Science and Mapping

San Juan County’s picturesque shorelines provide more than just beautiful views. Underwater, eelgrass meadows and kelp beds serve as feeding, refuge, and migration corridors for crab, forage fish, salmon, and whales.

herring bull kep

Our research informs policies and laws that advocate for stronger protections of San Juan County’s 400+ miles of shoreline. Additionally, Friends works with interested landowners and our local land trust and land bank to permanently protect habitat through conservation easements.

Increased shoreline development threatens the health of regional marine species, including forage fish, eelgrass, kelp, salmon, birds, and orcas. Human impacts such as shoreline armoring, docks, clearing and grading, and stormwater runoff systems can devastate San Juan County’s nearshore environment, disrupting natural processes and sensitive ecosystems.

Friends of the San Juans’ science and mapping helps advocate for critical habitat protection and clean waters.

Eelgrass Health

Friends of the San Juans and partners completed the first mapping of eelgrass throughout San Juan County. Current projects monitor eelgrass beds in priority bays to assess their location, condition, and impacts from other environmental factors.

Forage Fish Spawning Habitat

Friends leads efforts in San Juan County to map beach-spawning forage fish, including surf smelt and Pacific sand lance, and assists with exploratory surveys for pacific herring spawning areas.

Shoreline Modifications

After an extensive review of County and State permits, Friends’ research found that more than 90% of new shoreline armor installed in San Juan County between 2009 and 2019 lacked the required state and/or local permits before being constructed.

Shoreline Inventory

Scientific research and habitat assessments from Friends and its partners help inform our regional decision-makers and government agencies so their growth management decisions can be based on current science.

Bull Kelp Distribution

Feeder Bluff Mapping

Sea Level Rise Vulnerability

Friends partnered with coastal scientists to develop a countywide evaluation and mapping of the infrastructure, developments, and habitats that are vulnerable to increased erosion and flooding from rising sea levels. Results are being used by public and private property owners and communities to increase resiliency.

San Juan County Sea Level Rise Inundation Maps 

Healthy beaches for fish and people project reports

Restoration and Protection Planning

Strategic Salmon Recovery Planning – Restoration and Protection Project Prioritization – Final Report (2017)

Pulling It All Together for Salmon Recovery Final Report (2012)

Analysis of Shoreline Permit Activity 1972-2005
Spatially explicit report on shoreline permit activities and trends for San Juan County.

San Juan County Nearshore Impact Assessment
This report summarizes the Countys direct impacts to nearshore marine species and habitats through ownership and management of shoreline infrastructure.

Soft Shore Restoration Blueprint and Appendix
Restoration prioritization for modified beaches in documented and potential forage fish spawning habitat in San Juan County.  In partnership with Coastal Geologic Services.

MacKaye Harbor Community Nearshore Restoration Feasibility Report
Restoration prioritization and community engagement for impacted intertidal and coastal wetland habitats in the MacKaye Harbor region of Lopez Island. In partnership with Coastal Geologic Services.

San Juan County Habitat Protection Blueprint Project
Identification of most important shoreline habitat sites for long term protection using existing conservation strategies such as acquisition, easement or tax incentive program.  Geographic Systems modeling effort that incorporates biological, land use, landscape and landowner willingness information into the analysis.

Friends of the San Juans was vital for the San Juan Islands’ protection in 1979 and it is still vital today.

Mike and Susan Krieger

members, Orcas Island