Protection Island Aquatic Reserve
About the Aquatic Reserve
Designated in 2010, Protection Island Aquatic Reserve protects 23,778 acres of state-owned aquatic lands around Protection Island. The rich habitats of Protection Island, supported by the surrounding aquatic reserve, are the single most important nesting area for seabirds in the Salish Sea.
Protection Island is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge. The western tip of Protection Island is managed by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife as the Zella M. Schultz Seabird Sanctuary. There is a 200-yard buffer around the island to ensure nesting seabirds and resting marine mammals are not disturbed.
|Protection Island Aquatic Reserve At-A-Glance|
|Designated||Designated in 2010|
|Size||23,778 acres of state-owned aquatic lands|
Rhinoceros auklets, glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon guillemots
and tufted puffins
|Important habitats||Mixed kelp beds, sandy spits and feeder bluffs|
|Management Plan||Management Plan (2010)|
|Commissioner's Order||Commissioner's Order (2010)|
|Map||Protection Island Aquatic Reserve Map|
Click here or on the image above to launch the Aquatic Reserves Program Data Viewer.
Species and Habitats
The diverse habitats of Protection Island Aquatic Reserve are a product of dynamic physical processes constantly at play. The waters are rich in nutrients, thanks to strong winds and tidal currents that drive upwelling. The erosion of prominent bluffs supply beaches with sand, gravel, and rocks. Submerged underwater ledges sustain beds of emerald green seagrasses, profuse seaweeds, and varied kelp beds. Juvenile salmonids migrate along shore using the calmer waters of kelp beds as refuge, while young-of-the-year rockfish use layered kelp canopies as safe nursery areas.
Approximately 70 percent of the nesting seabird population of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca nest on Protection Island. This area supports one of the largest breeding populations of rhinoceros auklets in the world, and the largest nesting colony of glaucous-winged gulls in Washington. The aquatic reserve waters provide fertile fishing grounds where birds feed on Pacific sand lance and Pacific herring. Undisturbed shorelines provide molting sea ducks safe refuge, while pigeon guillemots nest in burrows in the adjacent steep bluffs.
Citizen Science and Stewardship
A Citizen Stewardship Committee organizes volunteer surveys of intertidal species and marine birds and marine mammals at Protection Island Aquatic Reserve. The committee also works to educate others about nearshore ecology, the Aquatic Reserve's condition, and planning issues that affect the reserve.
During monthly boat-based bird and marine mammal surveys, the Citizen Science Committee has found:
- Large numbers of common murres migrate into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in late summer/fall and become the most abundant bird in the Aquatic Reserve during the fall and winter
- Ancient murrelets migrate into the area in late fall/winter
- Marbled murrelets stage in areas of the Aquatic Reserve during February and March
- Yellow-billed loons, an uncommon loon in North America, winter in the Aquatic Reserve
Citizen Science Reports
Science and Monitoring
The Aquatic Reserves Program Data Viewer is an interactive map with monitoring data collected by the Aquatic Reserves Program and Citizen Stewardship Committees. Click here to view the interactive map.
Reports and Links
- Breeding Seabirds and Shorebirds of Protection Island (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
- Rhinoceros Auklet Ecology (WDFW)
- Kelp Forests Along Washington’s Strait of Juan de Fuca Over a Century (DNR)
The Protection Island Aquatic Reserve Implementation Committee is a stakeholder advisory group that provides guidance on management priorities and helps implement management actions.
|Implementation Committee Meeting Summaries|
|July 5, 2017||Newsletter|
|October 4, 2016||Meeting Summary|
|May 18, 2016||Meeting Summary|
|November 16, 2015||Meeting Summary|
|July 27, 2015||Meeting Summary|
|July 16, 2013||Meeting Summary|
|March 22, 2013||Meeting Summary|
|December 10, 2012||Meeting Summary|