Condition of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary good; climate change a growing concern

This just released from NOAA.


Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary habitats are in overall good condition, with stable or improving trends, but climate change impacts are a growing concern for sanctuary managers, according to a new NOAA report on the health of the sanctuary.

The sanctuary’s “Condition Report” includes information on the status and trends of resources in the sanctuary, pressures on those resources, and management responses to the pressures that threaten the integrity of the marine environment. 

The report, based on information from 2008-2019, concludes that overall, most habitats within the sanctuary are in good condition and show signs of stable or improving trends over time. However, there are concerns about the effects of climate change—especially for open ocean habitats.

Climate change effects—marine heatwaves, harmful algal blooms, hypoxic events, and ocean acidification—are the biggest threats to the condition of the sanctuary. Although wildlife populations of the sanctuary are fairly stable or increasing overall, certain keystone and foundational species populations—the purple sea star and sunflower star, Southern Resident Killer Whales, and some salmon species—are displaying cause for concern. 

The report uses a standardized method to summarize the condition and trends of the sanctuary’s resources, habitats, and ecosystem services, as well as pressures on those resources and management responses to the pressures.

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1994 and includes 3,188 square miles of marine waters off the rugged Olympic Peninsula in northwest Washington state. Habitats within the sanctuary range from towering kelp forests to deep-sea coral and sponge communities, and there are over 200 reported shipwrecks. Twenty-nine species of marine mammals and more than 100 bird species reside in or migrate through the sanctuary, and it contains some of the most productive habitats for fish in the world.

In order to represent both traditional and modern-day perspectives of the relationship between humans and the ocean, this report includes the voices and knowledge of Indigenous people. Tribal Councils, tribal members, and participating staff from the four Coastal Treaty Tribes contributed to the report.

NOAA uses sanctuary condition reports as a standardized tool to assess the status and trends of national marine sanctuary resources. The assessment period for this report was 2008 through 2019, updating the previous 2008 report. It will inform the management plan review process for Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. 

A web story with details has been published by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

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