Understanding Nearshore

Understanding Nearshore

The nearshore is the stretch of land and shallow water, at the point where terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems connect (1). This dynamic region, constantly shaped by the power of water, includes shoreline bluffs, tidal portions of streams and rivers, and shallow water areas (2). A healthy nearshore habitat is composed of various sized sediment for fish to lay eggs, specific tidal heights, and vegetation for shade, food, shelter, stability, and water quality (3).


In the Puget Sound, nearshore environments provide a zone for replenishing fine sediments to support various marine species, eelgrass beds, intertidal invertebrates, riparian vegetation, recreational activities and industry. This environment provides the base to sustain a variety of sea life including salmon, forage fish, clams, and marine mammals who rely on the nearshore for food, migration, cover, and spawning. Forage fish such as smelt and sand lance spawn on beaches in the intertidal zone while herring lay eggs in shallow water on eelgrass and algae (3). Forage fish are a key food source for salmon, seabirds, and even our endangered southern resident orcas.


In addition to ecosystem benefits, the nearshore supports our regional economy. The Puget Sound commercial and recreational fishing industry is valued at over $61 million a year and the shellfish industry valued at $86 million per year with over 390,000 people participating in recreational activities either on the water or beaches (4). The Pacific Northwest depends on the health of Puget Sound waters and our nearshore ecosystems for a healthy, vibrant economy and ecosystem.


  1. Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership
  2. Johannessen, J. and A. MacLennan (2007). Beaches and Bluffs of Puget Sound. Prepared in support of the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership. Technical Report 2007-04.
  3. Penttila, D. (2007). Marine Forage Fishes in Puget Sound. Prepared in support of the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership. Technical Report 2007-03.
  4. Economic Facts. Washington Department of Ecology Publication 06-01-006 (2008).
Understanding Nearshore