Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative

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map of current counties with MRCs

The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative, authorized by Congress in 1998, is nationally recognized as an innovative approach to bring sound science and an ecosystem perspective together with citizen energy and entrepreneurship.

Northwest Straits Commission

The Northwest Straits Commission provides coordination, technical support and funding to the seven citizen based Marine Resource Committees (MRCs) within the Northwest Straits region. Volunteers in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Island, San Juan, Jefferson and Clallam counties select restoration and conservation projects that meet performance benchmarks, attract diverse partners, and engage large numbers of community members in the process.

In addition to the local projects undertaken by the Marine Resources Committees, the Northwest Straits Commission takes on regional marine conservation and restoration projects determined to be high priorities for action that address the Initiative's performance benchmarks.

Current regional projects include:

  • Olympia oyster restoration
  • Establishing eelgrass protection zones
  • Ocean acidification mitigation
  • Shoreline restoration

The Northwest Straits Commission is composed of five gubernatorial appointees, one Secretary of the Interior appointee, and a representative from each of the seven counties in the Northwest Straits region. The Commission serves as a "board of directors" for the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative. Its members represent each of the Marine Resources Committees, tribes, the Puget Sound Partnership and additional appointments by the Governor.

Northwest Straits Foundation

The Northwest Straits Foundation is a non-profit organization established to support the scientific, restoration, and education projects and programs of the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative. The Foundation was created in 2002 to augment the ability of the Northwest Straits Initiative to pursue funding for its programs and projects. The Foundation has since grown into a strong regional organization that works closely with the Northwest Straits Commission and the seven county-based Marine Resources Committees to set regional priorities and develop projects that achieve our commonly held marine conservation objectives.

The Foundation attains its goals by:

  • Working in collaboration with the Marine Resources Committees of the Northwest Straits to develop, fund, and manage restoration, education, and citizen science projects within their home waters.
  • Developing and managing restoration and education projects of regional scope, such as the Derelict Fishing Gear Removal program and the new Community Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Program.

Marine Resource Committees (MRCs)

Marine Resources Committees (MRCs)are county-based citizen advisory committees created by the Northwest Straits Commission to identify local priority actions needed to protect and restore local marine resources. There are 7 MRCs in the Northwest Straits area of Puget Sound.

The Northwest Straits Commission and the Northwest Straits Foundation provide support for the North Puget Sound marine resource committees.

New MRCs

The original seven North Puget Sound MRCs developed under the NW Straits authority have been recently joined by additional organizations on the outer coast of Washington, using the same model, under a state authority given to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That authority extends to South Puget Sound, but has not been funded by the state legislature (c. 2012).