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Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

olympic coast orcaMakah Tribe Key Partner in Sanctuary Management

The site and Makah Tribe completed the fourth year of a cooperative interpretive program centered on the Makah Reservation. The site funds several staff positions that are filled by Makah tribal members. This year, more than 15,000 visitors were hosted by the Makah interpreters and learned about coastal issues, Makah culture, and natural history within the area. 

Sanctuary staff supported the creation of the Makah Office of Marine Safety, the first of its type in the nation. The office provides technical assistance in developing planning and prevention strategies in concert with other federal and state agencies. The office will represent the tribe’s interest in guarding treaty-protected resources from oil spills and give the tribe a strong voice in policy and technical forums and in the creation of spill prevention and response plans.

Removing Derelict Fishing Gear

The sanctuary conducted a pilot project to remove derelict fishing gear in a portion of the sanctuary. Derelict fishing gear is nets, lines, crab/shrimp pots and other recreational or commercial fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned or discarded in the marine environment. Derelict gear can persist in the environment for decades, killing species that encounter the gear. Derelict fishing gear is a major marine debris problem worldwide and has been identified as one of the most threatening types of marine debris. Derelict gear poses a threat to marine mammals, seabirds, shellfish and fish through "ghost fishing," where the gear can attract, trap and kill a wide variety of animals. This can attract other feeding animals to perpetrate the cycle. Derelict gear can continue such wasteful killing for decades.

The derelict fishing gear removal project is based on removal methods developed by the Northwest Straits Commission. Initial cleanup efforts focused on removing abandoned nets and crab pots in Neah Bay. The project was developed in partnership with the Makah Tribe to build capacity for this specialized work directly in an affected community so that future derelict gear removal projects can be conducted using local diving expertise and vessels.

Facing deteriorating sea conditions as the winter approached, the team decided to focus on the area within Neah Bay were numerous targets were located and divers could operate safely. Divers located a particularly harmful net near the entrance to Neah Bay, in which divers found entangled and dead harbor seals, birds, and large fish. After viewing the devastating effects of this one net, Jim Woods, Makah Environmental Programs Director, commented that he had "a whole new outlook on the derelict gear issue." On the following day, several crab pots were removed from the marina and the bay,

Overall, this first phase of the project was a great success. More fieldwork around Cape Flattery is scheduled for next summer. Removing derelict fishing gear results not only in environmental benefits, but also in economic benefits for coastal communities. It provides the sanctuary and the tribe with an opportunity to work towards a common goal of restoring fish habitats.

Archaeologists Study 3000-Year-Old Site

Working with the Makah Museum at Neah Bay, program staff completed a successful archaeology field school and excavation of an ancient shoreline site. The site is thought to be a 3,000 year-old village located on a forested terrace above the Waatch River, approximately two miles from the modern coastline. The site may have been occupied at a time when sea level was 10-15 meters higher than present. Excavated shell and fishbone from the site indicate a nearby estuary or sheltered passage, which is a completely different habitat from today’s rocky coast. The effort supports sanctuary goals to educate the public on maritime heritage.

Rare Deep Sea Coral Confirmed

Experts confirmed the identification of the deep-sea coral specimen collected during a June 2004 research cruise in the sanctuary. The hard coral is rare in the North Pacific, and is more commonly known from the North Atlantic. Results from the survey were used by the Pacific Fishery Management Council to identify the area for special protection through designation as a Habitat Area of Particular Concern through the provisions of the Sustainable Fishery Act.

Exclusive Stories for the Web

Citizen Science Monitoring Program Documents Unusually High Number of Seabird Mortalities

Last year, elevated numbers of dead seabirds were documented at beaches from California to Washington State by The Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team. The survey team, a project run by sanctuary staff and the University of Washington with 222 volunteers covering 111 sites, first noted the die-off on the Washington Coast.  These observations were verified by other beach-monitoring programs and seabird researchers in Oregon and California.  Researchers believe the die-offs may be linked to weak upwelling conditions observed last spring and low numbers of forage fish, which reduced seabird breeding and fledgling success. By providing high quality data, the volunteers greatly extended the monitoring capabilities of federal and state agencies and were instrumental in detecting the first signs of seabird die-offs that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Coast Cleanup Yields 37 Tons of Marine Debris

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary staff joined 647 volunteers for the 6th annual Olympic Coast Beach Cleanup during which 37 tons of marine debris were removed from the shoreline of the sanctuary and adjacent areas. Marine debris has been identified as a major resource issue affecting coastal habitats and species throughout the United States.  The project is a collaboration between the sanctuary, Olympic National Park, Olympic Coast Alliance, Surfrider Foundation, and Olympic Audubon. This year’s effort was enhanced by a grant from NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. This funding enabled Olympic National Park to mobilize crews for final removal of wilderness marine debris caches at 11 remote locations and disposal of the material in landfills or recycling facilities in a timely fashion. In addition, the project produced a detailed inventory of priority sites for future cleanups.  Please visit the Olympic Coast sanctuary volunteer Web page to learn about how you can help with beach clean-ups or other volunteer programs.

 Olympic Coast Discovery Center Educates 16,000 Visitors

The Olympic Coast Discovery Center completed its inaugural year of operation with over 16,000 visitors. Launched during the 2004 Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Tenth Anniversary, the new center features high-tech interactive exhibits on marine conservation, ocean science and exploration and maritime heritage. The facility serves as an international gateway, introducing the sanctuary and marine conservation themes for visitors traveling on the coast or onward to British Columbia.

Rare Deep Sea Coral Confirmed in Sanctuary

Dr. Stephen Cairns, a coral taxonomist from the Smithsonian Institution, confirmed the identification of the deep-sea coral specimen (Lophelia pertusa) collected during a June 2004 research cruise in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The hard coral is rare in the North Pacific, and is more commonly known from the North Atlantic. Results from the survey were used by the Pacific Fishery Management Council to identify the area for special protection through designation as a Habitat Area of Particular Concern through the provisions of the Sustainable Fishery Act. Deep sea coral communities form unique habitat for many organisms and are very sensitive to physical impacts such as bottom-contact fishing and seafloor disturbances. The sanctuary was successful in securing funding to conduct additional deep sea coral survey work in 2006 to improve our knowledge on the extent and conditions of deep sea corals.

Agreement Reached on Pacific Crossing PC-1 Fiber Optic Cable

An agreement over the reinstallation of 66 miles of fiber optic cable within the sanctuary was reached between the sanctuary program, Army Corps of Engineers, Makah Tribe, Tyco Submarine Ltd, and Pacific Crossing Ltd. The agreement resolves a dispute over permit compliance and impacts to tribal fishing issues arising from the improper installation of the cable in 1999. Originally, the cable was to be buried throughout the sanctuary to avoid snagging fishing gear and to minimize impacts to seafloor habitats and organisms. However, the cable was not buried to specified depths. The agreement addresses past impacts to tribal fisheries for the Makah Tribe and allows for a new permit to cover repair and ongoing operations of the cable. In addition, it sets fees for the private use of the publicly-owned seafloor and requires the cable-owners to pay for a program to monitor compliance and changes in habitat following the cable placement. Cable re-installation will take place in summer 2006.

Sanctuary Maps Over 245 Square Kilometers of Seafloor

The sanctuary habitat mapping program provides information on seafloor habitats that helps locate biologically unique habitats and helps managers understand potential impacts from human activities. Three major mapping cruises documented areas of hard seafloor in the sanctuary that may flourish with cold-water coral communities. The sanctuary’s habitat mapping program entered an exciting new phase of operations this summer as staff used an underwater video camera to verify the accuracy of sonar data. This enhances the accuracy of habitat data collected for the sanctuary using a low-cost alternative to remotely operated vehicles.

olympic coast mapPlans for 2006

The site plans to continue many of the exciting projects underway in 2005. Scientists will embark on additional research cruises offshore to improve our knowledge on the extent and conditions of deep sea corals. On the coast, archaeologists will complete the full analysis of samples taken from the ancient village site and provide a report on their results. Removal of derelict fishing gear will continue with additional surveys and removal operations.

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Revised September 12, 2023 by Sanctuaries Web Team | Contact Us | Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service
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