Protection Island Aquatic Reserve

 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

Protection Island Aquatic Reserve Map
Click here or on the image above to launch the Aquatic Reserves Program Data Viewer.

Species and Habitats

View of Protection Island Aquatic ReserveAncient murrelets in Protection Island Aquatic ReserveProtection Island Aquatic Reserve
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 Yellow-billed loonStrait 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 

Explore science and monitoring projects conducted on the Protection Island Aquatic Reserve in the Aquatic Reserves StoryMap Collection. In addition, 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

Implementation Committee

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