California Sea Lion

Scientific: Zalophus californianus
Spanish: León marino de California
Awaswas: Sullan (seal)

Diet: Fish, cephalopods
Habitat: Nearshore, hauling out on rocks and pylons
Status: Least Concern

These social creatures can often be seen congregating near harbors and wharves where they vocalize via “barking.” California sea lions are year-round residents of the Monterey Bay and can be distinguished from the seasonal Steller’s sea lion who are larger, lighter-colored, and whose males lack a bony crest on their skulls.

Seals, sea lions and walruses are all pinnipeds which means “fin-footed.” Sea lions are not considered ‘true seals’ because they have external ear flaps and front flippers that allow them greater dexterity on land than other seals. Here in the Monterey Bay you can see the following pinnipeds throughout the year:

  • California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus)
  • Steller’s Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)
  • Pacific Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)
  • Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris)
  • Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus)

Southern Sea Otter

Scientific: Enhydra lutris nereis
Spanish: Nutria marina del sur
Mutsun: Suuyu

Diet: Urchins, shellfish, crabs and other invertebrates
Habitat: Kelp forests, estuaries
Status: Endangered

Back From Extinction But Still Endangered
Sea otters are mustelids, the same family as weasels, badgers and wolverines. Unlike other marine mammals, otters have thick fur rather than blubber, making them a target for the fur trade historically. They were nearly hunted to extinction in the 19th and early 20th century, but under protection the population has grown to over 3,000. Sea otters can routinely be seen in the Monterey Bay, where they play an important role in the kelp forest ecosystem as a keystone species.

What would happen if there were no otters to eat urchins (which eat kelp)?


The Coast and Ocean

The ocean supports life around the globe – it influences climate, weather and water cycles, and provides food and livelihoods for people worldwide. Although the ocean is vast, humans can play a major role in its health, no matter where they live.

The Monterey Bay is a marine sanctuary that hosts a diversity of life in a variety of interconnected habitats, from tidepools to kelp forests to underwater canyons. At least 36 different species of marine mammals pass through or reside in Monterey Bay. Just like mammals that live on land, they breathe air and must have adaptations to survive the cold ocean habitat.

Learn More

Visit Local Tide Pools