DNR Dive Team
With 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Aquatic Resource Division, DNR’s Dive Team is an essential asset to the State of Washington and the people they serve. The team is made up of a dynamic and diverse team of divers with backgrounds in marine biology, scientific diving, commercial diving and professional dive instruction. While the primary objective of the Dive Team is to support compliance operations for the Washington State Wild Stock Geoduck Fishery, the team also supports a range of other projects within DNR and for other departments and agencies throughout the state.
GEODUCK FISHERY ENFORCEMENT
The Dive Team’s primary objective is to provide field contract compliance for the Washington State Wild Stock Geoduck Fishery. Commercial geoduck harvest occurs below the surface of the water and the DNR Dive Team is there to make sure harvest best practices are followed.
These duties include demarcation of the harvest area (called a tract) prior to the start of a contract period, monitoring and supporting harvests in the fishery, and enforcing harvest contracts.
The dive team conducts SCUBA dive operations as an essential function of its mission. These operations include collecting geoduck samples for the Department of Health to test for Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) and Arsenic, which ensures harvested geoducks are safe for human consumption.
The team also uses SCUBA to ensure the harvest is conducted in accordance with environmental assessments provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). These assessments establish tract boundaries to protect sensitive nearshore habitats such as eelgrass and prescribe specific conditions for each harvest site. The team also documents daily harvest activity including vessel location and catch records for future tract planning and sustainability.
The Washington State Geoduck Fishery is administered by DNR in accordance with Washington Administrative Code (WAC) and the Habitat Conservation Plan est. in 2008 [PDF].
For the most current information about where active harvest is taking place or to view upcoming geoduck auctions click here. To report suspected shellfish poaching contact Fish & Wildlife here. For other comments, questions or concerns you can reach our Program Manager, Brad Pruitt, at Brad.Pruitt@dnr.wa.gov or 360-480-4802.
SUPPORTING DNR PROGRAMS
Within the Department of Natural Resources the Dive Team has provided support and services to the Derelict Vessel, Aquatic Leases, Nearshore Habitat and Invasive Species programs. These projects have included:
- Documentation and inspection of derelict vessels
- Removal of illegally installed/unpermitted mooring systems
- Installation/retrieval of experimental docking systems & sensors
- Conducting nearshore habitat surveys
- Conducting nearshore cleanup of abandoned DNR aquatic lease sites
- Assisting with eelgrass monitoring and transplantation studies
- Routine removal and disposal of located anthropogenic debris and plastic from area waters
- Front line interaction with the general public to educate on DNR’s marine based programs
PHOTO: 2019 Meeting between the DNR Dive Team Leadership and WDFW Law Enforcement Officers strategizing about cooperative monitoring and enforcement efforts within the geoduck industry and throughout the Puget Sound.
Through our multi-agency initiative, the DNR Dive Team has had the opportunity to work alongside local and state law enforcement, Department of Health, Department of Fish & Wildlife, Department of Ecology, NOAA, Tribal Fishery Representatives, and Branches of the US Military. These projects have included:
- Search & recovery efforts
- Identifying/reporting illegal crab pot systems
- Collecting water samples
- Transporting deceased marine mammal carcasses for necropsy [Article]
- Shellfish wastage investigations
- Rogue naval mine monitoring [Article]
- Aiding entangled whale [Article]
- Reporting/removal of identified hazards to marine navigation
- Reporting marine fuel spills
- USCG Channel 16 Distress Vessel response
PROTECTING PUGET SOUND
PHOTO: Salish Scout compliance vessel. One of two new vessels built by Armstrong Marines USA.
The DNR Dive Team has maintained a constant presence and has played a significant role in supporting DNR’s responsibilities in Washington’s inland marine waters of Puget Sound and the greater Salish Sea. The motto “Protecting Puget Sound,” embossed on the hull of our vessels, is intended to highlight our Agency’s role as stewards of the 2.6 million acres of State-owned aquatic lands, managed in the best interest of the people of the State of Washington and the natural habitats they support. For the DNR Dive Team, this means providing vigilance both upon and below the marine waters that make Puget Sound such an unique and treasured resource to the people of Washington.