Green Boating

Boaters are vital in protecting the species that call this place home! If you find yourself exploring and basking in the wonder of the waters and shores of the Salish Sea, try to leave a small wake. Whether on a sailboat or powerboat, read further to learn how you can reduce your impact on the wildlife and cultures that depend on these waters for food and shelter.

Protect Eelgrass

When in doubt, anchor out! Anchor in waters deeper than 25 feet to save important eelgrass for salmon, crab, and other wildlife.   

Herring and Eelgrass by Florian Graner

One of the Salish Sea’s most critical and sensitive marine habitats is eelgrass—when damaged by boat anchors, it can take years to recover. Such a long-term impact for a short-term need!  
This flowering plant grows in shallow, light-filled marine waters. Eelgrass nurtures many species, including crabs and juvenile Chinook salmon, and is also where Pacific herring lay their eggs. Pacific herring are small schooling fish that play a big role in marine food webs by supporting salmon, which in turn feed Southern Resident killer whales.   

While the impact of each anchoring event may be small, the combined effects are significant. To help salmon and endangered Southern Resident killer whales, anchor out in waters deeper than eelgrass, or, if available, use a mooring buoy or dock. Use the eelgrass depth map to help protect habitat by anchoring beyond the eelgrass! It only takes a few minutes to learn about what eelgrass looks like and where it typically grows.

Download the eelgrass depth map for site-specific information, and keep a copy on your boat for when you are offline and cruising! Printed and laminated versions are also available—email [email protected].

PRO TIP! Protect and save eelgrass by reserving a mooring buoy or dock space at

Give Them Space and Be Whale Wise!

Give Southern Resident killer whales more space — The critically endangered Southern Residents are impacted by vessel noise and presence. Current regulations require boaters to travel at 7 knots or less within one-half nautical mile of these whales. Boaters are also encouraged to turn off depth finders within one-half nautical mile. New vessel distance requirements will take effect in 2025 but you can take the pledge today to voluntarily stay 1,000 yards away. Give Southern Residents the space they need to forage, feed, rest, and rear their young! Visit for more info about current regulations. Learn about the Voluntary No-Go Zone for Southern Resident killer whales on the West Side of San Juan Island.

Protect Southern Resident killer Whales. Adopt the upcoming regulations now!

Help other people know whales are near —  Watch for whale warning flags hoisted on other vessels so you can slow down or bring your boat to a stop in the presence of vulnerable marine mammals. You can get your own whale warning flag from San Juan County’s Marine Resources Committee or email us at [email protected] to get a free flag in our Friday Harbor office! 

Protect Marine Mammals

Help keep marine animals safe — Use marine mammal reporting networks: 

  • (800) 562-8832 marine mammal stranding network.
  • (800) 853-1964 harassments and other violations.
  • For entangled marine mammals, please call (877) 767-9425 or hail the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16. 
  • WhaleReport Alert System – an alert system that broadcasts pertinent details of whale presence to large commercial vessels. 

Keep it Clean and Green!

Do your part to keep marine waters clean by using pump outs, ensuring your boat is in good working order, and quickly cleaning even small oil spills. 

  • Report Spills! It’s the law. In the event of an oil spill call 1 800 OILS 911. Even small spills need to be reported. 
  • Small Spills Aren’t Slick! Get free small spills prevention materials from SeaGrant, which includes free absorbent fuel pads, videos, tips, and more! Contrary to popular belief, Dawn Liquid Soap is not effective for small oil spills. Dawn sinks the oil to the sea floor where wildlife ingest it, and it can do more harm. Instead, place an absorbent pad over the top of the spill to soak up as much as possible—just make sure it can be retrieved!

For Shoreline Property Owners:

Funding and technical support is available to help interested waterfront property owners protect shorelines in the San Juans. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in information on the following voluntary actions: 

Additional Green Boating Resources

Thank you to the Wheeler Foundation, WA State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Friends of the San Juans members for their support of eelgrass protection and restoration.

other recent news

Each year I make a generous gift to the Friends of the San Juans because it’s the one organization where I can actually follow the money from my checkbook to observable measurable outcomes. Will you join me in making a gift to support one of the most beautiful, precious, fragile monuments to nature on earth?

George Lawson

members, Lopez Island