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Sno Isle MRC joint meeting in Coupeville

Members of the Island and Snohomish MRCs meet and approve the Port Susan MSA plan.

Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area

Port Susan Bay straddles Island and Snohomish counties from the Marysville area north to Stanwood and west to Camano Island. Since 2007 we have been partnering with Snohomish County MRC in a community process to develop a science-based marine stewardship area for this body of water. Additional partners include the Tulalip Tribes, Stillaguamish Tribe, The Nature Conservancy, Washington Sea Grant with the support of the Northwest Straits Commission, and the WSU Extension offices of Island and Snohomish counties.

On Dec. 6, 2011 the Island and Snohomish MRCs voted unanimously in a joint meeting to recommend adoption of the plan to elected leaders of Island and Snohomish counties. In 2012, the Port Susan MSA plan entered Phase II of the CAP planning process. During this final planning phase the MSA Team continued to work with partner organizations to develop a Conservation Workplan and Measures Plan. View a PDF of the complete plan. 

Port Susan Bay is renowned for salmon, Pacific Sturgeon, Gray Whales, clams, crabs, oysters and thousands of migratory waterfowl. The bay's fish and shellfish are harvested both commercially and recreationally. Surf Smelt lay their eggs on the bay's sandy beaches and Ghost Shrimp burrow in the muddy shallows. Salmon and birds feed on the smelt. Gray Whales enter the bay every spring on their migration from Mexico to Alaska. They scoop mouthfuls of bottom and sift it for Ghost Shrimp. Sturgeon visit the bay from the Columbia and Fraser rivers to forage for worms and shellfish.

The bay and its various estuaries also function as a salmon nursery. Juvenile Chinook, Coho and Chum salmon swim here and are carried by the currents from their birthplaces in the Skagit, Stillaguamish and Snohomish rivers. They probe the shoreline for pocket estuaries and creeks. Such places help them adjust their metabolism from river to saltwater environment, feed on insects that drop from overhanging vegetation, and hide from predators. Steelhead, cutthroat trout and other fish also use the estuarine habitat of this shore and nearby Livingston Bay.

Only recently have we really understood how valuable estuaries and salt marshes are to the entire marine food chain. Decades of logging, farming and home-building altered much of our shoreline.  Today, only a few precious pockets of marsh and coastal wetland habitat remain. The Audubon Society has designated Port Susan Bay an Important Bird Area. State, tribes and private organizations are working to protect many sections of this bay’s shoreline. With public understanding and support of their efforts, future generations will continue to enjoy the beauty and diversity of birds, fish, marine mammals and other wildlife that make Port Susan Bay such a magical place to live and visit.

Targeted Outreach to Reduce Impacts from Shore Armor in the Port Susan Marine Stewardship Area
Program Assessment Summary Report

Additional background courtesy Snohomish County MRC website:

To read more about the Port Susan Bay MSA process, please visit the website of our colleagues at Snohomish County MRC.


Island County MRC | Island County Dept. of Natural Resources | PO Box 5000 | Coupeville, WA 98239-5000 | main (360)679.7350