This site includes the vast area composed of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS), the Washington Islands National Wildlife Refuge (WINWR) complex (Copalis, Quillayute Needles, and Flattery Rocks NWRs), and the coastal strip of Olympic National Park (ONP), including the mouths of major rivers and creeks. The eastern boundary is generally the eastern boundary of the ONP coastal strip and the high tide line on tribal reservations. The northern, western, and southern boundaries are the boundaries of the OCNMS. The site includes the approximately 600 islands of the WINWR and Tatoosh Island.

Most of the site is open marine water. The western boundary approximates the edge of the continental shelf, out to the 100-fathom isobath, approximately 30 nautical miles (56 km) from the mainland. The continental shelf is primarily smooth and narrow, ranging in width from 13 to 65 km. Two undersea canyons incise the continental shelf and slope with the heads of the Quinault and Juan de Fuca canyons, reaching depths of about 400 to500 fathoms, included in the OCNMS. The Olympic Continental Shelf is known for its rough seas and large waves. Average wave heights average between 4 and 8 m in winter, but extremes of wave height ranging from 15 to 29 m have been recorded. Tidal fluctuations are large, averaging about 3.5 m, allowing for an extensive intertidal zone.

The coast is one of the most pristine and undeveloped stretches of coastline in the United States outside Alaska. Islands, reefs, rocks and mainland cliffs are the basalt and granite bedrock remnants of areas once covered by glacial till. Most of the coastline is lined with sandy or gravelly pocket beaches, with intermittent rocky stretches containing abundant tidepools. Characteristic of the rocky areas are rugged headlands and cliffs, sea stacks and sea arches, islets, rocks, and reefs.

For IBA map, click here. 

October 2013 - Data merged from Alexander Island, Destruction Island, Juan de Fuca Canyon, Olympic Coast to Olympic Contental Shelf.

Description from Marine IBA Analysis: The Alexander Island IBA occupies 1,337 hectares of land comprised of: shrubland. The IBA is located in the Oregon, Washington, Vancouver Coast and Shelf ecoregion. It is owned and managed as: federal, and has the following primary uses: fisheries/aquaculture-other and tourism/recreation-other. The Alexander Island IBA contains 10 seabird species and an estimated 61,668 birds. The colony is an IBA for the following species: Cassin's auklet (54,600).

The Destruction Island IBA occupies 455 hectares of land comprised of: woody wetlands. The IBA is located in the Oregon, Washington, Vancouver Coast and Shelf ecoregion. It is owned and managed as: federal, and has the following primary uses: fisheries/aquaculture-other and tourism/recreation-other. Destruction Island is a 0.15 km2 island located 4.8 km west of the Olympic Peninsula and 29 km southeast of La Push, Washington. The Destruction Island IBA contains 5 seabird species and an estimated 25,400 birds. The colony is an IBA for the following species: Rhinoceros Auklet (23,600).

The Juan de Fuca Canyon, WA-BC IBA occupies 432,597 hectares of pelagic open water habitat. The IBA is located in the Oregon,Washington,Vancouver Coast & Shelf ecoregion. It is owned and managed as: federal-other, and has the following primary uses: aquaculture, non-recreational fishing, gas extraction, and oil extraction. Juan de Fuca Canyon is an underwater canyon off the coast of northern Washington just below the United States-Canada border. The canyon causes extensive upwelling and habitat for foraging birds. The canyon intersects the continental shelf just off of Vancouver Island at the mouth of the Juan de Fuca Straight (Hay 1992). The canyon is located about 40 miles west of the Washington coast and about 50 miles south of the Juan de Fuca Straight (Google Maps). Juan de Fuca Canyon, WA-BC is an IBA for the following species: Sooty Shearwater. It contains an estimated 6,112 Sooty Shearwater (breeding). The following species are on the Audubon WatchList: Sooty Shearwater.

The Olympic Coast, WA IBA occupies 204,488 hectares of pelagic open water habitat. The IBA is located in the Oregon,Washington,Vancouver Coast & Shelf ecoregion. It is owned and managed as: federal-other and federal-other, and has the following primary uses: fisheries/aquaculture-other and tourism/recreation-other. Coast a. Site- Olympic Coast IBA is part of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and is located off the Olympic Peninsula in Northern Washington. Olympic Coast, WA is an IBA for the following species: Pink-footed Shearwater. It contains an estimated 1,500 Pink-footed Shearwater (breeding). The following species are on the Audubon WatchList: Pink-footed Shearwater.

Ornithological Summary

Seabirds are the most conspicuous members of the offshore fauna of the Olympic Coast. Sea stacks and islands provide critical nesting habitat for 19 species of marine birds and marine-associated raptors and shorebirds, including 7 alcid species (murres, puffins, murrelets, etc.), 3 cormorant species, 4 gull and tern species, 2 stormpetrel species, 2 raptors and 1 shorebird, the Black Oystercatcher. Productive offshore waters attract large feeding aggregations of marine birds that breed in other regions of the world but travel great distances to ?winter? in sanctuary waters. The Sooty Shearwater, for example, breeds along the coasts of New Zealand and Chile in the austral summer and congregates along the Pacific coast in its non-breeding season. Blackfooted and Laysan Albatross travel far from their breeding grounds in Hawaii and Japan to forage in the eastern Pacific. Nearer to shore, sand and gravel beaches furnish foraging areas for shorebirds, corvids, and gulls. The coastline forms an important migratory pathway for millions of birds that pass through each year, guiding waterfowl, cranes, shorebirds and raptors toward northern breeding areas during the spring and southward as winter approaches.

Conservation Issues

Some direct human impacts have occurred on a few islands and sea stacks due to: USCG grounds keeping activities on Destruction Island; historic military bombing practice drills; trespassing by recreational boaters; wildlife research activities; and tribal subsistence harvesting activities. Introduced species (European rabbits on the largest island). Overfishing, benthic disturbance from fishing/crabbing. Pollution, global climate change. Commercial harvest of kelp.

Ownership

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Washington Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Olympic National Park

Habitat

The marine waters include littoral and sublittoral environments characterized by a wealth of marine plant life including many varieties of kelp, surfgrass, and red, green, and brown algae. The pelagic zone (the water column above the continental shelf) supports a rich food web supported by abundant plankton.

As noted above, habitats along the shore include rocks, islands, reefs, and sandy or gravelly pocket beaches nestled between resistant tidelands. The rocky surf zone supports some of the most diverse and complex shore communities in the continental United States. These communities contain more than 130 plant species (120 of which are algae) and 180 animal species, mostly invertebrates.

The uplands on the mainland, islands, and sea stacks contain grasses, forbs, and some shrub species. Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) and salal (Gaultheria shallon) are common dominant understory plants in the uplands. Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) is the dominant canopy species.

Land Use

Commercial and sport fishing (includes crab and squid), shipping, recreation, navigation aids, U.S. Coast Guard lighthouses, recreational and subsistence harvesting of shellfish, research, recreational aviation, military aviation and flight training.

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