Friends of the San Juans

Your Voice is Needed: A Landmark Opportunity to Protect the Salish Sea & Southern Resident Killer Whales

by Friends of the San Juans on July 22, 2021 No comments

This Tuesday, July 27, the Whatcom County Council will hold a public hearing and vote on whether to adopt a landmark ordinance to protect Cherry Point and the Salish Sea. Voices from around the region are needed to let the Whatcom County Council know that you support them in adopting this important ordinance that will also protect the San Juan Islands’ shorelines and marine waters. These code amendments are critical in helping to protect the endangered Southern Resident killer whales from additional vessel traffic impacts. Click here for more info and to take action.

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Friends of the San JuansYour Voice is Needed: A Landmark Opportunity to Protect the Salish Sea & Southern Resident Killer Whales

Words from the Next Generation: Parties without Plastic

by Friends of the San Juans on July 8, 2021 No comments

For many, summer is a time for gatherings with family and friends, now more than ever after a year of isolation. However, parties can become synonymous with plastic—food, utensils, cups, plates, even decorations all comprised of the everlasting polymer. To help you participate in Plastic Free July, this articleexplores alternatives to the conventional plastic-based party.

A meal is often at the center of a get-together, but food does not have to revolve around plastic. When planning a gathering, buying in bulk is often a good option for both plastic reduction and cost reduction, and opting for fresh, local produce and homemade goods can help eliminate plastic packaging. While this may seem overwhelming, organizing a potluck is a way to shift some of the responsibility to the guests while continuing to keep food-related plastic use low. Going beyond plastic, food waste can be a product of gatherings, so make sure to encourage guests to take home leftovers.

The largest contributor to waste at parties is usually cutlery and dishware. Fortunately, this is also the category with the most convenient alternatives. Paper, bamboo, or reusable materials such as metal and glass can be implemented for everything from straws to plates. However, be aware that greenwashing (falsely implying that a product is more environmentally friendly than it is) is common. A product may be loosely labeled as “biodegradable” with no legal consequences for its legitimacy. Sometimes the best way to avoid greenwashed products while reducing dish-based waste is to use reusable items; mason jars are a good option for a lower cost. You could also ask party guests to bring their own cutlery and dishware, and this could be made into an event: guests could vote on the best reusable items in various categories, for example “most quirky” or “most innovative.” Friends of the San Juans also has a set of reusable plates and utensils for thirty people available for borrowing; contact us if you would like to arrange to pick them up at our office in Friday Harbor.

Finally, there are opportunities to reduce plastic with party decorations and gifts. Recent studies have highlighted the negative impacts of balloon pollution. Balloons are one decoration easily replaced with alternatives such as streamers or bunting made of paper. Plastic tablecloths, too, can be swapped out for reusable fabric ones. Wrapping gifts in newspaper or paper grocery bags and forgoing bows and ribbons can help reduce present-related waste.

Gatherings and celebrations are hallmarks of summer, and a few creative solutions and alternatives can eliminate the use of plastic for these events. I hope this article has been a helpful starting point for your party, just one of many opportunities for plastic reduction on an individual level. Happy summer!

Written by Kaia Olson, high school junior from Spokane

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Friends of the San JuansWords from the Next Generation: Parties without Plastic

Make it a Plastic Free July in the San Juan Islands!

by Friends of the San Juans on June 30, 2021 No comments

Join Friends, Transition San Juan Island, Plastic Free Salish Sea, San Juan County (who officially proclaimed July to be plastic-free in the San Juans), and other communities world-wide in reducing your plastic waste in July! Plastic Free July® is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets and oceans and beautiful communities.

Whether it’s committing to bringing your own coffee cup to your favorite cafe, saying no thanks to a plastic straw and plastic bag, or stepping it up and committing to plastic-free purchasing during the month of July – everything makes a difference!

To do our part, Friends is piloting our reusable dish lending program in July for our members. Having a BBQ or other gathering soon? Want to reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill? We’ve got a set of reusable plates and utensils for 30 people at our office in Friday Harbor. Get in touch with Katie here for more info.

If you want to learn more about where our San Juan County garbage ends up and about waste reduction solutions in the islands, join a virtual conversation with Ela and Linnea, recent graduates from Spring Street International School, on July 1 at 6:30 p.m. They conducted in-depth research as part of their Environmental Systems class, and at this event they will chronicle their waste and recycling journey on the three biggest of the San Juan Islands. You’ll also have a chance to ask your burning questions about waste and waste reduction. Register here.

The Transition San Juan Island waste reduction team will also be at the San Juan Island Farmer’s Market on July 10th with reusable bag giveaways (thanks to Kings Market and Friday Harbor Market Place) and plastic-free inspiration!

Speaking of inspiration – have you heard of the new ReMakery on Lopez Island? It’s an awesome new program by the Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District with a goal to educate the community about the value of repair, reuse, and repurposing of materials locally to seed and grow a circular economy and reduce the amount of materials shipped off island to far away recycle centers or landfills.

You can find more ideas and toolkits for reducing plastic at home, work, schools and community events by visiting the Plastic Free Salish Sea website. It’s also a great time to adopt a beach for regular clean-ups through Plastic Free Salish Sea!

Make sure you tag your waste reduction actions and ideas on social media in July with #sjcplasticfreejuly to help inspire others. Contact Katie to engage in this effort further as an individual, business, or organization.

Thank you for your support! Here’s to a plastic free July!

Plastic Free Salish Sea sign pictured above made from plastic found on San Juan County beaches by the Orcas Island Youth Conservation Corps.

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Friends of the San JuansMake it a Plastic Free July in the San Juan Islands!

Tell Insurance Companies: Stop Providing Coverage for Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline

by Friends of the San Juans on June 14, 2021 No comments
It’s the “Stop Insuring Trans Mountain: Week of Action” (6/14-21) – targeting the insurance companies enabling the continued operation and expansion of Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline. Click here to get involved today! 
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Friends of the San JuansTell Insurance Companies: Stop Providing Coverage for Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline

Read our June Highwater Marks E-Newsletter

by Friends of the San Juans on June 11, 2021 No comments

Check out the June issue of our e-newsletter – Highwater Marks! You’ll learn about: where our waste goes in San Juan County from two Spring Street International School students, engaging in important actions for Southern Resident killer whales, how to get involved with the County’s Comprehensive Plan update – and lots more! Read it here.

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Friends of the San JuansRead our June Highwater Marks E-Newsletter

Following Waste in the San Juans: A Comprehensive Update

by Friends of the San Juans on June 11, 2021 No comments

Research by Linnea Morris and Ela Angevine, Written by Ela Angevine

When people tell you that you can do things at home to be more environmentally friendly, live more sustainable, recycling is one of the first things that comes up, right? They say, “Recycling. It’s easy.” Well, I’m here to tell you, to console you, that it is not easy. If you feel frustrated by our system not only globally, but also on the San Juan Islands, you are not alone. Spring Street Garbage Patrol—the environmental club founded by myself and Linnea Morris—researched the journey of our recycling on the three largest of the San Juan Islands. The compilation of information comes from the websites each island’s facility operates, interviews with employees and managers of all the transfer stations, and speaking with locals who work in tandem with the waste business. If you live on Lopez, Orcas, or San Juan this important information pertains to YOU!

Linnea and I were not prepared for what turned out to be a frustrating research journey. We had no appreciation for the complexity of waste management in general, let alone on remote islands. We started with the idea that there are five waste facilities and with the notion that we could separate recycling and not focus on the trash. Needless to say, we were wrong. There are three transfer stations: San Juan Transfer Station (SJTS) on San Juan, Orcas Recycling Service (ORS) on Orcas, and Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District (LSWDD) on Lopez; there is one hauler: San Juan Sanitation (on Orcas, servicing all the islands); and, to top it off, on San Juan the town’s Refuse and Recycling Service (RRS) only picks up inside the town’s limits.

The town leases the SJTS on Sutton Road to San Juan County (SJC) which in turn has a contract with Lautenbach Industries, a company based in Mount Vernon. Friday Harbor’s RRS has a contract with SJTS apart from the county’s (this is why waste pickups are cheaper in town), yet SJS picks up the recycling (only) from a few big businesses in Friday Harbor because the town, which owns the garbage trucks that do curbside pickups, doesn’t have the equipment to do commercial pickups of recycling (SJS’s recycling goes to a different place than SJTS’s). However, the town does the commercial pickups of material solid waste (MSW) or garbage which goes to SJTS. On San Juan both the town’s trucks and SJS’s trucks drop off MSW at SJTS which then goes to Cowlitz County Landfill.

The more research one does on recycling, the more confusing it becomes. What constitutes as recycling at one facility might not be accepted on another island even though it is “recyclable”. This is because what’s “recyclable” really depends on where it is sent or, in other words, who is buying the material. A lot has changed in the past 10 years, starting with the leasing of the County run transfer station—on the town of Friday Harbor’s land—in 2011 which led to Lautenbach Industries becoming the operator, to the more recent “China Sword” where China banned almost all recycling coming from the US (which included all of our recycling for some time) due to the contamination. Thirty percent of the 16,000,000 tons of recycling sent to China in 2016 put in their landfills, and they said enough. Although, many of you might remember that we did not stop recycling. This is because our transfer stations quickly found new buyers, and these buyers were renting huge warehouses to store the recycling in until they could find places to send the separated materials. Malaysia became the “new” China until this February when the Basel Convention—of which the US is not committed to—made it illegal to ship plastic numbers 1-7 through international waters. (As of right now, the San Juan County operators have committed to only taking numbers 1s, 2s, and 5s because they are said to be the most “recyclable.”) Still, this is the simplified version of the story.

Going back a step, all of the recycling in the San Juan Islands is commingled—all except Lopez’s, that is, which gets separated by the customers and volunteers. Because it is commingled, it must be sent to Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) which sort it (in our case either Waste Management Woodinville or Recology in Seattle). In between and around the two aforementioned major events, ORS took over the contract for management of the Orcas Transfer station from the county (2012); The Exchange—the thrift house that is part of ORS—was rebuilt after it burned down in 2013; LSWDD started the ReMakery; and ORS has plans to start crushing glass into sand for construction, etc. that would take glass from all the islands (LSWDD also crushes glass to fills a gravel pit as part of a Lopez Sand and Gravel’s DOE reclamation program).

Each material that is separated out of the commingled recycling stream or that is separated by hand at a waste facility is sent to a different place or to a company that takes multiple separated and baled (in some cases) items—places like Skagit Steel and Recycling that take aluminum, steel, and cardboard separated at ORS or other separated products like specific plastics and paper from LSWDD. Other examples include Ecycling WA which keeps electronics out of the landfills and is among quite a few state-funded product stewardship programs, car tires which go to Les Schwab preventing more of the rubber chemicals from pollution and killing our salmon, or motor and antifreeze which get filtered then recycled in Seattle (in the case of ORS). These programs and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws are big steps the local and federal government can make in terms of sustainability. They push companies to make greener products and packaging by factoring in recycling costs at the point of sale instead of externalizing costs onto waste management operators. Without product stewardship local governments are left with much of the cost for which there is no real funding. Not to mention that these laws hold companies that make non-recyclable products accountable.

It is estimated that 45% of the nation’s recyclable waste goes into the garbage annually, and 25% of recycled waste should have gone to the landfill, in other words, it’s contaminated (which is a predetermined concept invented by manufacturers). On the islands, we are not an exception. No one could tell us exactly what percentage of the recycling on any of the islands gets tossed in the landfill because “we haven’t done a trash audit in many years,” says Nikyta Palmasani, Education & Outreach Coordinator at LSWDD. However, we did hear repeatedly from Logan Luft at SJS, Pete Moe at ORS, and Troy Lautenbach at SJTS that, according to what they have heard from Recology, “we have some of the cleanest materials in the state when it comes in” (Moe). Moe estimates that 60-75% of recycling in general gets recycled, separated out by the MRFs, but also that the islands have a higher percentage. Lautenbach says something similar: “they love our material … I would say [the percentage getting recycled] is in the high 90’s.”

I find this hard to believe. Not one person at Spring Street International School could tell me where their recycling goes (besides the secretary who manages that) or what can be put in the bin. The reason being lack of knowledge or interest and lack of faith, frankly, in the lists provided by the facilities because of rumors that go around claiming some of the things on the lists are not recyclable. For example, Tetra Paks (like paper milk or juice cartons with the foil lining) are only recyclable when there is a factory that has the technology to separate the layers of paper, foil, and plastic. This is why not many companies list them (or cartons, the other common name) as recyclable (while Recology does, they do not tell the public where they send each recyclable material—we must take their word that it is being recycled). SJS includes cartons, but Luft claims to not see them normally in his recycling stream. When pressed, he admitted that perhaps the paper is “recyclable with air quotes” and the plastic liner maybe not. SJS sends their recycling to Woodinville where cartons are not listed as recyclable.

There are other discrepancies in the lists between islands, such as plastic bags that SJTS includes when they are not on Recology’s list because they gum up the sorting machines. At the same time, I can believe what Moe and Luft claim because Recology compares cities like Seattle that recycled 456,458 tons in 2017 according to their Waste prevention and Recycling Report with Orcas, Lopez, and San Juan that recycled about 1,722 tons in 2017 (this is an estimate because I could only find exact numbers for recycled tonnage for Lopez and Orcas). I chose the year 2017 because that was the year I could find accurate information for both Seattle and the islands, however, it should be noted that this was the year of “China Sword.” After, some prices went up, and the tonnage of recycling for both ORS and Seattle went down a considerable amount.

Not only are we possibly (and I say possibly because it seems to me that in this industry nothing is certain and everything changes on the daily) putting items in the recycling that shouldn’t be there, but we are not following proper procedures. To quote Nikyta, “rule number one: it’s gotta be clean! … Dirty equals garbage. Dirty equals landfill. I don’t care if it’s a sweater, or a can, or a bottle, or a piece of cardboard. If it’s got stuff on it, it’s garbage.”

While it is every individual’s responsibility to recycle to the best of their ability, it is not black and white. We cannot simply blame our own “wish-cycling” just like we cannot place the blame on the people who take our waste while we look the other way—and they do at a certain level. Many people who work in the waste industry are not really sure what is recyclable because it is changing constantly according to the market. They take what the buyers say is recyclable without second-guessing because, by law, they do not need to.

The state of Washington and the nation are doing us a great disservice, the national government for that matter. Law does not require MRFs to report where they are selling recyclables and who is buying them, although some do on common courtesy. Sorting facilities are only required to sell it to buyers who claim it is being recycled, and some of these buyers are underdeveloped countries that get paid (in some cases like plastics that do not have a good market) to take trash recycling. Is this really trying our best? Because I think we can do better. Much like Palmasani and Moe, who have zero-waste goals for their prospective facilities, say it is also up to the companies that sell materials and create waste to educate the consumer and willingly take part in EPR programs. It is up to the government, local, state, and federal, to put EPR policies in place so that companies do take initiative and action. Mark Ingman derives from his experience as the SJC Solid Works Public Waste Program Coordinator that:

Corporations benefit from us perpetuating the sense that we are ourselves to blame, and I more recently realized they have created this self-blame situation for us. We need to free ourselves from being the main problems—it’s my experience that shame doesn’t motivate people—and it’s really a situation of organizing/lobbying to make corporations pay and have an incentive to be sustainable. When organized, we are in the driver’s seat.

Linnea and I are deeply saddened by the lack of cohesion and disregard for where our waste goes that some members of this community have. A lot of us have given up, and we understand that. It took a year to slowly collect this information because no one could give us straight answers. We struggled to gain and maintain contact with our sources, and some did not bother to respond at all when we reached out. However, we appreciate all the help our sources and other resources have given us, and we empathize with the struggle. It is reasonable to say that no one in the industry could possibly know everything due to its complexities. Many are already extremely busy trying to keep up and work with the system, but maybe it is time we worked outside the system.

Everyone always tells me that youth can make a difference, that people want to hear from youth, not the older generations who have the jobs. There is a fundamental difference between waiting for youth to make a difference and helping youth make the changes we all want to see because, really, we do all want to see these positive changes. Contrary to the beliefs of some, becoming a zero waste community and separating recycling to decrease contamination are realistic goals.

The San Juan Islands are working un-unified with the laws that have been put in place in the system that exists rather than pushing to change it, but no matter how one looks at it, it simply is not sustainable. For example, we need to stop accepting tourists and residents who do not recycle properly with the excuse that it is not easy enough. This mindset is flawed, and it lets us get away with not having responsibility: out of sight out of mind. But that is not the reality. It is our responsibility to make sure that people coming to our home treat it the way we do and the way we treat them—with respect and dignity. When you go on vacation do you litter and think it is logical to excuse it just because you don’t live there? No. It is expected that if one is a responsible citizen and traveler that they respect the rules of each country—recycling and MSW are no different.

While ideally we work to improve and change the system, we still need to work with what we have in the meantime. At home you can find out what is recyclable, clean your recycling, reduce the packaging you buy and use, and become more active in the policy making scene. Educating yourself is very important because if you do not know what needs to be done, how can you do it?

See all the San Juan County waste tracking information in one place on the Following Waste in the San Juans Flow Chart.

Ask questions and learn more from Ela and Linnea at a community conversation hosted by Friends via Zoom on July 1. Click here for details and to register.

It should be noted that the information in this article is based on research done in 2021 and may not be applicable in the near future.

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Friends of the San JuansFollowing Waste in the San Juans: A Comprehensive Update

Explosive Development Drives Interest in County’s Comp Plan Update

by Friends of the San Juans on June 10, 2021 No comments

Judging by construction permits and real estate transactions, the pressure and speed of development in San Juan County has never been greater. Fortunately, the County’s Comprehensive Plan, or Comp Plan, can be a key tool for managing growth and protecting our County’s rural character. Right now, citizen interest is growing in how this tool can best ensure that sensible, science-based planning and environmental stewardship manage growth and development in our County.

One element of the Comp Plan update is that the County can change the designation or zoning of land. For example, the County is currently considering opening up 127 acres of protected forest lands to allow for more intense development. In San Juan County, we need forest lands as they are essential support for our current forest economy, rural character, and benefits like air and water quality, aquifer recharge, recreational activities, healthy wildlife habitat and connectivity, and carbon sequestration.  The parcels in question are currently zoned as Forest Resource Lands, but the County’s Planning Commission recently voted to preliminarily recommend changing these parcels to the Rural Farm Forest designation. A Rural Farm Forest zoning would allow vacation rentals and non-forestry commercial uses and would triple the allowance for impervious surface on the properties.

Citizens are mobilizing to oppose this decision through efforts like Friends of the San Juans’ Comp Plan Action Team. Both at the Planning Commission and County Council meetings, our community has the opportunity to weigh in on whether opening up these Forest Resource Lands to more intense development makes the most sense for environmental stewardship, climate resilience, and preserving the rural character of our island communities.

In addition to the Comp Plan’s importance for guiding how development unfolds in the San Juan Islands over the next 20 years, it also lays the groundwork for the County’s response to the climate crisis. To their credit, the County’s Community Development staff have done an admirable job in making climate-forward recommendations to the Planning Commission on environmental issues in the Comp Plan update. For example, new language in the Comp Plan update includes recommendations for a County-wide climate change impact study, energy-efficiency upgrades, and climate mitigation in a variety of contexts. But a strong climate response requires strong voices from our community, watchdogging the process to make sure our County’s climate response is strong and bold; climate action should be a requirement, not just a recommendation.

Through the Comp Plan Action Team and other efforts, Friends of the San Juans is joining with other organizations and community efforts, encouraging San Juan County’s citizens to engage effectively in the Comp Plan update process, both to address the current explosion of development and to put climate response and climate resiliency front and center. For information about joining in on the Comp Plan Action Team’s monthly meetings, email Brent Lyles.


Photo above by Rainshadow Consulting

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Friends of the San JuansExplosive Development Drives Interest in County’s Comp Plan Update

Dammed to Extinction

by Friends of the San Juans on June 9, 2021 No comments

Where the river meets with a concrete wall, the fish have nowhere to go. Towering one hundred feet in the air and spanning over half a mile, the Lower Granite Dam in southeast Washington is one of four federal hydroelectric dams situated on the Lower Snake River. The Snake River stretches from Wyoming to Washington, passing though Idaho and Oregon on its way to the Columbia and eventually to the Pacific.

I visited the Lower Granite Dam in April. Driving along the beautiful Palouse Highway, I was surprised at the juxtaposition of energy sources—fossil fuels, windmills, and hydroelectric dams. When the four Lower Snake River dams were built in the 1960s and 70s, they were celebrated for providing irrigation for crops, transportation for agricultural products, and as an endless source of clean energy. Now, decades later, we not only understand the true cost of damming the river, but also have access to more viable energy, transportation, and irrigation alternatives. These seemingly beneficial dams have proven to be an ecological disaster for the region’s salmon populations, and, by extension, for our Southern Resident orcas.

Adult salmon returning to their birthplaces must pass up to eight dams: four on the Columbia and four on the Snake. Juvenile fish, called smolt, face an even more dangerous journey. The dams transform the fast-flowing river into a series of lakes that sometimes rise to temperatures higher than the tolerable threshold for these fish. These stagnant lakes also cause a timing issue. A journey that once took five to seven days on a free river now takes upwards of several weeks, sometimes exceeding the biological window available for smolt to transition from freshwater to saltwater. Other methods of getting the juvenile fish to the sea, such as barging or transporting by truck, have not mitigated this high mortality rate.

Let us think on that for a minute. These fish, who used to fill the river fin to fin, are now trucked to the ocean. Whether on land or in the water, they are inescapably surrounded by concrete. Populations have fallen so low that a major keystone species of the Pacific Northwest is failing, much to our ecological, cultural, and even economic peril. The Southern Resident orcas in particular feel the far-reaching impact of these dams as they starve to death in the waters of the Salish Sea, inextricably tied to the fate of the salmon.

There is no guarantee that removing the dams will save the nearly extinct salmon populations. But we do know that without immediate action, they will disappear. And with them will go an integral part of our northwest culture, a defining icon of the region, and quite possibly the beloved Southern Resident orca. So, I urge you to educate yourself on the issue, and speak up. Send an email or write a letter to a lawmaker calling for the removal of the Lower Four Snake River Dams. Watch the powerful film Dammed to Extinction. Attend a virtual event in the coming weeks to celebrate Orca Action Month. We must be the voice of the salmon and orca, for they cannot speak up for themselves.

by Kaia Olson, high school sophomore from Spokane

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Friends of the San JuansDammed to Extinction

Protect What You Love: Green Boating in the San Juan Islands

by Friends of the San Juans on May 13, 2021 No comments

The rich marine environment of the San Juan Islands offers extensive recreational opportunities such as wildlife viewing, fishing, and crabbing. Last year’s pandemic-related travel restrictions led to huge increases in boat traffic in the islands, and this summer is shaping up to be extra busy as well.

All of these extra boats — crowding waterways, marinas, and anchorages — add stress on the marine ecosystem. However, there are simple things local and visiting boaters can do to protect habitat and be part of the solution for at-risk species such as Marbled Murrelet seabirds, Chinook salmon, and the Southern Resident killer whales.

Pacific herring lay their eggs on blades of eelgrass. Photo credit: Eiko Jones

To appreciate the potential impacts of boats, it’s helpful to understand our marine habitats: Orcas eat salmon, salmon eat forage fish, and forage fish need healthy, natural beaches and shallow-water eelgrass and kelp habitats to lay their eggs in.

What are forage fish?

Located near the bottom of the food chain, forage fish play an important role converting plankton into high energy meals for the birds, marine mammals, and big fish we all love. In the islands, our primary forage fish are Pacific herring, who spawn on eelgrass, and surf smelt and Pacific sand lance, who spawn on beaches.

What is eelgrass?

Eelgrass is a flowering plant that grows in shallow, light-filled marine waters. The long blades of eelgrass provide food and shelter for many juvenile fish and shellfish of ecological, cultural, commercial, and recreational importance, like Dungeness crabs and juvenile Chinook salmon. Herring spawn on eelgrass beds in Eastsound and West Sound on Orcas Island; Shoal, Hunter and Mud Bays on Lopez Island; and Blind Bay on Shaw Island. As these areas are also very popular anchorages, it means that boaters need to provide extra care and protection when in these bays.

Endangered species rely upon forage fish and eelgrass.

Like the Marbled Murrelet, other seabirds including this Rhinocerous Auklet feed on forage fish. Photo credit: Andrew Reding

Endangered Marbled Murrelet seabirds that nest in old-growth forests across northern Washington and southern British Columbia use the San Juan Islands as a year-round foraging area. During their summer breeding season, the San Juans are an especially important foraging spot, and you may see these small birds scoop up a bill full of small forage fish and head back to the forests where their young chicks await in the nest.

Chinook salmon utilize the shorelines in the San Juans for “rearing habitat.” When young salmon make the long journey from their natal rivers to the ocean, the islands’ protected beaches and bays play an extremely important role as their pit stop. How many little fish they can eat along the way plays a big role in how quickly they grow, and how many survive their critical first summer. And of course, Chinook salmon are key to the success of our Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Currently, only 75 individuals make up the entire Southern Resident killer whale population. To maintain and grow these highly endangered families, everyone needs to do their part to be stewards of the Salish Sea.

Luckily there are simple things that boaters can do to help!

Sailboats anchored on a busy day in the San Juan Islands. Photo Credit: Mark Gardner

How can you help?

Below are some tips on how you can protect marine habitats and forage fish and help ensure salmon, seabirds, rockfish, and the endangered Southern Resident killer whales have enough to eat.

Avoid anchoring in herring spawning grounds — anchor out in waters deeper than the eelgrass growing zone, or use a mooring buoy when staying outside a marina. Use the detailed and site-specific “anchor out of eelgrass” map to plan ahead and ensure your boating experience in the San Juan Islands is safe and enjoyable for people and nature!

Protect marine mammals by keeping your distance, reducing speeds, and turning off fish finders and echo sounders when not in use.

Keep marine waters clean by using pump outs, maintaining your boat, and quickly cleaning even small spills.

For more boater resources, visit Pick up your own Green Boating brochure at local marinas and visitor information centers. And if you have visitors coming on their private boat, please share this information with them too.

All of us can also help improve marine habitats and protect species by limiting use of lawn fertilizers and garden chemicals, preserving vegetation to avoid runoff and siltation of marine waters, and avoiding single-use plastics.

We wish everyone a fun and safe summer!

Photo above: Sailboats anchored on a busy day in the San Juan Islands, by Mark Gardner

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Friends of the San JuansProtect What You Love: Green Boating in the San Juan Islands