Marine Protected Areas within Puget Sound

Z's Reef Marine Preserve

WAC 220-302-120: "'Z's Reef Marine Preserve' is defined as waters and bedlands inside a line beginning at the extreme low water line on the northeast side of Fox Island at 47° 14.56' N, 122° 35.98' W, then extending 0.5 nautical mile northwesterly along the extreme low water line to 47° 14.96' N, 122° 36.37' W, then northeast to the minus eighty-five foot depth contour (MLLW = 0 feet) at 47° 15.00' N, 122° 36.30' W, then southeasterly along the eighty-five foot depth contour to 47° 14.67' N, 122° 35.81' W, then southwest to the point of origin." Effective since 9/9/2002.


Links to other imagery about this site

78kBTaken from near the northern end of the preserve, looking south.

Taken from near the northern end of the preserve, looking south.

Recreational Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Limited Salmon fishing only by fly-fishing 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 55.95 22.64
Total 55.95 22.64


Prominent and unique features

The site contains one of the few natural rocky outcroppings in southern Puget Sound and is located approximately 200 yards offshore of the shoreline. Ranging in depth from 35 feet (mllw) to 60 feet, the rocky outcropping is a ridge extending approximately 400 yards in a southeast to northwest direction. The outcropping is composed of bedrock and hardpan outcroppings, with two rows of bedrock that rise 2 yards above the bottom in many places along the ridge. At a number of places, the bedrock is undercut forming caves and crevices. At several places along the ridge, the bedrock has fractured to form both isolated boulders and piles of stacked boulders. Inshore of the ridge, the benthic habitat consists of sand flats and slopes with sufficient boulders and cobble to form substrates for sparse fields of algae including understory kelps such as Laminaria saccharina. Offshore of the ridge, the benthic habitat consists of sand slopes with occasional small rocks and cobbles.

The rocky habitat of the site is located several hundred yards offshore and the uplands are in private ownership with many houses on the sloping bluff. This is the first marine reserve in South Puget Sound that contains significant rocky habitat. Natural rocky habitats are rare in South Puget Sound because of the geological history of the area. Z's Reef stands out among the South Puget Sound habitats because it contains a mixture of high relief structural habitat and moderate complexity areas that provide hiding spaces.

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

A variety of fishes typically associated with rocky habitats congregate at the site and in such quantities that are presently unusual for southern Puget Sound. The dominant fishes include copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus), brown rockfish (S. auriculatus), and quillback rockfish (S. maliger). Other common fishes include lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus), kelp greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus), painted greenling (Oxylebius pictus), wolfeel (Anarrichthys oceallatus), and striped seaperch (Embiotoca lateralis). Pregnant rockfishes are observed at the site during the spring indicating that at least some fishes use the site for reproduction.

Other marine organisms include sea stars, encrusting organisms such as giant barnacles (Balanus nubilis), red sea cucumbers (Parastichopus califorfnicus), shrimp (Pandalidae), and red rock crabs (Cancer productus). Seastars are common including sunflower seastar (Pycnopodia helianthoides) and gumboot chitons (Cryptochiton stelleri) are also frequently observed.

Programs in place to manage the site

WDFW regulations prohibit commercial fishing and most forms of recreational fishing and harvesting at Z's Reef Marine Preserve. WDFW manages the site as partially-protected marine reserve for non-tribal citizens. The taking of all species of invertebrates, bottomfishes and unclassified marine fishes is prohibited by WDFW regulations. Recreational salmon fishers may harvest salmon in the Marine Preserve but only while using fly-fishing gear.

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. Because of the private ownership of the uplands bordering the reserve no shore-based signage is present. WDFW is developing specific pamphlets describing each of its marine reserves.

WDWF scientists include Z's Reef 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.

Issues of concern

The area immediately waterward of the site is actively trolled. The site was left open to fly-fishing because this gear generally does not catch the species of rockfish anticipated (copper and quillback). The remoteness of the site makes enforcement and signage difficult. The site is actively visited by recreational scuba divers using private boats or on charter boats. While high visitation may be desirable to increase watchable wildlife opportunities, divers potentially could invoke stress to fishes living on the relatively small rocky habitat.

The private ownership of the uplands and the offshore nature of the site prevent signage on the shore, so enforcement of the boundaries is difficult.

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.