Marine Protected Areas within Puget Sound

Colvos Passage Marine Preserve

WAC 220-302-030: "'Colvos Passage Marine Preserve Area' is defined as those waters and bedlands of Colvos Passage enclosed by a line starting at extreme low water on the west shore at 47° 20.87' N, thence due east 300 feet, thence southwesterly paralleling the shore for 500 feet, thence due west to the extreme low water line, thence northeasterly along the extreme low water line to the point of origin." Effective since 5/1/2000.


Links to other imagery about this site

This is the picnic area and access to the preserve, facing NE.

A closeup of the interpretive sign.

A view of the beach from the SE corner of the preserve, looking NW.

A view from the access point on the beach of the preserve, facing SE.
Recreational Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Limited Salmon fishing only by trolling is allowed.
Trout Closed  
Bottomfish Closed  
Shellfish Closed  
Forage Fish Closed  
Unclassified Closed  
Commercial Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Closed  
Bottomfish Closed  
Shellfish Closed  
Forage Fish Closed  
Unclassified Closed  


Geographic Statistics

Area Type Acres Hectares
Intertidal None None
Subtidal 3.26 1.32
Total 3.26 1.32


Prominent and unique features

The Colvos Passage Marine Preserve, also known as Sunrise Beach, is centered on a small patch of rocky habitat in the central basin of Puget Sound. Rocky habitats are relatively scarce in this portion of the basin and the site provides the habitat for a thriving community of rockfishes and other fish and invertebrate species that depend upon rocky habitats. The rocky outcropping originates offshore in 25 feet of water (mllw) with boulders arising from sand substrates. The boulders give rise to fractured bedrock that slopes to a depth of 40 feet. There are several grottos formed by the complex bedrock seabed. Below the wall, boulders and bedrock ridges occur in smaller patches and slope down to depths of 70 feet. The rocky habitat is surrounded by sand in the nearshore and sand, gravel, pebble, and cobble. The crown and faces of the rocky habitat are covered with bladed kelps such as Laminaria saccharina and foliose red algae. Inshore of the rocky habitat sand, pebble, and cobble substrates occur on the slope to the shoreline. There are sparse patches of eelgrass (Zostera marina) and patches of bull kelp (Nereocystis leutkeana).

The shoreline adjacent to the reserve is in private ownership and houses and fortified shorelines dominate the low-bank bluff. A county park is located just north of the reserve and provides beach access for shore-based recreational divers.

Description of fish, bird, and mammal resources at the site

Wolfeels (Anarrichthys ocellatus) are abundant in this reserve as are copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus) and brown rockfish (S. auriculatus). Striped seaperches (Embiotoca lateralis) and pile perch (Rhacochilus vacca) are also common at Colvos Passage Marine Preserve. Other fishes that occur here include buffalo sculpin (Enophrys bison), painted greenling (Oxylebius pictus), sailfin sculpin (Nautichthys oculofasciatus), and longfin sculpin (Jordania zanope).

The high currents in Colvos Passage provide for a rich invertebrate community that is dominated by encrusting organisms such as giant barnacles (Balanus nubulis) and tubeworms. Where consolidated sedimentary rocks occur, rough piddock clams (Zirphaea pilsbryi) are common and where sandy substrates dominate, geoduck clams (Panopea generosa) can be observed. Other invertebrates are very common including giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini), red rock crab (Cancer productus), and red sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus). Masses of green sea urchins (Stronglylocentrotus droebachiensis) are often observed within the reserve, especially on the northern portion of the rocky habitat.

Programs in place to manage the site

WDFW manages the site as partially-protected marine reserve for non-tribal citizens. WDFW regulations prohibit recreational fishing and harvesting at the Colvos Passage Marine Preserve. Most forms of recreational and all forms of commercial fishing are not allowed. Recreational fishers are allowed to troll for salmon through the preserve. The taking of all other species of fishes and all invertebrates is prohibited by WDFW regulations.

The site was proposed by a group of recreational divers. Signage has been placed at the entrance to the adjacent county park that identifies the role of the marine preserve.

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 include Colvos Passage Marine Preserve in their marine reserve monitoring efforts. The site is visited several times per year when the scientists perform a census of the fish living on the two southern rocky habitats. During these surveys, all fish are identified, counted, and measured. The areas of the rocky habitats have been measured so fish densities can be assessed and compared to previous surveys or other areas. WDFW has also conducted a special study on the wolfeels that inhabit the reserve.

Issues of concern

The Colvos Passage Marine Preserve is also known as Sunrise Beach. This site is a high-use site by recreational divers who access the site from both the shore and from boats. Anchoring at the site could potentially cause habitat damage in the shallow portions of the site. Divers also have become accustomed to feeding the wolfeels at the site and this has unknown consequences to the wolfeel colony.

The allowance of salmon trolling may result in the unintentional catch of rockfish and lingcod inhabiting the preserve. The impacts on the sustainability of the fish populations at the reserve are unknown.

Property owners are generally not supportive of the reserve primarily because shore-based divers often transit or trespass upon the beach that is the private property of the land owners. The presence of moorings for property owner's boats and the allowance of trolling in the reserve present potential safety conflicts with divers who swim offshore to submerge and surface above the habitat.

Derelict gill nets are present at the site but are not in a condition to be dangerous to divers or marine life at the site. The nearby activity of commercial salmon fisheries may make the marine resources at this site vulnerable to new derelict fishing gear.

Performance measures

  • The number of divers who visit the site.
  • Acceptance by upland owners and local fishers.
  • The continued presence of a diverse fish community.
  • Increasing or sustained abundances of copper rockfish.
  • Increasing and sustained large individual sizes of copper rockfish.
  • The persistence of wolfeel and giant Pacific octopus.