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April 2021
Cover photo of 2020 annual report, with four Clallam MRC volunteers from their kelp monitoring team toasting with cups made from the bulbs of bull kelp.

2020 Annual Report cover - Clallam MRC kelp team . Photo: Alisa Taylor

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2020 Annual Report

This month, we’re pleased to share with you our 2020 Annual Report! In 2020, we faced unanticipated challenges as the global pandemic created a public health emergency that affected countless lives and livelihoods. It also created enormous obstacles to mission driven organizations whose existence depends upon community and volunteer engagement.
The successes highlighted in our 2020 annual report demonstrate the perseverance of volunteers and staff in the face of adversity. It’s also testament to the culture of community across the Initiative. Thank you to our volunteers, staff, and partners for making 2020 a successful year. 

Please take a few moments to see what we accomplished together in 2020! 
View our Annual Report

Forage fish sampling - 2020 results

Group of volunteers standing in the snow with their supplies to do forage fish spawn sampling on the beach in early 2020.
Snow day forage fish sampling, in pre-COVID 2020. Photo: Pete Haase
Even with the odds against them, throughout 2020 MRCs continued their pursuit of collecting beach sediment and sifting through it in the hopes of finding the tiny eggs that indicate a forage fish spawning event. Despite smoke, snow, and a global pandemic, the hunt continued for those tiny eggs nestled on our local beaches. 

With 327 forage fish spawning samples collected by MRC volunteers, their effort comprised 69% of all the samples collected around Puget Sound in 2020. Of those samples, 54 documented surf smelt spawning events, and four samples documented Pacific sand lance spawning. 

This reliable set of volunteer data contributes to a better understanding of regional spatial and temporal spawning patterns of forage fish. Click here to read more about our Forage Fish program.

Navy Aircraft Noise Science Symposium

Split image with half showing trees in forest and half showing a beach with logs and driftwood along the shore.
This past month, San Juan MRC co-hosted a science symposium with the Salish Sea Institute on the subject of Navy Jet Noise and potential impacts to the marine and terrestrial habitats of the Salish Sea and Olympic Peninsula including impacts on endangered species such as the Southern Resident killer whale and the marble murrelet. 

More than 230 people attended, spanning 14 US states, Canada and Mexico. Moderated by Salish Sea Institute Director, Ginny Broadhurst, the symposium featured presentations from scientists Lauren Kuehne (Omnifishent Consulting) and Dr. Rob Williams (Oceans Initiative). A panel discussion included Dr. Todd Hass from the Puget Sound Partnership, Michael Jasny of the NRDC, and Dr. Edmund Seto of the University of Washington.

If you missed the event, it’s not too late to watch. Click below to view the recorded webinar, or learn more about the work of the San Juan MRC at  
Watch the recorded symposium

Northwest Straits Foundation Update

Seahorse Siesta Success!
Before and after images of Seahorse Siesta beach restoration. Before shows construction removing barge, after shows sandy restored beach.
Before and after. Left: construction phase removing the barge at Seahorse Siesta. Right: Looking down at the restored beach. 
The Northwest Straits Foundation and Seahorse Siesta Community Association just completed a restoration project to remove a large barge and bulkhead from the shoreline on Whidbey Island. The structure extended 98 feet out into the water from the toe of the feeder bluff and 136 feet along the shore. 

Installed in the late 1960’s, the barge created an elevated lawn near the beach for residents of the community, but it had since deteriorated and created a safety hazard as well as impeding shoreline processes and habitats. Its removal leaves a nice sandy beach suitable for forage fish spawning, and improved nearshore habitats useful for migrating juvenile salmonids. 

After the barge came out, more than 650 native plants were planted, and Island MRC and WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife will continue with post-restoration monitoring of forage fish and physical and biological changes of the beach. 

Support for this project was provided by: 
  • Marine & Nearshore Grant Program via WA Depts. of Fish & Wildlife and Natural Resources, with funding from the National Estuary Program (EPA)
  • Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service: Puget Sound Coastal Program
  • Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund
  • Vincent J. Coates Foundation
  • Habitat Strategic Initiative via WA Depts. of Fish & Wildlife and Natural Resources, with funding from the National Estuary Program (EPA)
  • Island County Marine Resources Committee
  • Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

In other news

Southern Sound kelp are in a pinch – Snoqualmie Valley Record, March 12, 2021 

Kelp forests are disappearing from South Puget Sound - Ear to the Ground, February 18, 2021 

Washington’s Crabby New Resident – The Planet Magazine, March 20, 2021 

Welcome, Jonathan!

Smiling photo of Jonathan Hallenbeck, intern

This month we  welcome Jonathan Hallenbeck to the team as our new Marine & Nearshore Project Technician. Jonathan completed his Bachelor of Applied Science in Environmental Conservation at Skagit Valley College in 2020, and is eager to continue using and building his skills and knowledge. He previously served as a Research Intern at Deception Pass State Park, where he conducted a pioneer study quantifying sea-star habitat choice preference. 

A Marine Corps Veteran, we were able to bring Jonathan on to our team through the NOAA WDVA Veterans Conservation Corps Fisheries Internship Program, a Washington-based internship focused on marine science and stewardship of coastal resources. 

Jonathan’s skills and enthusiasm will be a great benefit as we launch into our second year of invasive green crab trapping and removal in Drayton Harbor, Whatcom County. He will be working alongside multiple partners to trap and remove green crab, while also developing community support and collaboration for prolonged program success. Welcome, Jonathan!

Internship Opportunity

The Clallam MRC’s summer internship opportunity is still open for applications. Interns will work closely with MRC members and Makah and Lower Elwha tribal biologists on projects intended to protect and restore marine resources.
Apply now


April 15, 12pm, Northwest Straits Initiative 101. A primer on the Northwest Straits Initiative, the roles and responsibilities of the Commission, Foundation and MRCs. Click here for more information and the Zoom link. 

April 15 – 11:00am-12:30pm. Island County Natural Resources Symposium. Join Island County staff in discussing the range of services provided by the local natural resources team! Panelists will discuss how Island County Public Health is monitoring water quality and taking action to protect you from harmful pollutants in the local drinking water, shellfish beds, and beloved beaches! Click here to register for this free event.

April 22 – 2:00-6:00pm. Snohomish MRC Earth Day beach cleanup, a Plastic Free Salish Sea event. Click here for litter sorting and disposal locations, and for information on suggested locations and safety precautions. 

April 24 – Great Islands Cleanup – San Juan MRC, a Plastic Free Salish Sea event. Roadside or beach trash collected will be accepted free at the islands’ waste stations. Click here to learn more and register. 

Northwest Straits in the news

Salish Sea Science Symposium: Implications of noise from navy aircraft for the Salish Sea and Olympic Region - The Islands' Sounder, March 11, 2021 

Studies: Noise from Navy's Growler jets could impact wildlife – Skagit Valley Herald, March 17, 2021 

Are you ready to reduce single-use plastic in San Juan County? – The Islands’ Weekly, March 18th, 2021 

You can make a difference by sharing Island County’s shoreline wonders – Whidbey Weekly p. 9, March 18, 2021, written by Island MRC member Barbara Bennett 

Volunteers sought to adopt a beach – Journal of the San Juans, March 23, 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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