Skip to main content
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary National Marine Sanctuaries Home Page National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Home Page

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Overview

A Message from the Superintendent

image of Lisa Wooninck, Superintendent of MBNMSLisa Wooninck, Sanctuary Superintendent

Designated in 1992, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) is a federally protected marine area offshore of California's central coast. Stretching from Marin to Cambria, the sanctuary encompasses a shoreline length of 276 miles and 6,094 square statute miles (4,601 nmi2) of ocean, extending an average distance of 30 miles from shore. At its deepest point, MBNMS reaches 12,743 feet (more than two miles). It is one of our nation's largest national marine sanctuaries, and is larger than Yellowstone National Park.

The sanctuary contains extensive kelp forests and one of North America's largest underwater canyons and closest-to-shore deep ocean environments. Its diverse marine ecosystem also includes rugged rocky shores, wave-swept sandy beaches and tranquil estuaries. These habitats harbor an incredible variety of marine life, including 36 species of marine mammals, more than 180 species of seabirds and shorebirds, at least 525 species of fishes, and an abundance of invertebrates and algae. Known as the "Serengeti of the Sea," this remarkably productive marine environment is fringed by spectacular coastal scenery, including sand dunes, rocky cliffs, rolling hills and steep mountains.

MBNMS was established for the purpose of resource protection, research, education and public use. Human uses include commercial fishing and recreational activities like diving, kayaking, boating and surfing. However some activities that could harm the sanctuary's health—such as oil drilling, ocean dumping or seabed mining—are not allowed.

A personal visit is a great way to experience the beauty of the sanctuary and understand the need to protect this special place. Try your hand at kayaking, fishing, tide pooling, diving or whale watching. Visit one of the region's many coastal parks, or simply admire the spectacular coastline! If you can't personally come to the sanctuary, please use these webpages for a virtual experience.

Lisa Wooninck
Sanctuary Superintendent


To understand and protect the coastal ecosystem and cultural resources of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.


General Information

General Information button
Learn about our mission, the sanctuary's history, quick facts, annual accomplishments and more.

Explore Your Sanctuary

Explore Your Sanctuary button
Find out about fun things to do and beautiful places to see in the sanctuary. Join a whale watching on the bay, kayak in peaceful wetlands or stroll along pristine beaches. There's something for everyone.

Permits & Regulations

Regulations and Permits button
Learn about the regulations governing MBNMS and permit requirements for various activities.

Marine Operations

Marine Operations button
MBNMS conducts many boat, aircraft, and diving operation in the sactuary for research and mangement.

Management Plan Documents

Management Plan Documents button
Learn about the documents governing how the Sanctuary was established and is managed.

Sanctuary Staff

Sanctuary Staff button
Meet MBNMS staff.
Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

Take Our Survey | Privacy Statement | Site Disclaimer
National Marine Sanctuaries | National Ocean Service | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration |