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Voluntary No-Anchor Zones


A Voluntary No-Anchor Zone is a non-regulatory strategy to protect critical eelgrass habitat. Anchors, chains, and lines can cause physical damage to eelgrass beds by leaving large scour marks, which degrades eelgrass habitat. Voluntary No-Anchor Zones are designed to limit the direct physical damage caused by anchor scour to support a more resilient eelgrass meadow.

Why anchor out of eelgrass?
Eelgrass is a flowering plant that grows close to shore at depths where light can penetrate through the water. Eelgrass provides vital habitat for many marine animals. Salmon, Pacific herring, crabs, nudibranchs, flatfish, and countless other species all call eelgrass home. Even marine birds, especially great blue herons and brant, rely on eelgrass meadows for a source of food and foraging.

Intact eelgrass meadows protect our shorelines. Eelgrass helps keep our waters clear by reducing erosion during storms and dampening wave impacts.

Eelgrass creates nursery habitat for many marine species including ones we like to eat, like Dungeness crab and salmon! Pacific herring, the preferred food source for Chinook and coho salmon, lay their eggs directly on eelgrass blades.

Anchors don’t hold as well in the softer sand and mud preferred by eelgrass and boats are more prone to drifting or dragging when anchored in eelgrass. Anchoring deeper than eelgrass can mean you won’t pull up as much mud or plant material on your anchor and you’ll help protect vital eelgrass habitat.


The Commission is working on an expansion of the successful voluntary no-anchor zone program established in Port Townsend by the Jefferson MRC in 2004. We are collaborating with multiple MRCs and transboundary partners to design a regional approach to inform recreational boater behavior when anchoring around eelgrass in order to protect vital eelgrass meadows.

This coordination includes working with MRCs to identify potential voluntary no-anchor zone sites. Selecting potential voluntary no-anchor zone sites requires specific approaches and individual considerations of environmental conditions, community use, tribal value and uses, adjacent property owners, and partnerships for each location.

Project effectiveness is monitored by the voluntary compliance rate of boaters in the voluntary no-anchor zones. The Commission established a datasheet for volunteers to conduct vessel counts at potential and established voluntary no-anchor zones. The effect of protection actions on eelgrass meadows at voluntary no-anchor zones is monitored with eelgrass surveys at select sites. Planning is underway on options for monitoring recovery from vessel scour.

Building a consistent social marketing strategy across all partners is central to the long-term success of the voluntary no-anchor zone network. Branding, messaging, and creating toolkits for other organizations to adopt will improve voluntary compliance and boater behavior change by building consistent messaging to boaters throughout the region. The Commission is currently working with partners to develop a social marketing campaign and toolkit to support eelgrass protection from recreational vessel anchoring by informing boater behavior.

The Commission also established and leads a transboundary workgroup that convenes partners on both sides of the border to share methods, strategies, and more. Please contact us if you are interested in getting involved in the Salish Sea Eelgrass Protection Workgroup.