Recent extremely low tides have been a boon for beachcombers, exposing low-lying rocks and forming tide pools with an abundance of sea life to explore and get to know.
Also coming to the surface have been marine mammal bones, likewise delighting curious onlookers.
But people need to know only to look, but not to pick up and take away any bones found in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary that extends from Marin County to Cambria.
The remains are protected by the federal National Marine Sanctuaries Act, said Paul Michel, superintendent of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Sanctuary staff has heard reports of the removal of marine mammal bones from the inter-tidal zone of San Simeon Bay, which is inside the sanctuary area.
“(The sanctuary) belongs to the American people, and the resources found here are protected by law in the same manner as natural resources protected in Yosemite National Park,” Michel said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“Please help by leaving bones and other natural objects in place. While a bone may seem to have outlived its usefulness, it is part of the ecological system, providing protection and habitat for small marine organism, just like fallen trees provide habitat and nutrients in a forest.”
Any bones or teeth that have been collected may be returned to the Coastal Discovery Center at San Simeon Bay. No questions will be asked. The parts will be used for education purposes. Call 801-0773 first to be sure someone is there to accept the bone or tooth.
Marine mammal bones found on beaches outside the national marine sanctuary may be collected but must be registered, said Ho Truong, a spokesman for the Southwest Enforcement Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“This is only for a personal collection,” Truong said. “You’re not allowed to sell it or trade it.”
Any illegal collection can also be reported to the NOAA enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964.