Protecting eelgrass and shellfish habitats through voluntary community action
Port Townsend is a popular destination for pleasure boaters in Washington’s inland waters. Eelgrass beds flourish in the nearshore just beyond the waterfront and were at risk for significant damage from boat anchors. Eelgrass beds provide critically important habitat for salmon, crab, invertebrates and other marine life, and Pacific herring lay their eggs directly on the leaves. To protect the eelgrass beds, the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee (MRC) established a voluntary “No Anchor Zone” in 2004. Special navigational buoys mark the outer boundaries of the eelgrass zone and ask vessel operators to anchor out for safety and salmon. Outreach focuses on the importance of eelgrass and requests for voluntary compliance. Vessel monitoring over the last 14 years shows that the marker buoys and outreach succeeded in achieving over 98% compliance by boaters. The voluntary No Anchor Zone was expanded in 2015 and now protects 52 acres of eelgrass along this bustling maritime waterfront.
- Placing buoys protected 52 acres of eelgrass habitat in Port Townsend from damage by boat anchors.
- Signage and volunteer outreach resulted in over 98% of vessels anchoring outside the areas designated by the buoys to protect the eelgrass beds.
- Reducing anchoring resulted in an increase in the area of eelgrass beds from 2007 to 2014.
- Placing informational signs at seven locations along the shore helped reach more boaters and citizens quickly.
- Success of the program led to additional No Anchor Zones in Port Hadlock and Mystery Bay to protect more shellfish and eelgrass beds.
- Continued support by volunteers keeps costs low.
- Voluntary No Anchor Zones also reduce the risk to shellfish harvest areas from accidental contamination.
- No Anchor Zones help improve safety by keeping boats out of the soft sediments of eelgrass beds where anchors drag or drift in the current.
- Boaters are educating new boaters about the importance of No Anchor Zones.
- Congressional District: 6
- Legislative District: 24
- WRIA: 17
- County: Jefferson County
- Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee
- Northwest Straits Initiative
- Puget Sound Partnership
- Port of Port Townsend
- City of Port Townsend
- Jefferson County Parks
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Washington State University
- Northwest Maritime Center
- Port Townsend Fire Department
- EPA National Estuary Program
- Northwest Straits Foundation
- Department of Ecology
- Department of Health
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation