San Juan Islands Eelgrass Recovery Pilot Project

This project is using three different methods to replant eelgrass, which is critical habitat for herring and other forage fish, and has died off significantly since the early 2000s.

The disappearance of eelgrass can wreak havoc on all aspects of the marine environment of the San Juan Islands. Without forage fish, salmon are at a loss for food and have also declined. Chinook salmon make up  80 to 90% of the diet of the resident killer whales.

These flowering plants, which grow submerged in shallow marine waters, provide myriad benefits, including:

  • Food for waterfowl

  • Shelter for many species of fish, crustaceans, and other animals

  • Storm and erosion mitigation as their root systems stabilize the soft ocean bottom

  • Better water quality, by trapping fine particles and filtering nutrients in runoff

  • Economic support, as habitat for commercially important fish

  • Carbon sequestration, because an acre of seagrass can store about three times as much carbon as an acre of rainforest

This project attempts to restore eelgrass habitat in Westcott Bay on San Juan Island and Blind Bay on Lopez Island by testing three different transplanting methods. 

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