WWU’s Salish Sea Institute Releases Comprehensive ‘State of the Salish Sea’ Report

Western Washington University’s Salish Sea Institute today released its comprehensive “State of the Salish Sea” report; in it, more than 20 authors and contributors illustrate how the ecosystem is under relentless pressure from an accelerating convergence of global and local environmental stressors and the cumulative impacts of 150 years of development and alteration of our watersheds and seascape.

This is the first comprehensive, scientific overview of the health of the Salish Sea since the 1994 Shared Waters Report, which was triggered by a formal agreement between former Washington State Governor Booth Gardner and former British Columbia Premier Mike Harcourt. 

“This is an exceptional and unique report. It represents a landmark effort to understand how the Salish Sea social-ecological system works, what is causing it to change, and what we can do about it,” said Ian Perry, emeritus scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Nanaimo, British Columbia, and a member of Science Advisory Committee for the report. "The report will be essential reading for scientists, marine managers, industry and civic leaders, and everyone interested in the health of the marine environment of this place that we call home.”

The lead author of the report is WWU Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Kathryn Sobocinski, with guest authors and contributors from the United States and Canada adding context and research from across a broad spectrum of fields and disciplines.

The State of the Salish Sea provides an overall assessment of the health of this vital waterway by summarizing stressors – primarily climate change and human development — which are contributing to ecosystem decline. The report details examples of ecosystem response to those impacts and identifies science-based needs and opportunities for stronger collaboration across the entire ecosystem, including working across cultural and political boundaries.

“Thorough and credible, the State of the Salish Sea report is a long-overdue, evidence-based assessment of the condition of the Salish Sea ecosystem. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment is that Dr. Sobocinski’s team captured the wakening of scientists, managers, and citizens to the fact that the Georgia and Juan de Fuca Straits and Puget Sound comprise one integrated ecosystem,” said Ronald Thom, the Immediate Past President of the Washington State Academy of Sciences and staff scientist emeritus of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

While strong science is critical to understanding the ecosystem, the report provides a spectrum of ideas and opportunities for how governments, organizations, and individuals can work together to meet the needs of science and science-driven management that will sustain the Salish Sea estuarine ecosystem.

In support of the report’s release, the institute will host an online symposium on May 26 featuring Sobocinski and contributors Aquila Flower (WWU) and Emily Howe  (The Nature Conservancy). More than 900 people are already registered, showing the broad interest of the region in the health of this incredibly important ecosystem.

“The Salish Sea Institute saw the need for this report to be done given the magnitude of environmental threats facing the Salish Sea. I’m thrilled to see such positive response already,” said Ginny Broadhurst, director of the Salish Sea Institute.

To download the report or get more information on events in support of the report’s release, go to Western’s Salish Sea Institute website at https://wp.wwu.edu/salishsea/.