Marine Protected Areas within Puget Sound

Shaw Island Marine Preserve

WAC 220-302-100(5): "Those tidelands and bedlands within a line beginning at a University of Washington marker on the shore at Hicks Bay, 122 degrees, 58 minutes, 15 seconds west longitude, thence due south 500 yards, thence north and west at a distance of 500 yards from shore to the intersection with a line projected 261 degrees true from a University of Washington marker on the shore of Parks Bay, which line passes just south of the unnamed island at the north end of Parks Bay, thence along said line to the shore of Shaw Island, including all tidelands and bedlands of Parks Bay south of said line." Effective since 3/31/1990.


Links to other imagery about this site

The map at left has the locations (A and B) of the photographer from where the two images below were taken.

Shaw Island from
position A, looking NW.

Shaw Island from
position B, looking S.
Recreational Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Open  
Trout Open  
Bottomfish Closed  
Shellfish Limited Only crabbing is allowed in Parks Bay.
Forage Fish Limited Fishing only for herring is allowed.
Unclassified Open  
Commercial Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Open  
Bottomfish Closed  
Shellfish Limited Only crabbing is allowed in Parks Bay.
Forage Fish Limited Fishing only for herring is allowed.
Unclassified Closed  


Geographic Statistics

Area Type Acres Hectares
Intertidal None None
Subtidal 432.47 175.01
Total 432.47 175.01


Introduction and Purpose

The Shaw Island 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. Research and monitoring is actively conducted in this reserve by WDFW and UW scientists and students.

Prominent and unique features

A series of rocky headlands composed of bedrock separated by a series of grottos makes up the upland portions adjacent to the Shaw Island Marine Preserve, the largest of WDFW's marine reserves. The headlands have a narrow intertidal zone and give rise to steep walls of bedrock that quickly reach depths of 400 feet (mllw) within the 500 yard offshore boundary of the reserve. The grottos have moderate slopes and have stacked boulder fields and coarse sediments of cobble and gravel. In the photic zone, floating kelp beds of bull kelp (Nereocystis leutkeana) are found in the grottos and near the edges of the rocky walls. Bladed kelps such as Laminaria saccharina and foliose red algae cover much of the boulders and wall faces.

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

The fishes and invertebrates inhabiting the Shaw Island Marine Reserve are those typical of rocky habitats in the San Juan Archipelago. In contrast to the Friday Harbor Marine Preserve, quillback rockfish (Sebastes maliger) are common at the site. Also common are copper rockfish (S. caurinus), Puget Sound rockfish (S. emphaeus), kelp greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus), and lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus).

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 most 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 regulations allow the taking of crabs in Parks Bay and the taking of unclassified fish and invertebrates by recreational fishers.

Most of the upland portions of the site is owned by the University of Washington through its Friday Harbor Laboratories (FHL), 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.

WDFW scientists conduct occasional surveys of the fish community during which species are identified, counted, and measured. Research conducted at the Friday Harbor Marine Preserve is used to evaluate the effectiveness of reserves in San Juan Channel. Other scientists have conducted long-term monitoring of fish populations at this site and found larger fishes in the reserve since its designation as a preserve.

Issues of concern

The allowance of recreational fishing for salmon and the subsequent unintentional harvest of other species may limit the ability of fish populations to increase to natural levels. Scientific collecting may also have this potential impact.

Anchoring by recreational boaters and researchers may cause damage to the substrate and the habitat for bottomfish and invertebrates.

The remote location of the San Juan Marine Preserves makes enforcement difficult.

The reserve is located in a heavy-use area by recreational and commercial passenger vessels. A potential threat exists from vessel collisions or groundings and subsequent oil discharge into the reserve.

Performance measures

  • The continued presence of a diverse fish community.
  • Increasing or sustained abundances of copper rockfish and lingcod.
  • Increasing and sustained large individual sizes of copper rockfish and lingcod.
  • The increasing or sustained high nesting activity by lingcod.