Jess Newley/Contributed photo
                                Pacific herring off of San Juan Island.

Jess Newley/Contributed photo Pacific herring off of San Juan Island.

Opportunity to help protect and restore eelgrass, herring and salmon in the San Juans

  • Sat Sep 19th, 2020 1:30am
  • News

Submitted by Friends of the San Juans

Pacific herring – also known as forage fish – play a key role in marine food webs as food for out-migrating juvenile salmon, seabirds, and even marine mammals. Herring rely on sensitive eelgrass meadows found along our tidelands to spawn and incubate their eggs.

Herring spawning populations in the San Juans are classified by the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife as critically depressed. In San Juan County, herring only spawn at a handful of locations: West Sound and East Sound on Orcas Island; Blind Bay on Shaw Island; Wescott and Garrison Bays on San Juan Island; and Mud, Hunter, and Shoal Bays on Lopez Island.

“This is where an opportunity for some of you comes along. Do you live near one of these areas and own shoreline property or tidelands? Do you have a mooring buoy that could use an upgrade? If so, Friends of the San Juans would like to hear from you,” said Jess Newley, Friends’ Marine Science Coordinator.

The eelgrass in these herring spawning bays is so critical to salmon recovery that Friends of the San Juans has received grant funding from the WA State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find ways to both protect and restore it. “We are thrilled to be able to offer financial and technical assistance to landowners to evaluate, upgrade, and/or relocate outdated mooring buoys to reduce impacts to eelgrass from boating,” said Tina Whitman, Friends’ Science Director.

Tina continued, “While boating is just one of the many pressures facing the sensitive eelgrass habitats where herring spawn, there are many simple actions that can be taken to support boating and protect the marine environment.”

Eligible activities in this voluntary program include: evaluating, upgrading and/or relocating outdated mooring buoys; removing other stressors or marine/beach debris from herring spawning habitats (derelict floats, creosote, etc.); installing ‘anchor out’ navigational buoys to mark the edge of the eelgrass growing zone; and installing new public buoys to reduce anchoring in herring spawning grounds.

If you’re an interested public or private waterfront property owner in the above herring spawning grounds please contact Friends at tina@sanjuans.org or 360-298-7616 or visit to learn more about opportunities to restore food webs for salmon and the Southern Resident orcas and support green boating.