January 2021
A rare sunny winter day at Larrabee State Park. Photo: Katie Harris
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Looking to 2021: A Message from the Director

The Northwest Straits Commission is unique for many reasons. We build conservation initiatives from the grassroots level, we strive to be inclusive of diverse community interests, and we thrive on collaboration to achieve our mission and support the collective work of our partners. Despite the challenges we faced in 2020, these unique traits are what have allowed us to persevere.

Marine Resources Committee volunteers shifted project approaches to maintain momentum on local priorities, logging over 10,000 volunteer hours. Northwest Straits Commission staff built new communication tools to foster connectivity in an unanticipated virtual world. And, numerous partners remained committed to helping us deliver the Puget Sound Kelp Conservation and Recovery Plan.

In 2021, we will build upon the strong foundation this wonderful network of individuals has created. With the new year will come new opportunities as we emerge from a difficult time. We look forward to working and celebrating with you in 2021. With deep gratitude for your dedication, Happy New Year!
-Dr. Lucas Hart

2020 Highlights from the MRCs 

The end of the year is a great time to reflect and appreciate all that MRCs accomplished, in spite of all the challenges of 2020. Island and Clallam MRCs have already taken the time to gather up their work and have shared their recent annual reports. If you are looking for some positive inspiration, take a few minutes to read them!

Island MRC continued their excellent work on monitoring and education efforts, and prepared the design for a new shoreline restoration project at Hoypus Point that will move forward in 2021 in partnership with the Northwest Straits Foundation. Click here to read their annual report. 

Clallam MRC also maintained a suite of monitoring efforts and education projects, and contributed to the successful Puget Sound-wide effort to restore 100 acres of sustainable Olympia oyster habitat by by 2020 restoring two acres in Sequim Bay. Click here to read their annual report. 

Stewardship opportunities 

Salish Sea Stewards conducting forage fish monitoring. Photo: Pete Haase

Skagit County- Registration is now open for the 2021 Salish Sea Stewards training program. Participants receive 40 hours of free citizen science training, Zoom lectures and small-group hands-on field exploration, with a pledge to return 40 hours of volunteer service in one year. Learn about the Salish Sea from local experts and find out about volunteer opportunities that will help you make a difference in your community. Trainings will be held on Tuesdays, from February 23 – May 25. Registration information and form are available at, and the deadline to register is February 16, 2021.

Whatcom County- Apply now to become a North Sound Steward. Build your skills and help protect vital marine species and habitats. North Sound Stewards aim to complete 50 hours of trainings and surveys throughout a one-year period, and there are community science opportunities for every skill set and experience level. Click here to learn more and apply. Applications are due by January 10, 2021.

New Year's Resolutions

Art created from trash collected from local beaches. Photo: San Juan MRC

Do you make New Year's resolutions? Consider setting a goal to reduce or eliminate your use of single-use plastics in 2021, and working with us toward a Plastic Free Salish Sea! San Juan MRC has curated lots of ways to cut down on the plastics you use. Like most resolutions, you'll be successful if you start by making small changes and practicing daily. Find more information on the Plastic Free Salish Sea campaign here.
Speaking of reducing single-use plastics, a statewide ban on plastic bags passed in 2020 will go into effect at the end of this month, and will reduce plastic pollution in the Salish Sea. Responding to growing plastic bag pollution, the Legislature in 2020 passed SB 5323, a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, which will prohibit single-use plastic carryout bags and requires an 8-cent charge for all recycled content paper carryout bags and reusable carryout bags made of film plastic. We expect that this ban will result in reduced marine plastic pollution and support broader ecosystem health for years to come. Find more information from the Department of Ecology.

Update from the Northwest Straits Foundation 

At the Northwest Straits Foundation, our New Year’s resolution is to increase our stewardship efforts. This year, we’re aiming to do more than we’ve ever done to restore this place we call home. We’ve got tons of exciting projects in the works: derelict vessel and crab pot removal, barge removal and habitat restoration, nearshore monitoring for forage fish species, Shore Friendly landowner outreach, and more. Find us online at @NWStraitsfnd.

MRC Openings 

Serving on an MRC is a great way to make a difference in your community. With member terms ending in December, several MRCs now have openings for new members! Whether you're interested in community science, outreach and communication, or working with local elected officials, joining your MRC is a fantastic way to get involved.

Check MRC websites to find out if there's a vacancy in your county.

MRC Member Updates

This month we say thank you and goodbye to Helle Andersen, as she retires from her position as MRC Coordinator for the Clallam MRC where she served since 2015.

We also send a sincere thank you to Susan Tarpley, Bob Hillmann, Sarah Brown, and Paul Clampitt who completed their terms as members of the Snohomish MRC in December. Collectively, they have served over 30 years to help protect and restore the marine resources of Snohomish County.

In Island County, MRC members Matt Kukuk and Mike Bianchi completed their terms in December.

Another round of applause for these members for all they contributed to the work of the MRC!

Resource Library

We maintain an online library of resource materials from the projects and programs of the MRCs and Commission. Check it out here, or click below to view some recent additions. 

Clallam MRC's 2020 Annual Report

Island MRC's 2020 Annual Report

Skagit MRC's Kids on the Beach Program Report

Clallam MRC's Olympia Oyster Restoration Report 

Upcoming events

January 10, 2021 from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM via Zoom. What eelgrass and other marine vegetation can tell us about the future of the ocean. Lecture from Dr. Ron Thom. 

January 29, 2021 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM via Zoom. Northwest Straits Commission meeting

February 26, 2021 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM via Zoom. Northwest Straits Commission meeting

Northwest Straits in the news

Completing the First Year of Collaborative Removal Effort at Drayton Harbor, Washington Sea Grant – December 23, 2020

State approves rules for commercial viewing of Southern resident orcas, The Islands' Sounder – December 25, 2020

Report: Pinto abalone in peril, Skagit Valley Herald – December 31, 2020

Council hears Oak Harbor Marina restoration options, Whidbey News Times – January 1, 2021

In other news

Tide Bites: Students Study Kelp Consumers, San Juan Islander – December 28, 2020

For tribes, climate change fight is about saving culture, Everett Herald – January 4, 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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