Cabrillo Marinas and Cabrillo Beach
You Are Here
Whether you’re looking to enjoy an afternoon at the beach, hop aboard a fishing or whale watching boat, or enjoy a walk along the water, the Cabrillo area marinas and Cabrillo Beach are ideal locations to get up close to marine habitats and wildlife in the outer harbor.
On this Page:
Habitats Located at
Cabrillo Marinas and Cabrillo Beach
Cabrillo Beach is located in the outer harbor and is part of a series of shallow-water habitat areas that have been created as a way to offset development elsewhere in the harbor. Habitats in these shallow areas include eelgrass, open
water and riprap embankments. The adjacent Cabrillo Marinas are large, active recreational boating facility.
Hover over the images below to learn more about the different habitats located at Cabrillo Marinas and Cabrillo Beach.
The seafloor in this area supports large eelgrass beds, with approximately 25% of the eelgrass in the Port of Los Angeles located near Cabrillo Beach. This area is highly productive and promotes high diversity of in the fish and invertebrate communities. Common animals include amphipods and shrimp and other tiny invertebrates that cling to the blades of eelgrass, snails and lobsters that roam looking for food, and small fishes that can hide in the eelgrass beds to avoid predators like larger fish, sea ...Learn more!
The open water areas in the outer harbor are productive for schooling bait fishes such as anchovies, topsmelt, and grunion. This makes these areas valuable foraging grounds for marine mammals like sea lions and harbor seals as well as birds like terns, grebes, and cormorants. During the spring, outer harbor areas can also be visited by migratory gray whales and their calves as they make their way north from their birthing grounds in the Gulf of Mexico.Learn More
Riprap embankments protecting the shorelines of the outer harbor provide crevices and caves for animals to hide in as well as substrate for algae and animals to attach to. Common animals found in this habitat include scallops, soft corals, lobsters, and macroalgae including coralline red algae and giant kelp.Learn More
What Lives Here?
Eelgrass and shallow, sandy seafloor provide extensive habitat for juvenile fishes like bass, flatfish (like halibut and turbot) as well as invertebrates such as shrimp, crabs, and lobsters. The sandy beaches also attract pelagic fishes
such as grunion, which make an annual ‘run’ during a full moon to swim up onto the beach to deposit their eggs in the sand.
Check out the pictures below to see examples of species that have been found near Cabrillo Marinas and Cabrillo Beach!
The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis, pictured here in the outer harbor), was formerly listed as federally endangered in the 1970s but has since recovered, although it is still protected under California state law. Pelicans use the harbor for roosting and foraging and can be seen in the harbor diving from high in the air, plunging into the water to feed on fish such as anchovies and sardines.
Habitat: Seafloor and Riprap
The colorful sea slug Navanax (Navanax inermis, pictured here in the inner harbor), is common throughout the harbor on the seafloor, riprap, and pilings. These predatory sea slugs are typically a few inches in length and prey on other snails, bryozoans, and even small fish. They rely on their chemoreception, or ‘smell’, to track the slime trails of their prey as they do not have any organs for vision.
The California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) is a commercially valuable species commonly found in the harbor. These fish partially bury themselves to blend into the seafloor in order to ambush prey such as shrimps, crabs, anchovies and other fishes. They use shallow bays, especially where eelgrass is present, as nursery habitat before moving into offshore habitats as they become adults.
Habitat: Riprap, Pilings and Seafloor/Eelgrass
The most common surfperch found along the California coast, shiner surf perch (Cymatogaster aggregata) can be found in the ocean and in bays and estuaries. They form loose schools around eelgrass beds, pilings, and riprap where they prey on small crustaceans and worms. Like all surfperches, shiners are viviparous, which means that they do not lay eggs but bear live young after the female carries the eggs inside her for around 12 months.
California round stingrays (Urolophus halleri), pictured here in the outer harbor, are commonly found in shallow, sandy environments. They find food by digging into the seafloor, hunting for worms, crabs, snails, clams and small fishes. Primary predators include marine mammals and sharks, especially leopard sharks.
Yellowtail (Seriola dorsalis) is a member of the jack family. They are usually found around rocky reefs and kelp forests as adults but areas such as the eelgrass beds near the entrance to the harbor as nursery habitat until large enough to move offshore. As adults, they feed on smaller bait fishes such as sardines and anchovies. A very popular target for sportfishing year-round, these fish can reach nearly 8 ft in length, although the average size is closer to 3 ft. The juvenile pictured here was captured in the inner harbor at Seaplane Lagoon.
The gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is an occasional visitor to the harbor, generally seen in the outer harbor and around Cabrillo Beach (cow and calf pictured here at the Cabrillo boat launch). This species of baleen whale makes yearly migrations between their feeding grounds near Alaska and their breeding grounds near Baja California, Mexico. In the spring, mothers and their calves can be observed heading northwards near shore, occasionally venturing inshore to feed on benthic crustaceans in shallow kelp and eelgrass beds. If observed from the surface on a calm day, gray whales create a distinctive heart-shaped blow from the two blowholes on top of their heads, as shown in this picture. Once considered endangered due to commercial whaling operations, gray whale populations have recovered, although they are still protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), pictured here in the outer harbor, are the most common and abundant marine mammal in the Port Complex. They can be seen swimming in open water or hauled out on rocks and manmade structures to warm up in between dives to hunt for fish, octopus, and squid. They are vocal, making calls that sound like barking dogs, and can be differentiated from harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), which also occur in the Cabrillo Beach area, by the presence of ears and large front flippers that they can use to prop themselves up with.
The California grunion (Leuresthes tenuis) are seasonally abundant in the harbor during the summer, following their late spring/early summer spawning. During spring and early summer full and new moons, grunion can be seen spawning on the beach by swimming as far up as possible and digging themselves partially into the sand to deposit eggs. Mature grunion may spawn up to six times per year, with thousands of eggs laid during each spawning event. Grunion runs can be observed at Cabrillo Beach, and those with a valid California fishing license can capture fish (using hands only!) during the open season in April/May. There is no bag limit, but fisherman may only take what they can use – it is unlawful to waste fish.
Habitat: Riprap and Pelagic
The California least tern (Sterna antillarum) is a federally endangered species that is a spring and summer visitor to Los Angeles Harbor, where it has nested since at least the 1970s. Most of the California least terns in the harbor are observed near the Pier 400 nesting site in the outer harbor (as pictured here). They forage for fishes such as anchovies and topsmelt in the nearby shallow-water habitats, including near Cabrillo Beach.
The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus, pictured here on the breakwater near Cabrillo Beach), was formerly listed as federally endangered but has since recovered, although it is still protected under California state law. Peregrine falcons often nest in the Los Angeles Harbor area, including on bridges over the channels. They prey on small birds such as pigeons, songbirds, and waterfowl.
Riprap, Pilings and Seafloor in the Outer Harbor
The outer harbor is a diverse mix of underwater pilings and riprap surrounded by sandy seafloor that can support kelp, eelgrass, and a wide variety of animals and algae. Check out some of the animals that inhabit this area of the harbor!
Test Your Knowledge!
How much do you know about Harbor Food Webs?
How does energy flow through the harbor food webs? Play our game to find out!
Drag the animals (in the gray boxes) to their correct place on the food web!
Click “check” at the bottom to check your answers.