Tidepool Creatures
Rainbow Smelt
Horseshoe Crab

Alive in Salem Sound

Ever wondered what lives in Salem Sound?

There are many creatures that make their home in the waters of the sound, from seals and sharks to single-celled algae. Nearly every corner of Salem Sound is home to some really interesting sea creatures. Here is a showcase of some of these remarkable residents, and the special places they live.

Found in the Intertidal and Coastal Realms

The intertidal zone is the region at or near the boundary where the waters of the sound meet the land. At high tide it may be completely submerged, and at low tide it might be exposed to the air, making for unique environments for many creatures. Different types of habitats can be found along our coast and are home to different species.

Salt Marshes and Mudflats

These wetlands act as a vital filter that cleans the waters of our coastal seas, trapping pollutants from land and sea and collecting sediments that wash off the land. Additionally, salt marshes and mudflats are breeding grounds and a nursery for many young fish and a major habitat for lots of local and migrating bird species.

Learn about Shellfish in Salem Sound and Salem State University
Cat Cove Marine Laboratory
, home of the Northeastern Massachusetts Aquaculture Center (NEMAC).


A place for us to relax, beaches also buffer the coastline from storms and are home to many animals that live burrowed in the sediment. The beaches are also a place where the nutrients and minerals of old seashells and dead seaweed are broken down by the sun and waves and recycled for use by other sea creatures.

Rocky Shores and Tide Pools

These rugged coastal boundaries provide a major buffer from storms. Living protected underneath these rocks, and in isolated pools of water at low-tide, a highly diverse and abundant community of animals and seaweeds have specialized at living here, exposed to the air at low tide and battered by crashing waves.

Floating Docks

While not a natural habitat, these man-made structures are often home to a rich community of marine animals and seaweeds. Despite
a risk of pollution, the conditions here can be ideal for marine life, and these sites often become the point of arrival for
invading species transported from around the world.

The Open Water

Many species of fish and other animals live much of their lives swimming through the “water column,” but most of the really important residents aren’t so easy to see. A lot of marine animals start out as larvae drifting through the water, and huge numbers of single-celled algae float near the surface, forming a vital basis for much of the life in the sound and on the planet.

Living on the Sea Bottom

The vast bottom of the sound varies, from muddy to rocky, each substrate providing homes for different types of marine animals and seaweeds. Additionally, the bottom of the Sound is the main place where bacteria recycle nutrients that come from dead sea-life, and free it up for use by living things.

Goosefishlobster in eelgrass