The Northwest Straits Foundation has been cleaning up the seashores and sea floors of the seven Washington counties located on the Salish Sea since 2002. The priorities of the foundation are seashore restoration and recovery and removal of derelict fishing gear. Recently, we met with our friend, Don Hunger, Executive Director, and learned more about this great organization.
For many decades, seashore “armor” was believed to be the best way to “protect” the land from the sea. However, destruction of natural beaches, over time, has in fact led not only to a reduction in wildlife, due to habitat loss, but also to overall degradation and instability of the landscape. Examples of hard armor are bulkheads or concrete walls, endless piles of large boulders, chemically treated wooden posts and stacks and stacks of tires. Not only are these structures highly unsightly, but they also interfere with the natural process that tidal cycles are meant to conduct, making the areas between low and high tide even more vulnerable to storm damage, and less accessible to those who would enjoy them. They erode beaches and stop them from building up a crucial sediment supply.
Hard armor on beaches has destroyed the natural rhythm of the seashore upon which native plants, sea and land animals rely. The Northwest Straits Foundation is debunking the old ways of thinking, by educating the public, especially landowners, about the shoreline ecotone, or “nearshore”, and that it is best left, or brought back, to nature. Through their actions they are increasing stewardship of the Salish Sea and it’s surrounding shores.
“Many creatures utilize and rely on the shoreline ecotone for survival – whether for habitat or transition to ocean life, reproduction of their species by using the area for spawning, or as a zone to visit for food when the opportune moment arrives. Some components of this diverse and interesting area are eelgrass, and two of the forage fishes – Pacific Herring and Sand lance, are nearshore spawners. Pacific herring spawn in the eelgrass just offshore, or on marine algae, and are a large part of our coastal history.” ~ Fisheries and Oceans Canada
The massive problem of derelict, or lost, fishing gear and nets is very well-known and is gaining recognition as one of the largest issues affecting the survival of marine life all over the world. There has been a drastic increase of media coverage of “ghost nets” in the past few years—images of whales and turtles and other sea life strangling or drowning because they have been caught up in these traps.
Modern-day nets do not decompose, and once they are abandoned, they “keep fishing”. Hundreds of thousands of whales, seals, turtles and birds lose their lives every year, a long and painful death, because they have been caught in derelict fishing gear.
Fortunately, since 2002, the Northwest Straits Foundation has been able to remove more than 5,800 derelict fishing nets from the Salish Sea, restoring more than 870 acres of precious marine habitat. Removal of these nets saves over 400 marine mammals, birds, and fish daily.
Please support the Northwest Straits Foundation, and related organizations who are protecting our blue planet for generations.