Healthy Seas

Safe Shipping

Photo by Chris Teren

Safe shipping through our waterways is critical to our region’s economy, culture, and environment.

The July 2019 Salish Sea Vessel Traffic Projections infographic shows 25 proposed new, expanding or recently completed projects, which cumulatively would add an additional 4,232 annual vessel transits to and from ports in British Columbia and Washington State.

Vessel Traffic in the Salish Sea

The Salish Sea is home to over 8 million people and is one of the world’s largest and most biologically rich inland seas.

In 2018 there were 12,120 large, commercial ocean-going vessel transits in the Salish Sea. These vessel transits don’t include local barge traffic, anchoring, cueing, and/or bunkering (ship fueling) transits; or the many ferry boat transits and the pleasure, fishing, and small commercial boats that share these transboundary waterways. This existing commercial vessel traffic causes noise impacts and oil spill risk, threatening the shores of our communities and the fragile marine waters that are home to 119 threatened and endangered species, including Southern Resident Killer Whales.

The Salish Sea Vessel Traffic Projections infographic identifies 25 new or expanding proposed, permitted or recently completed terminal and refinery projects that would add at least 4,232 annual vessel transits to and from ports in British Columbia and Washington State.

If all proposed new and expanding terminal and refinery projects are permitted and developed, this would result in at least a 35 percent increase in large, ocean-going commercial vessel traffic. In addition, the increase in vessel traffic from several new and expanding terminal and refinery projects in Washington State has not yet been identified. This increase in vessel traffic will increase vessel noise and disturbance impacts to the Southern Residents and other marine species, and will increase oil spill risk in the Salish Sea. If the Southern Residents are in the vicinity of a major oil spill it could cause their extinction.

“A major spill would have a significant impact on Washington State’s maritime economy which is worth $30 billion and supports 148,000 jobs.”

US Senator Maria CantwellPress Release, 4/9/2014

Impacts to Marine Life

Vessels have an enormous effect on marine life. Underwater noise, invasive organisms from ballast water, collisions, and oil spills and emissions in the water all negatively impact our fish and wildlife.

Friends and its partners seek to protect marine life by encouraging alternative energy sources, minimizing and removing vessel traffic risks, and advocating for best practices that care for our marine wildlife and preserve our economy.

Impacts to Orca

Orcas rely on echolocation (reflected sound) to communicate, hunt, and navigate. However, ship-caused pollution, noise pollution, and collisions constantly disrupt their ability to thrive. Increased traffic will only exacerbate these issues.

Photo by Mark Gardner

“San Juan County is at the center of existing and proposed fossil fuel export projects. We have much to lose and nothing to gain. Our community needs to stay informed, get involved, and be part of the public process of understanding the approaching changes which will affect us all.”

San Olson, Friends' Board Member and former Naval Officer

Our Work

With a broad range of partners and leading science, Friends works to protect the San Juan Island waterways and Salish Sea from increasing vessel traffic risks. Friends:

  • protects our coasts and communities from the amplified threat of oil spill and associated damage;
  • presses for oil spill prevention and advocates for a clean energy future;
  • achieves legal protections;
  • improves habitat management;
  • reduces threats to vulnerable species; and
  • understands the complex interconnections between healthy communities, healthy environments, and healthy economies.
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