Marine Protected Areas within Puget Sound

Introduction

It was serendipitous that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildife (WDFW) had a 30-year-old marine refuge in place when the department began serious work on what refuges could do for fishery management. The Edmonds Underwater Park was first established by the City of Edmonds in response to local recreational divers who wanted to see fish when they dove the site. In 1970, the divers asked the Department of Fisheries to adopt regulations closing the area for harvest, and the site, now titled "Brackett's Landing Shoreline Sanctuary," became the first MPA in WDFW regulations.

Anecdotal reports indicate the sanctuary had only a few fish when closed, and looked no different from other parts of Puget Sound. Now it is home to large rockfish and lingcod, and diving there is like looking back in time to a Puget Sound before heavy harvest.

This sanctuary has become a destination site to observe what we now call "watchable wildlife" for divers from within Washington as well as from outside the state. The closure also placed WDFW in the forefront of establishing Marine Protected Areas, a concept that has since grown nationally and internationally. The site has become a source of scientific information about the effects of harvest closures.

WDFW recognizes the value in setting aside certain marine areas for the protection and preservation of species and/or habitat. These are generally known as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and most of these are some form of no-take marine reserves. As a management agency WDFW can control the times, places, and manners under which non-tribal commercial and recreational fishing can occur. WDFW has established several forms of marine reserves that affect non-tribal citizens including Conservation Areas where the harvest of all marine resources is prohibited, Marine Preserves where the harvest of some marine resources in prohibited, and Sea Urchin and Cucumber Reserves where the commercial harvest of these species is prohibited. Tribal members of Treaty Tribes are not bound by WDFW regulations. However, some of these areas have been adopted into tribal-state management plans and closed by individual tribes to harvest of some or all species as well.

Other agencies and landowners have MPAs in Puget Sound. The Department of Natural Resources operates an Aquatic Reserve Program where they have established MPAs that protect habitat and embedded resources through their statutory ownership authority. As landowners of city park beaches, several cities including Seattle, Tacoma, and Des Moines have established a number of no-take reserves in their shoreline parks. A variety of federal organizations have restrictions on use of various areas (i.e. the Olympic National Park and US Fish and Wildlife Service Refuges).

A variety of fish and wildlife resources can benefit from establishment of MPAs. Some fish resources require major reductions in harvest pressure and protection from removal as by-catch to establish productive populations of adults. Establishing such areas may be important tools to recover from past over-harvest or prevent future overharvest (e.g., rockfish in Puget Sound). MPAs can also provide areas for non-consumptive use of the resources, allow collection of baseline data on resources at the site, provide reference areas, and protect unique, sensitive, or important habitats and populations. They can facilitate integrated management of all resources within important habitats or areas.

In accordance with WDFW MPA policy, the Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife will use marine protected areas as one of the agency's working tools for resource protection and management. The Director will be responsible for plan development and implementation to manage consumptive and/or non-consumptive uses. This web page provides links to specific information about the MPAs that WDFW administers, to information on the science of MPAs, and to web sites of a variety of other agencies administering MPAs.

This web page provides links to specific information about the MPAs that WDFW administers, to information on the science of MPAs, and to web sites of a variety of other agencies administering MPAs.