Floats and piling


Where is a great place to see marine animals and plants without getting your feet wet?  At your local marina, of course.  However, be sure you have permission to go on the floating docks and don't disturb the animals or boaters.

The floating docks at a marina (or a private dock) offer an ideal habitat for lots of local flora and fauna.  Piling that tie the floating docks to the bottom are also commonly used by a small variety of animals.

Floating docks provide a constantly submerged, hard surface that attracts many species who normally would be found on subtidal rocky reefs and sunken ships. The sides of the floating docks receive sunlight which allows many types of seaweed to thrive.  There is generally good water movement around floating docks due to tidal action which brings food, nutrients, and oxygen to the attached animals and plants.  However floating docks in low salinity water will have fewer species.

Piling, while a hard surface, is a more difficult place to live.  Depending on water depth, some of the piling will be exposed at low tide offering suitable habitat only for species that can protect themselves from drying, heat, and cold like the Acorn Barnacle.  In addition the mechanism that secures the floating dock to the piling will move up and down with the tide and scrape along sections of the piling removing attached animals or plants.  See video of piling animals.

Like piling and floats, the hulls of marine vessels can become encrusted with many of the organisms mentioned below.  The marine growth, called a “fouling community”, can slow down the boat by increasing the friction of the hull moving through the water.  It therefore increases the amount of power needed to move the boat.  As a result sailors have used various materials to prevent the growth of marine organisms.  Copper containing paint is a common material.  The leaching of the copper poisons the animals and for some types of paint the copper will slough off over time stripping the hull of organisms.

Some of the animals and plants seen at a marina or dock are:  Sugar Kelp, Green String Lettuce, Sea Lettuce, Tube Sponge, Fried Egg Jelly, Lion’s Mane Jelly, Nanomia Siphonophore, Hydroid, Giant Plumose Anemone, Sea Gooseberry, Red Sausage Jelly, Crystal Jelly, Bay Mussel, Rock Oyster, Teredos, Opalescent Nudibranch, Shaggy Mouse Nudibranch, White and Orange Nudibranch, Branched Dendronotus, Rainbow Nudibranch, Hedgpeth’s Sapsucker sea slug, Common Squid, Calcareous Tube Worm, Pile Worm, Feather Duster Worm, Slime FanwormPolyclad Flatworm, Mottled Sea Star, Purple Sea Star, Orange Sea Cucumber, Puget Dwarf Brittle StarPink Short-spine Sea Star, Sunflower Sea Star, Giant Acorn Barnacle, Gribbles, Dock Shrimp, Stout Shrimp, Thickclaw Porcelain Crab, Pigmy Rock Crab, Decorator Crab, Kelp Crab, Ostracod, Kelp Isopod, Marine Pill Bug, Cumacean, Skeleton Shrimp, Kelp Encrusting Bryozoan, Spiral bryozoan, Mushroom Sea Squirt, Transparent Sea Squirt, Northern Anchovy, Pacific Herring, Bay Pipefish, Shiner Perch, Striped Surfperch, Threespine Stickleback, Tubesnout, Slimy Snailfish, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Glaucous-winged Gull, River Otter and Harbor Seal.