The Salish Sea defines our region — hundreds of miles of coastline, dozens of rivers and streams flowing in, a kaleidoscope of islands and bays, all supporting a rich web of habitats, species, and local communities.
But it’s in trouble — and recovery efforts are falling short. The rate of damage from industrial contamination, ocean acidification, and polluted urban runoff still outpaces the rate of the Salish Sea’s recovery. Our health and livelihoods depend on the health of our shared waters. That’s why we’re engaging a movement of knowledgeable, passionate people ready to take action. RE Sources aims to bring more public engagement whenever there is a threat to our water resources.
What is the Salish Sea?
The Salish Sea includes waters on both sides of the US-Canada border — Puget Sound and the waters around the San Juan Islands in Washington, the Strait of Georgia in Canada, and all the rivers that drain into it. It spans over 4,600 miles of shoreline and 6,500 square miles of ocean. It is the home of over 8 million people, and over 400 species of birds and fish.
It is the home of numerous Indigenous tribes, and we acknowledge that our activities are all on land and water that they’ve stewarded for thousands of years. Our office and service area is on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish Tribes.
Why it needs protection
In the Pacific Northwest, 40% of Chinook (King) salmon runs are locally extinct, and their population has plummeted by 60% since 1984. Our local herring population at Cherry Point in northern Whatcom County — a vital food source for our salmon — is at just 9% of historic levels. The region’s fishing economy, Tribal fisheries, and endangered Southern Resident orcas are all imperiled by this decline.
Decades of industrial activity, fossil fuel production, ocean acidification, polluted runoff from paved surfaces, and large ships constantly traveling through the Salish Sea have degraded its health, impacted the fishing sector, and contaminated some of the seafood we eat from the Salish Sea. Industrial interests often have more seats at the table than the general public when it’s time to improve regulations on pollution or permit.
This region is also frequently targeted by the oil and gas industry to be their next major fossil fuel export hub — although action from communities up and down the Pacific Northwest has prevented all 7 of the proposed coal export terminals in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Now, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is a threat to the climate, orcas, salmon, and Tribal treaty rights. Several other fossil fuel export projects are also still being considered.
Oil companies have gotten a free pass in this county for over 60 years, getting major permits approved without adequate environmental review or safety requirements at Cherry Point in northern Whatcom County. Learn more about how we’re working to change that.
We monitor and act on threats to the Salish Sea, drinking water, rivers, salmon, and our region. The community looks to us for the tools to advocate for the waters that people and living systems rely on. And we have a pretty versatile toolbox to protect Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, such as…
- Getting you in touch with elected officials at key moments,
- Educating students and the wider community about Salish Sea issues,
- Providing technical guidance to policymakers to make sure policy actually matches scientific realities,
- Conducting pollution patrols and educating the community on how to spot, report and prevent water pollution,
- Watchdogging pollution permits and actively monitoring at-risk waterways,
- Hosting beach cleanups and train volunteer citizen scientists to collect data we give to government agencies for their management plans,
- Taking up Clean Water Act litigation if collaborative efforts with polluters don’t work.