterflyfish

(Image credit: NOAA, Photo Library/Chris Huss - Florida Keys NMS)

The four-eye butterflyfish (Chaetodon capistratus) is one of hundreds of fish species, which inhabit the reef environment of the Florida Keys. The butterflyfish mates for life and therefore you will often see two of them. If you can imagine two butterflyfish nose to nose, they look like a butterfly. It is easy to see how they got their name.