San Juan Islands. Photo: Jessica Owens

Legislation Reintroduced to Reauthorize the Northwest Straits Initiative

On June 18, 2024, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA-02) reintroduced legislation Senate Bill 4579 and House Bill 8783 to reauthorize the Northwest Straits Initiative, originally launched in 1998 by Senator Murray and U.S. Representative Jack Metcalf (R-WA-02).

Although the initial authorization expired in 2004, an external review led by Bill Ruckelshaus praised the Initiative's community-driven marine conservation efforts and recommended its reauthorization with increased federal funding. Senator Murray has secured annual federal funding since then.

The reauthorization will formalize the Initiative as a federal program, highlighting the importance of local marine conservation. This milestone underscores the dedication of Marine Resources Committees, the Northwest Straits Commission and Foundation, volunteers, Tribes, agencies, non-governmental organizations, and industry partners committed to protecting the marine species and habitats of the Northwest Straits region. This reauthorization will reinforce our collective efforts to safeguard the marine biodiversity and ecosystems that are vital to the health and sustainability of the Northwest Straits.

Learn more at Looking Ahead.

The Northwest Straits Commission is a regional coordinating body comprised of people who care about the marine areas where they live, and who work together to protect and restore marine resources.

The Northwest Straits Commission carries out regional conservation projects and supports the work of seven Marine Resources Committees through funding, technical support, training and regional coordination.

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July 2024 NW Straits Commission Meeting

July 26

Port Townsend Yacht Club, 2503 Washington Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368

  • Member Spotlight: Judy Surber

  • Forage fish surveys

    Skagit MRC’s Salish Sea Stewards coordinates volunteer efforts through the summer to monitor surf smelt spawning at Bowman Bay and local beaches. Surf smelt, a species of vital forage fish, spawn in large schools on sandy or gravelly shores during high tides.

    Volunteers collect sandy gravel samples, process them to isolate surf smelt eggs, and document beach conditions. Microscopic analysis provides insights into egg quantity and development. Data are submitted to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, guiding conservation efforts and protecting spawning sites through regulatory measures and targeted restoration.

    A big thank you to all the volunteers and supporters who make these efforts possible!

    Learn more about forage fish surveys

  • Needs Assessment framework

    Snohomish MRC and the Northwest Straits Commission partnered with University of Washington Evans School Capstone Students to develop a Needs Assessment framework for MRCs to inform the MRCs strategic planning efforts.

    This project builds upon the Needs Assessment process originally created and implemented by Island MRC as a method to identify local pressing and emerging marine resource issues and inform strategic planning.

    The full report by the UW Evans School team and a summary and one-pager are available in our resource library.


  • Aerial surveys

    San Juan MRC is conducting aerial surveys to study the density of recreational boating in sensitive habitats this summer. Systematic line-transect surveys will be flown at least twice per month until September. This project aims to understand the connection between boater activity and the health of eelgrass habitats, identifying impact hotspots or priority sites for protection and restoration.

    In addition to aerial surveys, MRC members and volunteers will perform shore-based vessel counts and engage in outreach activities, such as Dock Talks, to educate boaters about the importance of kelp and eelgrass beds. They will distribute Green Boating materials from Friends of the San Juans and Whale Warning Flags while emphasizing the problem derelict vessels pose to the environment. Fieldwork for benthic habitat mapping is also scheduled, focusing on shallow areas where boaters anchor, to gather crucial data on bathymetry and benthic habitat types at several under-studied sites.

    Learn more about eelgrass protection and vessel monitoring

Member Spotlight: Judy Surber

Jefferson MRC

For over 15 years, Judy Surber has served on the Jefferson MRC, bringing a wealth of knowledge on land-use planning and monitoring. Judy was asked to join the MRC when the need for a liaison between the City of Port Townsend and the MRC arose in 2001. Since then she’s spent several years as chair, using her valuable skills in facilitating public process and building consensus.

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Upcoming Events

  • Jul


    July 2024 NW Straits Commission Meeting

    July 26
    10 AM-3 PM

    Port Townsend Yacht Club, 2503 Washington Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368

  • Aug


    August 2024 NW Straits Commission Meeting

    August 23
    10 AM-12 PM

    Virtual on Zoom

  • Sep


    September 2024 NW Straits Commission Meeting

    September 27
    10 AM-3 PM

    Stevens Center at Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve - 10441 Bayview Edison Rd, Mount Vernon, WA, 98273