What the heck is Heceta Bank?

About 35 miles off Oregon's coast is one of the largest biological hotspots on our Pacific coast, and it should be protected.


The beautiful Heceta Head Lighthouse at sunset

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Unless you’re an ocean scientist or a fisherman in Oregon, odds are you’ve never heard of the incredible underwater world at Heceta Bank. That’s okay because most people haven’t.

But Heceta Bank is a special place.

Heceta Bank is located  in the Pacific Ocean about 30 miles west off of Cape Perpetua along Oregon’s coast. The ocean gets deeper as you get further away from the coastline but as you approach this rocky bank, it starts to get more shallow.

Heceta Bank's location

It is a rocky shelf that’s about 15 miles long and 10 miles wide. It was formed over thousands of years as a result of plate tectonics where the ocean’s crust pushed below the continental crust and elevated it upward. Overall, it’s really craggy and rough looking, which makes it the perfect habitat for critters like Dungeness crab and rockfish.

Over the years, fishermen realized this and took advantage of the abundance of rockfish and other species here. So much so that in 2006 an Essential Fish Habitat Conservation Area was established here because of how overfished much of the area became.

Dungeness crab is one of the most lucrative resources for their fishing industry

Overall, the geologic processes that formed Heceta Bank are fascinating. Subduction areas like this create the opportunity for incredible ocean environments that are teeming with life and the influence that the California Coastal Current has here makes it all the more unique. As a result, this area experiences seasonally varied ocean conditions that fluctuate with the mixing cold Arctic waters from the North and warmer waters from the Pacific.

It’s this combination and mixing of the currents that make Heceta a biodiversity hotspot that’s teeming with life, and we should work to preserve this special place.

Healthy oceans are vitally important, and Heceta Bank is an integral part of the ecosystems connected by currents in the Pacific. Connected ecosystems are like a house of cards, if one card falls down, the house becomes significantly weaker – it’s imperative then, that we conserve all that we can.

As part of his commitment to conservation, President Biden set a goal to conserve 30% of our lands and waters by 2030. Amazing environments, like the one that exists at Heceta Bank, would benefit from new federal protections.

In our book, it goes on the list of places that the administration should be looking at as part of their overall efforts to protect more of the ocean.


Ian Giancarlo

Protect Our Oceans Campaign, Advocate, Environment America

Ian works to protect our oceans and marine ecosystems. Ian lives in Denver, where he enjoys triathlons, hiking, and local breweries in his free time.

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