February 2021

 Jefferson MRC volunteers continue forage fish monitoring despite the cold temperatures. Photo: Monica Montgomery

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Community Science in the time of COVID

North Sound Stewards 2020 Highlights video. 

Community science volunteers, like North Sound Stewards, help protect the Salish Sea. While 2020 was very different than any other year, North Sound Stewards were still able to fill important data gaps to inform management plans and more! 

The North Sound Stewards partners, Whatcom MRC and RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, recently shared this video highlighting all the amazing work North Sound Stewards did in 2020!

Interested in learning more or signing up to become a North Sound Steward? Learn more at

Community Action with MyCoast

Large marine debris be reported on the MyCoast app. Photo: MyCoast user Shayla Allen

One of the biggest impacts that MRCs have on their counties' natural environment is connecting people to the nearshore environment, and empowering community members to become stewards. One important tool in that effort is MyCoast, which enables community members to share information about local conditions with decision-makers and stakeholders. Beachgoers are able to take photos and submit reports about derelict vessels and large marine debris.

Island MRC member Randy Berthold knows the value of MyCoast when put in the hands of community members. He teaches friends, neighbors, and other community groups how to use MyCoast, and has seen immediate results. Last week, when a roll of barbed wire showed up on the beach, a community member (who Randy had taught to use MyCoast) used the app to submit a report, and the timing worked for a WA Dept of Natural Resources clean up team to remove it right away. Randy thinks that the simplicity of the MyCoast app is the key to ensuring community members use it, and he is quick to offer his services to tutor interested folks on the app so that as many people as possible know about the tool and can use it to improve their community.

Do you want to be part of the MyCoast movement? You can find the app in the App Store or on Google Play.

Bowman Bay Storm Event

Bowman Bay looking south from boat ramp toward dock. Photo: Paul Dinnel

The January storm that knocked out power for over 500,000 residents and businesses in Western Washington left its mark on many beaches, including the restored beach at Bowman Bay in Skagit County. Peak water levels reached more than 1 foot above the predicted high tide for the day (known as storm surge), and wind gusts up to 67 miles per hour were recorded, as winds from the West-Northwest drove waves ashore. 

Waves crashed on the beach and overtopped the dunes pushing massive logs up into the beach and leaving nose-tingling deposits of decaying seaweed inland of the walking path. A series of clues written in beach wrack are left for beachgoers to see the reach of the ocean waters during this storm event. Before and after photos of the beach are remarkable. 

The dramatic effects of this storm are a routine function of our dynamic beaches - part of their seasonal changes and longer term shifts that allow the beach to slowly migrate landward and retreat to higher elevations to keep pace with rising sea levels. The Bowman Bay beach restoration project, previously carried out by Northwest Straits Foundation and Skagit MRC, restored these natural processes by removing rock armoring, re-grading the beach to match the natural contour, adding beach material to support forage fish spawning, and planting native vegetation.

Learn more about the Bowman Bay nearshore restoration project here

Join the Salish Sea Stewards!

Salish Sea Stewards volunteers conduct forage fish monitoring. Photo: Pete Haase

The 2021 Salish Sea Stewards training program begins February 23 and there is still time to apply. Training includes ten virtual classes held Tuesday afternoons and two optional small group field sessions. Check out the training program flyer and registration form on the MRC website at

Northwest Straits Foundation Update- New Board Members

New Board Members Champion the Northwest Straits 

The Northwest Straits Foundation is thrilled to introduce Amy Wilcox and Duane Fagergren as new members of the Northwest Straits Foundation Board! We're excited to have their knowledge and skills contributing to our conservation projects and partnerships in the Salish Sea. Learn more about these additions here.

Member Spotlight: Julia Parrish

Julia Parrish is the newly appointed gubernatorial appointee to the Northwest Straits Commission.

Julia is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of the Environment at the University of Washington, where she holds a Lowell A. and Frankie L. Wakefield Professorship in Ocean Fishery Sciences. She is a marine biologist, conservation biologist, and specialist in citizen science. 

She is also the Executive Director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), a citizen science program involving over 800 participants collecting monthly data on the identity and abundance of beach-cast birds and marine debris, with the goal of creating the definitive baseline against which the impacts of any catastrophe- oil spill, harmful algal bloom, marine heatwave, tsunami- could be measured. 

Welcome, Julia!

Member updates

In addition to the Northwest Straits Commission's new Governor appointee, Snohomish MRC has elected a new representative to the Commission, Tim Ellis, as well as an alternate, Julie Schlenger. Thank you both for your leadership!

Elizabeth Kilanowski and Ryan McLaughlin, both dedicated members of the Whatcom MRC, completed their terms on the MRC recently. Many thanks to both for contributing their time and expertise. 

We also join Clallam MRC in welcoming two new alternate members: Lisa Law, an alternate for the Development Community and Mary Sue Brancato, an alternate for the At-Large position. 

2020 Kelp Data Available on SoundIQ

Kelp forest. Photo: Florian Granger

In a labor of love, multiple MRCs continue to champion our community science effort to monitor select bull kelp beds by kayak in the Northwest Straits. Despite 2020's many challenges, over 40 volunteers got out on the water to paddle around kelp bulbs to contribute to our growing long-term data set.  

This past summer the volunteers surveyed 22 different bull kelp beds, documenting 416 acres of bull kelp forest, all while paddling over 230 miles collectively. The data gathered in 2020 helps to paint a picture of how our local bull kelp beds vary year to year in the hopes to document natural variability and emerging trends. 

We've recently added the 2020 MRC kelp data to our Sound IQ web-map. Take some time to dive in and explore some of your local bull kelp forests. 

Upcoming events

February 26, 2021 from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. Northwest Straits Commission February meeting. Zoom, 10am-12pm. 

February 24, 2021 from 7:00 - 8:00 pm. Kelp: Our Underwater Forests. Via Zoom, hosted by the Clallam MRC. 

August 28, 2021. Fidalgo Bay Day. Date is tentative, pending safety restrictions. Hosted by the Skagit MRC. 

Northwest Straits in the news

Salish Sea Stewards Training to remain online, Skagit Valley Herald - January 26, 2021

In other news

Sea charts and satellites: Mapping critical kelp beds along the Pacific coast, Canada's National Observer  – January 19, 2021

New book explores how we shape Puget Sound — and how it shapes us, Crosscut – February 1, 2021


The Northwest Straits Commission provides funding, training and support to seven county-based Marine Resources Committees (MRCs) to assist with their work protecting and restoring local marine resources. Learn more about the Commission on our website at



This work has been funded wholly or in part by the US EPA. The contents of this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the EPA, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use. 

Copyright © 2021 Northwest Straits Commission, All rights reserved.

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