Looking Ahead

Heron Photo

The Northwest Straits Initiative is a unique, bottom-up approach to solving important issues that have a direct impact on marine ecosystems, economies, and cultures. The Initiative harnesses the collaborative expertise of county Marine Resources Committees (MRCs), the Northwest Straits Initiative boards, dedicated staff, and valued partners.

The Northwest Straits Initiative provides a framework for local people to prioritize and lead marine and shoreline conservation in a way that supports what is important to their communityas well as a regional network for collaboration and learning that drives positive impacts from the bottom up.” – Lucas Hart, Northwest Straits Commission Director


The Northwest Straits region of Puget Sound faces unprecedented pressure from population growth, climate change, and habitat loss. The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative seeks permanent reauthorization with an annual appropriation to continue its critical marine restoration and conservation work in support of:

  • Coastal resilience to climate change
  • Science-informed regional and local decision-making
  • Community-based sustainable management of marine resources
  • Southern Resident Killer Whale/Chinook salmon recovery
  • Restoration of forage fish habitat
  • Invasive species mitigation

Reauthorization would renew recognition of the Northwest Straits Initiative as a federal program in U.S. statute

Reauthorization will recognize the Initiative as a federal program and acknowledge the importance of locally driven marine conservation. To reach the milestone of bill introduction is a testament to the fantastic work of Marine Resources Committees, the Northwest Straits Commission and Foundation, volunteers, and the numerous Tribes, agencies, NGOs, and industry partners who engage with us in our mission to protect and restore the marine resources of the Northwest Straits.  


The Northwest Straits region covers 60% of Puget Sound, an Estuary of National Significance, that:

regional map
  • Honors tribal treaty rights
  • Produces the majority of Washington State’s aquaculture economic output estimated at over $150 million
  • Supports a $72 million shellfish aquaculture industry
  • Contributes to the 16,000 jobs in Washington State’s commercial and recreational fishing industries

    The region includes Clallam, Island, Jefferson, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom Counties and their adjoining inland marine waters.


  • Building more resilient communities and coastlines to address our changing climate by engaging local community members in monitoring beach conditions and inspiring the research of numerous students at the University of Washington and other institutions. These opportunities train future leaders in the value of collaborative research in the service of science and society.
  • Supporting regional and local decision-making and community-based sustainable management of marine resources through thousands and thousands of local volunteer hours that contribute directly to tackling sea level rise, oil spill response, estuary management, and numerous other emerging environmental issues.
  • Recovering and protecting native species including Southern Resident Killer Whale, threatened Chinook salmon and rockfish by convening state, tribal, federal, local, academic, and private partners to initiate conservation actions, and by removing derelict fishing gear to save millions of marine mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates annually.
  • Recovering critical forage fish populations by restoring nearshore habitat.
  • Combating invasive species by aggressively trapping and removing European green crab in North Puget Sound to protect economically and culturally important native species.

History of the Initiative


Senate Bill 4579 and House Bill 8783

Senator Murray Tours Northwest Straits Commission Headquarters, Discusses Efforts to Protect Marine Habitats, Ecosystems in Northwest WA
Press release Sen. Murray's office - July 16, 2024

Senator Murray, Rep. Larsen Reintroduce Legislation to Reauthorize Northwest Straits Initiative
Press release Sen. Murray’s office - June 18, 2024

Senator Murray, Rep. Larsen Reintroduce Legislation to Reauthorize Northwest Straits Initiative
Press release Rep. Larsen’s office - June 18, 2024

New bill aims to ensure permanent funding for Northwest Straits Initiative
Sen. Murray, Rep. Larsen advocate for tribal, county marine conservation efforts
Cascadia Daily - June 18, 2024

Murray, Larsen introduce bill to reauthorize local marine conservation program
Skagit Valley Herald - June 22, 2024

Congress funds the Northwest Straits Initiative to protect and restore marine ecosystems on November 13, 1998
Historylink.org essay by Adam Sowards - November 15, 2023

Northwest Straits Initiative may be up for federal reauthorization
Skagit Valley Herald - September 14, 2023

Locals in small operation take on ‘tall order’ in marine ecosystem
Salish Current - September 22, 2023


Heron photo: Barry Troutman