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How To Keep Ocean Wildlife Safe When Visiting San Diego’s Hot Spots

a group of fish in the water

The west coast of the U.S. has more than 30 species of marine mammals. When you think of San Diego, California, you probably think of pristine beaches, abundant restaurants, and many activities revolving around sea life. San Diego has unique marine life due to its warm ocean temperatures, remaining between 68 and 72 degrees all year. However, you should protect ocean wildlife while you observe them.

Marine Life in San Diego

In addition to the thousands of different types of fish, San Diego also has several marine mammal species, including the bottlenose dolphin, short-beaked common dolphin, long-beaked common dolphins, Risso’s dolphin, and pacific white-sided dolphin; porpoises; sea lions; sea otters; harbor seals, and several species of whales, including the humpback whale, fin whale, gray whale, blue whale, Byrde’s whale, Minke whale, Pilot whale, and orca. 

However, you can also see many non-mammal species, such as sunfish, sea sponges and anemones, crustaceans, octopi, invertebrates, starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, eels, and fish. Don’t forget the angel shark, leopard shark, or the rays. You can also find the Pacific seahorse in the area.

Don’t forget the sea birds. Look for commonly seen birds like California brown pelicans, cormorants, egrets, and seagulls. You might even see albatrosses, shearwaters, Pterodroma and storm petrels, boobies, jaegers, tropic birds, alcids, and pelagic gulls. Each group of birds has several species you can find. For example, you may see marbled murrelets, cantus murrelets, and rhinoceros auklets when you look for alcids.

Safety Tips

Much marine life, especially marine mammals, has protections under federal law, such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act. However, you can still view these species without violating these acts. Contact the Marine Mammal Stranding Network if you see injured animals or abandoned young.

Never approach sea life quickly for your safety, and stop more than 100 yards away. Pay attention to their actions. If they become aggressive, start vocalizing or staring at you, move away. They may also swim away from you.

Also, keep your pets away from sea life. When you walk your dogs on the beach, keep them leashed so they don’t disturb or harm sea life. Avoid feeding these animals because it encourages closer contact with humans and boats, which could prove detrimental. Back away if these animals approach you.

a rocky island in the middle of a body of water

Where To See Marine Life in San Diego

If you seek local sea life in a natural setting, check out La Jolla’s Ecological Reserve, La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores, Cabrillo National Monument Tidepools, Windansea Beach, Coronado Island, Torrey Pines Natural Reserve, and Oceanside just to name a few. You can see exciting sea life in tide pools, such as anemones, limpets, sea hares, crabs, lobsters, octopi, mussels, chitons, snails, and small fish.

You can also see San Diego marine life at the numerous aquariums, such as the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the Living Coast Discovery Center, LEGOLAND’s Deep Sea Adventure, and SeaWorld.

Interacting With Marine Life While on Land

On land, you should only participate in guided interactions. If you see marine wildlife independently, keep your distance and observe. Avoid picking up sea life or touching any marine mammals.

a herd of sheep standing on top of a sandy beach

Interacting With Marine Life While in the Water

You can also see abundant sea life in marine caves and open water when you kayak, charter a boat, or join a whale-watching cruise. You can also join guided dives or snorkeling tours. However, if you have a dive license and family or friends who want to join you, you can go on a private dive or snorkeling trip.

Many species are curious, such as sea lions, and they may approach you, but you should back away and avoid touching them. Just observe. If you want more interaction, join a guided tour.

When looking for marine life, remember to act with respect and responsibility. Avoid harassment and intimidation. Marine life safety is your responsibility.