Marine Protected Areas within Puget Sound

False Bay Marine Preserve

WAC 220-302-100(1): "The tidelands and bedlands of False Bay on San Juan Island, including all University of Washington-owned tidelands beginning at a marker 400 feet east of the east entrance of False Bay and extending to the entrance of False Bay, all University of Washington-owned tidelands and bedlands within a line beginning at the University of Washington marker on the shore at the east entrance of False Bay, projected 500 yards offshore, thence northwesterly to a point 500 yards offshore along a line projected from a University of Washington marker on the shore at the west side of a small peninsula at the west entrance of False Bay, thence to shore along said line to the marker, and all University of Washington-owned tidelands west of the marker to a University of Washington marker 600 feet west of the small peninsula." Effective since 3/31/1990.


Links to other imagery about this site

The view from the northern edge of SW Oregon Street (point A in the index picture above), looking south-westerly. This line marks the southern boundary of the MP.


Recreational Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Open  
Trout Open  
Bottomfish Closed  
Shellfish Closed  
Forage Fish Limited Fishing only for herring is allowed.
Unclassified Open  
Commercial Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Open  
Bottomfish Closed  
Shellfish Closed  
Forage Fish Limited Fishing only for herring is allowed.
Unclassified Closed  


Geographic Statistics

Area Type Acres Hectares
Intertidal 225.57 91.29
Subtidal 94.66 38.31
Total 320.24 129.60


Introduction and Purpose

The False Bay Marine Preserve is one of the five San Juan Marine Preserves created in 1990 in conjunction with the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories (FHL). WDWF created these partial-take reserves after FHL requested that the intertidal and subtidal waters adjacent to their upland biological preserves be protected from harvesting pressure for bottomfish and invertebrates.

The primary goals of this reserve are to foster stewardship of unique or important resources or habitats, provide research and education areas, and provide baseline areas or reference sites.

Prominent and unique features

The main feature of the False Bay Marine Preserve is a large Intertidal bay that is owned by the University of Washington. The bay is composed of unconsolidated substrates such as sand and mud with many erratic boulders and cobbles scattered throughout the bay. The bay gives rise to subtidal habitats in the western part of Haro Strait that are included in the marine preserve. The subtidal portion extends seaward to approximately the 50 foot isobath. The dominant substrate is sand, pebble, and cobble interspersed with rocky ridges and boulder fields running in an onshore-offshore direction. Several small islands and skerries are associated with these rocky subtidal habitats.

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

The bay supports a variety of invertebrate species that are often studied by students and researchers at Friday Harbor Laboratories. In addition, this bay may be an important shorebird habitat during migration. Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) undoubtedly make use of the nearshore habitats along the outer reaches of the preserve, and orca whales (Orcinus orca) can be encountered in the offshore areas of the preserve.

The rocky habitats and large cobbles provide substrate for dense kelp canopies consisting of bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) and understory kelps such as Laminaria saccarhina. Filamentous and coralline algae cover many of the boulder and bedrock surfaces. The mixed sand and rocky habitats support several fish species of both. Copper rockfish and kelp perch inhabit the kelp beds and rocky habitats, and striped seaperches and kelp greenlings inhabit both habitats while whitespotted greenling and starry flounder inhabit the sand habitat. Red sea urchins also are abundant on many of the rocky substrates.

Programs in place to manage the site

WDFW manages the site as a partially-protected marine reserve for non-tribal citizens. WDFW regulations prohibit commercial and recreational fishing for bottomfish and classified shellfish. Recreational and commercial fishing may occur for the harvesting of salmon, trout, and forage fishes except that commercial fisheries for forage fishes are limited to Pacific herring (Clupea harengus pallasi). WDFW regulation allows the taking of unclassified fish and invertebrates by recreational fishers.

The University of Washington through its Friday Harbor Laboratories (FHL) primarily owns the site, and this institution can be considered as co-managers. The preserve was created at the request of FHL as a place for researchers to study and access marine organisms in a natural condition. The university has posted many signs in the upland habitat declaring it a biological preserve and has an agreement with WDFW to provide shore-based signs declaring a restricted fishing zone.

The enforcement of the harvest restrictions is primarily 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.

This is not a site where WDFW is actively monitoring fish and wildlife populations.

Issues of concern

The definition for the offshore perimeter of the False Bay Marine Preserve is complex and not easily identified from the shore or by boat. This complexity compromises the ability for the fishing public to obey regulations.

The impacts of the scientific study and collection of organisms on the integrity of the protected organisms and ecosystem is unknown.

The remoteness of the site makes access by scientists difficult so fish and wildlife populations are not monitored. Greater cooperation could occur with FHL so the findings by students and researchers working in the preserve could be shared with WDFW.

Performance measures

  • The continued integrity of ecosystem and population of study organisms accessed by FHL students and researchers.