strait of juan de fuca

Vessel Traffic in the Salish Sea: Preparing for the Future

Written by Michael Chang
Story Map by Michael Chang (2015-2016 Hershman Marine Policy Fellow, Makah Tribe/The Nature Conservancy), Erica Simek Sloniker (GIS & Visual Communications), and Laura Nelson (2014-2015 Hershman Marine Policy Fellow, Makah Tribe/The Nature Conservancy)

The Salish Sea, a body of water between British Columbia and Washington State that includes the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound, is a region that supports the livelihoods of millions of people. Communities, tribes, and First Nations are intimately dependent on these waters for food, culture, recreation, and industry.

Every year, about 10,000 cargo ships carry hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil through the Salish Sea, creating a constant risk of oil spills in the region that could harm community and tribal livelihoods. However, an intricate network of experts from the Coast Guard, U.S. tribes, Canadian First Nations, state & federal agencies, regional non-profits, and local communities have prevented a major oil spill from occurring in over 20 years.

Recently, there have been several new proposals and developments for oil terminals that will increase the oil shipping volume by twofold. To ensure that the Salish Sea can adapt to the doubling of vessels and oil, the Makah Tribe and TNC have partnered together to organize a trans-boundary vessel safety summit in order to improve the U.S. and Canadian coordination for oil response, prevention, and preparedness.

The Nature Conservancy and Makah have created an interactive story map detailing the vessel safety system and what needs to be done to accommodate the expected increase in vessel traffic.

See the full, interactive story map on vessel traffic on oil spill preparedness and response in the Salish Sea region. 

A Whidbey Island Getaway

Written and Photographed by Nathan Hadley, Northwest Photographer

One of my favorite pastimes while living on Whidbey Island three years ago was to run to Nature Conservancy’s Ebey’s Landing, taking a rural road north from the old barracks of Fort Casey. The road rises over a hill and drops down into a small farmed valley. The valley—which would make many inclined toward the earth want to quit their job and start farming—opens into Ebey’s Landing State Park, facing the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Along the shoreline, the bluffs drop down towards a small gravel parking lot and then rise again. The Nature Conservancy’s land begins as the bluff nears its climax to the north. 

I hiked up that bluff recently, for the first time since my time on Whidbey a few years ago. It was a beautiful December day, splendidly dressed in thousands of shades of grey, earthen green and blue. The wind was as wild as I had felt it in awhile—louder and stronger than my last day climbing high in the North Cascades in early fall. It was invigorating. My friend, Joel, and I didn’t bother with talking. It wasn’t worth it, so we turned inward. 

I was struck by the wind-stunted and twisted Douglas firs. It didn’t seem like they were the same species as those lining tall along many Pacific Northwest roads. Of course I knew wind could turn and twist trees in such a way, as I was a proper naturalist, according to myself. “Are you sure these are Douglas firs?” I asked Joel. He pulled a clump of needles to his face, examined some identifying characteristic I didn’t know about, and reassured me that they were. 

I think it’s fair to say that the same wind that shaped these trees, shaped me as well, though only for a short time three years ago. 

And yet, as I walked along those trees high on the bluff on that blusterous day, I felt the wind’s imprint and realized the course that it had set in my own growth.