To protect and preserve a variety of marine fish, shellfish, and habitats, WDFW has established marine reserves at several sites in Puget Sound. These are generally known as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and have either broad or focused restrictions on the harvest of marine resources within specified boundaries.
WDFW has established three types of MPAs, specifically:
- Conservation Areas where the harvest of all marine resources is prohibited.
- Marine Preserves where the harvest of some marine resources is prohibited.
- Sea Urchin and Sea Cucumber Exclusion Zones where the harvest of only these species is prohibited.
In December 2020, the Fish and Wildlife Commission approved new rules for commercial viewing of Southern Resident killer whales that formally establish a ‘no-go’ zone on the west side of San Juan Island for motorized commercial whale watching vessels with a 100-yard corridor along the shore for commercial kayak tours. The no-go zone applies year-round regardless of SRKW presence. (The no-go zone remains voluntary for vessels not engaging in commercial whale watching operations).
Additionally, the recreational harvest of giant Pacific octopuses is prohibited in designated octopus preserves in the Puget Sound.
These sites not only help protect marine resources and habitats, but also provide sites for research and education, and are prime locations for divers and other wildlife-viewers. More information on the goals and objectives of MPAs in Washington is available in the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s policy and in the comprehensive publication Marine Protected Areas in Washington.
Tribal members of Treaty Tribes are not bound by WDFW regulations, including MPAs. However, many of these areas have been adopted into tribal-state management plans and closed by individual tribes to harvest of some or all species as part of conservative management policies.
Other agencies and landowners also have MPAs in Puget Sound. For example, the state Department of Natural Resources operates an Aquatic Reserve Program that protects habitat and resources, and cities – such as Seattle, Tacoma, and Des Moines – have established a number of reserves at their shoreline parks.