Puget Sound Innovation Stories

Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative

Local people. Local solutions.

The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative catalyzes and empowers local communities to conserve and restore their marine resources. Established in 1998, the Northwest Straits Commission provides funding, training and support to seven county-based Marine Resources Committees(MRCs). It facilitates regional coordination among the MRCs and connects the MRC work to regional planning processes,such as the Puget Sound Partnership Action Agenda,and regional salmon recovery efforts.The MRCs represent all sectors of their community and have become the hub of marine conservation and restoration at the county level. They frequently advise their county elected officials about marine conservation priorities and policy. From nearshore restoration projects and Olympia oyster seeding, to promoting voluntary no-anchor zones and marine stewardship plans, these committees effect change at the local level that adds up big for Puget Sound recovery. The Northwest Straits Initiative’s unique and innovative approach combines sound science and ecosystem perspective together with local energy and entrepreneurship to benefit Puget Sound.The Northwest Straits Foundation is the non-profit partner of the Northwest Straits Initiative and also supports the MRCs by accessing funding and managing projects.

What works:

  • Engaging hundreds of citizens in the seven County Marine Resources Committees builds local support for Puget Sound recovery.
  • Providing science-based and regionally informed advice to local governments improves local decision-making.
  • Engaging hundreds of volunteers annually in recovery projects increases capacity for project work.
  • Monitoring by MRC citizen volunteers along 60 miles of nearshore documents where forage fish are laying eggs so that those areas can be protected. Surveying bull kelp in seven northern counties documents the status of kelp in Puget Sound.
  • Jefferson County MRC’s Voluntary Eelgrass Protection Zone, encourages boaters to avoid anchoring in eelgrass, protecting 52 acres of eelgrass habitat in Port Townsend Bay for over ten years.
  • Hosting an annual lecture series by Whatcom County MRC educated thousands of citizens about Puget Sound recovery and marine conservation.
  • Educating boaters about how to behave around Southern Resident Killer Whales by San Juan County MRC allows killer whales to forage and transit without vessel interference.
  • Restoring over 1,000 feet of the shoreline at Cornet Bay by Island County MRC increased habitat for forage fish, juvenile salmon, and other nearshore dependent fish and wildlife.
  • Removing more than 500 derelict crab pots from Port Gardner by Snohomish County MRC protects over 11,000 Dungeness crab from death in derelict crab pots and increases numbers of harvestable crab for commercial and recreational crabbers.
  • Skagit County MRC Olympia oyster restoration program has restored over an acre of naturally reproducing Olympia oysters in Fidalgo Bay.
  • Training 540 volunteers in oil spill response by Clallam County MRC increases spill response readiness in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.


  • Regionally informed local support for Puget Sound Recovery
  • Locally driven and locally appropriate solutions to regional marine conservation challenges
  • Local elected officials are informed about science-based solution to marine conservation challenges
  • A cadre of informed citizens leads Puget Sound Recovery at the local level


  • Congressional District: 1, 2, 6
  • Legislative District: 10, 24, 32, 38, 39, 40, 42
  • WRIA: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7,17, 18, 19
  • County: Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Island, San Juan, Clallam, Jefferson


  • Northwest Straits Commission
  • Northwest Straits Foundation
  • County Marine Resources Committees
  • Counties, cities and ports
  • Puget Sound tribes
  • Puget Sound Partnership
  • EPA
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources
  • Washington Sea Grant
  • Puget Sound Restoration Fund
  • Many others

Project Funding:

  • EPA National Estuary Program
  • NOAA
  • State appropriation
  • Counties
  • Federal appropriation
  • Government and private foundation grants
  • Private foundations
  • Corporate and individual contributions

More Info

Publish Date: June 15, 2019