Green Boating in the San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are an internationally acclaimed boating destination and each summer our waters fill with local and visiting boaters. Stunning landscapes and a rich marine environment provide extensive recreational opportunities such as wildlife viewing, fishing, and crabbing. This amazing group of islands in the Salish Sea, where boaters find wonder and relaxation, are also critical habitats where fish and wildlife find food and shelter.

Sensitive eelgrass habitats are nurseries for juvenile Chinook salmon as well as spawning areas for Pacific herring – small schooling fish that support seabirds, big fish, and marine mammals. Eelgrass damaged by boat anchors can take years to recover. To help salmon and the endangered Southern Resident orcas, avoid herring spawning grounds, anchor out in waters deeper than the eelgrass, or use a mooring buoy when staying outside a marina. While eelgrass is present at most popular anchorages in the San Juans, in many locations the shallow meadows can be easily avoided by anchoring in waters deeper than 15 feet. 

DOWNLOAD THIS MAP for site specific eelgrass depth information and keep a copy on your boat! Contact us for a printed version of the brochure at jess@sanjuans.org.

Boaters can help protect marine mammals by keeping your distance, reducing speeds, and turning off fish finders and echo sounders when not in use. Do your part to keep marine waters clean by using pump outs, making sure your boat is in good working order, and quickly cleaning even small spills. Stay up to date with local regulations around marine mammals at bewhalewise.org.

Use the detailed information found in this boater guide to plan ahead and ensure your boating experience in the San Juan Islands is safe and enjoyable for people and nature!

Thank you to the Burning Foundation, WA State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Friends of the San Juans members for support of this program.

Herring Spawn Habitat Restoration and Protection Program

Funding and technical support is available to help interested public and private waterfront property owners improve herring spawning habitat in the San Juans.  Please contact Friends’ Science Director, Tina Whitman, at tina@sanjuans.org or 360-298-7616 if you are interested in information on the following voluntary actions: 

Top photo of herring in eelgrass by Florian Graner.

Katie FlemingGreen Boating in the San Juan Islands