Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area
The Nature Conservancy has identified Port Susan as a priority conservation area of high biodiversity importance (Floberg et al. 2004). Since 2007, work has been underway to develop a Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area (MSA) through a partnership between the Snohomish and Island County MRCs, Tulalip Tribes, the Stillaguamish Tribe, The Nature Conservancy, WSU Extension of Snohomish and Island Counties and Washington Sea Grant (with support from the NWSC). For more information on the overall project, please contact Kathleen Herrmann. A few additional resources are the Port Susan Bay Ecosystem Wiki and The Nature Conservancy's Port Susan Bay Preserve.
What is a marine stewardship area?
A marine stewardship area (MSA) is a conservation designation that works to generate responsibility within the relevant authorities and users of marine environments for the conservation of the natural, cultural, and scenic value. It encourages citizen participation and a common community vision. The designation carries no regulatory authority.
Designating a Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area (PSMSA) and adopting a community based marine stewardship plan will define a community vision for enhanced stewardship of Port Susan. This will lead to a greater understanding of the marine environment and ensure Port Susan continues to provide diverse benefits for all people. Enhanced stewardship will encourage protection of marine resources through education, citizen science, voluntary measures, increased communications and partnerships, strong leadership and coordinated enforcement of existing regulation.
In parallel to the Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area planning process, Washington Sea Grant and WSU Snohomish and Island County Extension Beach Watchers developed a citizen science project to address data gaps identified in the viability and threats assessments. In summer of 2011, 25 WSU Extension Beach Watchers and other volunteers in Snohomish and Island Counties conducted a shoreline assessment of Port Susan, collecting data on the Port Susan nearshore. As part of the adaptive management process, these data can be used to update the viability assessment and inform actions under many of the strategies.
2012 Puget Sound Champions Award Recipient
The Snohomish County MRC and project partners, Island County MRC, Tulalip Tribes, the Stillaguamish Tribe, The Nature Conservancy, WSU Extension of Snohomish and Island Counties, and Washington Sea Grant, were presented as 2012 Puget Sound Champions in recognition of developing a Conservation Action Plan for the Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area. Kathleen Herrmann, the project manager for the Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area, accepted the award on behalf of the group.
The award was presented during the Snohomish and Stillaguamish Watershed Local Integrating Organization (LIO) meeting held on January 7, 2013.
Conservation Action Planning
The Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Action Planning (CAP) process is guiding development of a community-based marine stewardship plan for the proposed Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area.
At a joint meeting in Coupeville on December 6, 2011 the Snohomish and Island County MRCs voted unanimously to support the Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area Conservation Action Plan and take it to their elected officials for approval. The plan aims to achieve a healthy marine and estuarine ecosystem with thriving biodiversity and strong recreational and resource based industries. The CAP document describes the planning process and includes the identified conservation targets, threats, and strategies.
Click here to download the Port Susan MSA Conservation Action Plan document (3 MB pdf).
Click here to download a handout summarizing the Port Susan MSA planning process.
The CAP process involves identifying conservation targets. These targets are used to assess ecosystem health and recovery.
On January 27, 2010, more than 40 scientists with local knowledge of Port Susan gathered to identify seven targets that encompass the range of biodiversity in Port Susan. The targets identified were shorebirds, Chinook salmon, forage fish, bivalve, crustaceans, beaches, and the river delta. Key indicators of the status of each target were also identified. After the workshop, available indicator data were evaluated using CAP criteria and the health of each target was determined. Through this process the overall biodiversity health of Port Susan was determined to be fair (out of very good, good, fair, and poor).
Continuing with the CAP process, over 30 resource managers representing 20 organizations gathered on October 19-20, 2010 to discuss the threats to the Port Susan Marine Ecosystem. During the two-day workshop, participants worked diligently to identify threats to the ecosystem targets, and come to consensus on critical threats to ecosystem biodiversity. Threats were identified through a collaborative process to identify stresses and the sources of each stress to the targets. The top five critical threats identified across targets are bank hardening, development, levee maintenance, incompatible agricultural practices, and spills.
The targets and associated threats will be used in the development of the marine stewardship plan. This will lead to a greater understanding of the marine environment and ensure Port Susan continues to provide diverse benefits for all people.
In January 2011, two public workshops were held in the Camano Island and Stanwood areas so that local citizens could learn more about these efforts and contribute their thoughts and ideas to the planning process. A presentation was given introducing the concept of a Marine Stewardship Area and the CAP process that is guiding the development of a marine stewardship plan. The CAP-derived biodiversity targets and the associated threats to the targets were presented for citizen feedback. Over 70 citizens attended and contributed valuable feedback at the two workshops, which were featured in several news articles.
In July 2011, two public workshops were held in Snohomish and Island Counties to gather feedback on the strategies developed for the Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area. Over 50 individuals attended the workshops and provided critical feedback on the strategies. Their input will help the project team develop a stewardship plan that meets the needs of the community. The plan was completed in December 2011.
The strategies workshop for the Conservation Action Planning (CAP) process was held March 30-31, 2011. During the workshop, stakeholders worked to identify strategies for how to best address threats to Port Susan ecosystem targets.
The Skagit and Stillaguamish Delta Shorebird Significance
Based on its key role for more than 20,000 shorebirds per year, the Greater Skagit and Stillaguamish Delta was designated as an area of regional importance in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) in May 2012. The Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area overlaps with the Stillaguamish Delta.
Click here to learn more about the Greater Skagit and Stillaguamish Delta WHSRN site.
NWSC Benchmarks Achieved:
Education & Outreach, Science, Marine Habitat, Marine Life, Marine Water Quality
Floberg, J., M. Goering, G. Wilhere, C. MacDonald, C. Chappell, C. Rumsey, Z. Ferdana,A. Holt, P. Skidmore, T. Horsman, E. Alverson, C. Tanner, M. Bryer, P. Iachetti, A. Harcombe,B. McDonald, T.Cook, M. Summers, D. Rolph. 2004. Willamette Valley-Puget Trough-Georgia Basin Ecoregional Assessment, Volume One: Report. Prepared by The Nature Conservancy with support from the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources (Natural Heritage and Nearshore Habitat programs), Oregon State Natural Heritage Information Center and the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre.