Healthy Seas

Species Protection

Photo by Mark Gardner

Protecting our critical species is vital to maintaining a healthy, thriving environment for people and nature.

Friends protects wildlife and their critical habitat by petitioning government agencies to take regulatory actions to improve legislation, as well as through education and restoration . This helps care for the 113 endangered species in the Salish Sea, the most iconic being the Southern Resident Killer Whales (orca). Friends is a frequent co-petitioner in legal efforts to protect wildlife such as the endangered Orca, Cherry Point Herring, and the Island Marble Butterfly. Protecting special places and wildlife is necessary for creating a healthy, balanced ecosystem.

Photo by Captain Carli Whale Watch Tour

Orca At Risk

The orca whale is a beloved symbol of the Pacific Northwest. The San Juan region’s resident orca population is in serious decline due to huge decreases in salmon population, and increases in chemical pollutants and underwater noise pollution. Friends continues to protect the orcas by restoring forage fish spawning habitat, advocating for limited and safer commercial shipping, and supporting management of human activities in critical habitat. The success of the orca is strongly tied to the region’s economic success, as well as to the success of the broader ecosystem on which the orca depends.

Our Southern Resident Orca exclusively eat fish, at least 80% of which is salmon. As salmon stocks decline, so does the health of the Southern Resident community.

Center for Whale Research

Salmon In Decline

The Salish Sea, once home to one of the largest salmon populations in the world, has experienced devastating loss of salmon due to development and unsustainable fishing practices. Chinook population are at 10% or less of their historic numbers. San Juan County’s waters and beaches provide the food (forage fish) and shelter (eelgrass) for salmon on their way out to sea and on their return.

Friends assesses and identifies forage fish spawning beaches in the San Juan Islands, and uses science-driven data to advocate for better shoreline habitat management as well as to identify priority restoration and protection sites. 

Disappearing Herring

The Cherry Point herring (near Bellingham) are the most genetically divergent herring population in Washington. They are reproductively isolated due to unique spawning locations and timing. Once considered Washington’s largest population of herring, Cherry Point herring populations have plummeted by 90% over the last three decades and are struggling to recover.  Friends fights to protect Cherry Point herring by working to preserve  their habitat.

“Wild salmon are the lynchpin that holds our ecosystem and our economy together.”

George LawsonLopez Island Resident and Former Friends Board President

Photo by Chris Teren

Our Work

With a broad range of partners and leading science, Friends works to protect critical species around the San Juan Islands and Salish Sea. Friends:

  • petitions government to add critical species to the endangered and threatened species lists;
  • protects and restores habitat for forage fish and salmon; and
  • strengthens legal protection for our Southern Resident Orca.
friendsSpecies Protection