What is the Marine Resources Committee
The waters of Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca comprise a rich and diverse marine ecosystem. Rocky shores provide excellent habitat for a variety of intertidal life; the deep, open waters of the Straits make for rich feeding and breeding grounds for many marine mammals; and, the areas's estuaries provide protected rearing areas for young salmon and other organisms.
But, the health of the ecosystem is in jeopardy. Symptoms of ecosystem stress include declining stocks of salmon, bottomfish, and forage fish; closures of recreational and commercial shellfish beds; degradation and losses of eelgrass beds, kelp forests, and other marine habitats; and dwindling populations of seabirds and marine mammals.
The Northwest Straits includes the open waters, nearshore areas and shorelines of the U.S. side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Strait of Georgia, as well as the waters of northern Puget Sound, from the Canadian border to the south end of Whidbey Island.
The Whatcom County Marine Resources Committee (MRC) is one of seven citizen-based committees that have been formed in the Northwest Straits region to address these marine issues. In 1998 the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative was authorized by Congress. This Initiative established a 13-member Northwest Straits Commission and Marine Resources Committees (MRCs) in seven western Washington counties. The Initiative provides a “bottom-up”, local approach to protecting and restoring local marine resources with active citizen involvement.
There are five citizen-based interest groups represented in the Whatcom County MRC. These include: Conservation and Environmental Interest, Economic Interest, Recreational Interest, Relevant Scientific Expertise, and Citizen-at-Large. In addition, the MRC has representation from elected officials, local tribes, and local government staff.
Goals of the Northwest Straits Initiative
The goals of the Northwest Straits Initiative are to protect and restore the marine waters, habitats, and species of the Northwest Straits region to achieve ecosystem health and sustainable resource use by:
- Empowering local citizens through Marine Resource Committees and the Commission structure to identify and resolve marine environmental concerns;
- Designing and initiating projects that are driven by sound science, local priorities, community-based decisions and the ability to measure results;
- Building awareness and stewardship and making recommendations to improve the health of the Northwest Straits marine resources;
- Maintaining and expanding diverse membership and partner organizations;
- Expanding partnerships with tribal governments and continuing to foster respect for tribal cultures and treaties;
- Recognizing the importance of economic and social benefits that are dependent on marine environments and sustainable marine resources.
Specific benchmarks for measuring progress towards these goals have been
developed for the following elements: marine habitats, marine life, marine
water quality, sound science, and education and outreach. More
information about the benchmarks.
Revitalizing and preserving Whatcom County marine resources for future generations.