species protection

helping maintain a healthy, thriving environment for people and nature

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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.

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.

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.

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.

related news

Immersive Education with Lopez and Orcas High School

December 15, 2021

Science classes from Lopez and Orcas High Schools just completed Friends’ Immersive Salish Sea Science Education program. Students experienced the marine food web through virtual reality technology, and they learned about science careers and how they can act to protect and restore the Salish Sea. Each class also took a trip to the beach to … read more

The Friends of the San Juans do such a wonderful job of keeping on top of things like the transit of freighters through the Straits and their impact on whales as well as protecting our environment. Jim and I fell in love with the islands, the wildlife, and fishing. We hope to preserve it, not only for our family but for other families, well into the future.

Glen and Deb Bruels

members, San Juan Island