The Admiralty Head Marine Preserve incorporates a nearshore kelp bed that grows upon a mix of rocks, boulders and ridges of hardpan and bedrock just north of Fort Casey State Park. The uplands consist of eroding sandstone bluffs and the shoreline is primarily composed of cobble, pebble, and gravel. Most of the upland is adjacent to the Fort Casey Conference Center and also includes the northern portion of Fort Casey State Park.
The reserve extends offshore from the extreme low water mark and extends down to depths of 40 feet (mllw). The habitat contains a mosaic of coarse sediments including sand, pebble and cobble mixed with isolated boulders and ridges of moderate relief consisting of bedrock and hardpan. While the rocky habitat is generally of low complexity and contains few crevices for fish to hide, the extensive cover of understory kelps including Pterygophora californica and Laminaria saccharina as well as dense cover of upper canopy bull kelp (Nereocyctis leutkeana) provides a complex habitat for fish and invertebrates. The kelp bed extends close to shore just interrupted by a shallow nearshore channel. Offshore and deeper, the benthic habitat consists of sand, gravel, pebble, and cobble and may contain other rocky outcroppings.
Fish populations at the site have been characterized only to a limited degree. Fish abundance is somewhat variable and may be dependent upon the time of year since the extent of the kelp bed is seasonal. Fish surveys have documented large rockfish (Sebastes caurinus), black rockfish (S. melanops), lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus), and striped seaperch (Embiotoca lateralis). The area is near a popular salmon fishing site and several species of salmon (Genus Oncorhynchus) are expected to move in and out of the reserve.
Other biological resources include a variety of encrusting organisms, red rock crab (Cancer productus), sea stars, red sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus), red sea urchins (Stronglyocentrotus franciscanus) and green sea urchins (S. droebachensis). The commercial tribal and non-tribal sea cucumber and sea urchin fisheries use the site heavily.
WDFW manages the site as partially-protected marine reserve for non-tribal citizens. WDFW regulations prohibit recreational fishing and harvesting at the Admiralty Head Marine Preserve. Most forms of commercial fishing are not allowed except for dive fisheries for sea urchins and sea cucumbers. The taking of all other species of invertebrates and fishes is prohibited by WDFW regulations.
The site is primarily located offshore from the Fort Casey State Park and the Fort Casey Conference Center. Both the state park staff and the Fort Casey Conference Center staff are onsite and provide observations and education from the uplands. The state park staff provides supplemental enforcement to WDFW agents. Signs are placed at both the state park and conference center stating regulations.
The enforcement of the harvest restrictions is relegated to the Enforcement Program of WDFW. Information on the site boundaries and restrictions is found in WDFW's Sport Fishing Pamphlet and formal regulations are published at the State of Washington's Administrative Code available on the state's web site. WDFW is developing specific pamphlets describing each of its marine reserves.
WDWF scientists will begin conducting at least one annual survey at the Admiralty Head Marine Preserve in their marine reserve monitoring efforts. The scientists surveying the site will record the species, numbers, and sizes of fish living in the preserve. Scientific collections by the Conference Center staff have occurred under permit from WDFW and are anticipated to continue in this site.
A shore-based recreational salmon fishery occurs from the southern boundary of the reserve south to the campground at the Fort Casey State Park. During the designation process of the reserve, fishers generally opposed the creation of the reserve near the fishery site. The southern reserve boundary was adjusted to minimize fishery conflicts, but illegal fishing might occur despite the shore-marker placed by Parks and Recreation staff.
The reserve is located at the entrance to Puget Sound and the high volume of shipping traffic presents some threats to the reserve if vessels become grounded or spill toxic substances.
The potential impact of the commercial fishery for sea urchins and sea cucumbers will need examination in the future to determine if the removal of the algae eaters affects the structural or ecological integrity of the reserve.
- Acceptance by local fishers.
- The development of a diverse fish community.
- Increasing or sustained abundances of copper and black rockfish.
- Increasing and sustained large individual sizes of copper rockfish.
- The presence of reproductive fish and recruiting rockfish and lingcod.