Buoy Upgrade Program: Attention island residents located near herring spawning grounds!

Attention island residents located near herring spawning grounds! 

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!

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are thrilled to be able to offer financial and technical assistance to landowners to evaluate, upgrade, and/or relocate outdated mooring buoys to reduce impacts to eelgrass from boating. 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  • evaluating, upgrading and/or relocating outdated mooring buoys;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 [email protected] or 360-298-7616 or visit our Green Boating Page to learn more about opportunities to restore food webs for salmon and the Southern Resident orcas and support green boating.

The Friends of the San Juans are at the forefront in efforts to prevent oil spills from impacting the San Juans. They work to identify the threats and then work with the US Coast Guard, Ecology, and others to get the best oil spill planning and prevention efforts in place.

Debby Clausen and Kim Sundberg

members, San Juan Island