Goodbye to Caroline Gibson

For the second time in a couple of months, we have lost a huge force in the environmental protection of the Strait. The sudden death of Kurt Grinnell was shocking enough. But this time it’s Caroline Gibson, a woman who’s smile powered real change in this corner of the country. Caroline died after a long struggle with cancer. She leaves a hole that cannot be easily filled, both in those who worked with her and those who called her a friend. 

Caroline Gibson

Caroline’s defining characteristic was her smile and almost limitless positive energy. She helped define the Northwest Straits Foundation as it struggled to keep itself afloat after the Great Recession. The Northwest Straits has been a part of this area since 1998, when Patty Murray and the late Jack Metcalf lead a bi-partisan effort to create an earmark under NOAA to fund it. The goal was to enable citizen involvement in protecting the Strait. It has worked well enough to have established many Marine Resource Committees at the county level in the Northern Sound, and launch an incredibly successful project to remove derelict commercial fishing nets from the Straits. Caroline was a force behind those efforts. 

It seems unfathomable to think that she is gone. Every time I stopped by the house she shared with her partner Walt, she was always a well spring of good cheer. “Let’s have a glass of wine!”, was her happy answer to any issue that was cropping up. And over that glass she would often lay out the history of an issue,  the players behind it and her ideas on what was needed. She loved the Straits, the ocean and all it shelters. 

The work of any environmental activist is exhausting, having to endure hundreds of hours of dreary meetings, endless fundraising, and seeing politicians get elected who distinctly have no interest in protecting the environment. But I never heard Caroline do anything but look for ways to solve the problem. 

My sincere condolences to her family and friends. We all loved Caroline. 


Don Hunger took over the NW Straits Foundation when it became clear that Caroline’s illness was making it impossible to do day to day work. He had this to say today on the Foundations web site

Celebrating The Life Of Caroline Gibson

The Salish Sea is a better place because of all that Caroline Gibson gave during her lifetime. She worked selflessly to build a diverse community of passionate individuals, organizations and agencies who are committed to restoring its coastlines, cleaning its waters, and preserving its habitat. All so wildlife and humans can enjoy the Salish Sea’s life-sustaining benefits for generations to come.

During her career in the Northwest Straits, Caroline served as a member of the Jefferson Marine Resources Committee, as the Marine Program Manager at the Northwest Straits Commission, and as Executive Director of the Northwest Straits Foundation. Her spark and passion inspired others to not just talk about marine conservation, but to roll up their sleeves and do it!

She formed the Salish Sea International Kelp Alliance increasing awareness, understanding and support for kelp as critical habitat. She worked with commercial fisherman on ways to reduce lost gear and mitigate impacts to marine wildlife. And, she was a great storyteller developing shared values and relationships.

As I celebrate her life, I see the color of sea blue with my eyes closed. That deep twinkling blue that water makes when light pierces it from a clear sky. The way salt water blue shifts when a lens of freshwater seeps in from a shoreline ledge. Like when I was a kid and mom said the North Atlantic was too cold, even in summer. But I leapt in anyway because the water deep down was shimmering like diamonds.

Caroline will always be in the water. Or on the shoreline calling us to jump in. Following the color of water down to where the salmon swim and the crabs skitter along sideways through eel grass pretending not to see us in an eternal hide and seek. We’ll swim until our skin is taut and numb, with the exquisite taste of bright salty water on our tongues.

It’s difficult to understand that Caroline’s not here. That somehow, she wasn’t one who miraculously overcame cancer. Even after two years of saying “I’m still here” with a twinkle in her eye and witty smile on her lips; that it wore her down. Us too. We all would stop it from taking her too soon if we could.

Caroline’s spirit filled a room. You didn’t have to know her to feel it. She simply radiated a joy for thinking, learning, and sharing life on a different frequency than the rest of us. I’m convinced that even the orcas and the crabs could feel it.

Looking out on the blue waters of the Salish Sea there’s comfort in knowing her spirit will always be there, and her work will be carried on by all of us.

Don Hunger, Executive Director

July 12, 2021

Northwest Straits MRC Conference Begins

NWSTRAITS 2019 Collage 1

The Northwest Straits Commission, which since 1998 has run the nationally-recognized conservation initiative, the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative has opened it’s 2019 conference. The conference brings together scientists and  community volunteers in seven counties in northwest Washington. Due to space limitations it was a limited audience but they will be publishing Powerpoints & Audio taping of many of these sessions.

During this conference, the participants get to share their expertise and projects, restoring and educating county citizens and politicians  in their local locales.

The conference attendees will participate in field trips, roundtable worksessions, PCHO3230

The Northwest Straits Initiative’s unique and innovative approach combines sound science and ecosystem perspective together with citizen energy and entrepreneurship to improve efforts to save Puget Sound.

This was the agenda.

Friday, November 15  
9:30 AM – 10:30 AM Field trip: Howarth Park (optional)
Hosted by the Snohomish MRC, led by Bob Hillman
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Northwest Straits 101 (optional)

Dr. Lucas Hart, Director, Northwest Straits Commission

Don Hunger, Executive Director, Northwest Straits Foundation

12:30 PM – 1:00 PM Welcome and opening remarks

Alan Clark, Chair, Northwest Straits Commission

Anne Murphy, President, Northwest Straits Foundation

Sarah Brown, Chair, Snohomish MRC
Executive Dave Somers, Snohomish County

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM Tying it all together: the impact of our collective actions

Dr. Tessa Francis, Puget Sound Institute

Dr. Ron Thom, Northwest Straits Commission

Dr. Tom Mumford, Marine Agronomics

Moderator: Dana Oster, Northwest Straits Commission staff

2:30 PM – 3:00 PM Room check-in and break
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Musings on habitat loss and restoration in Puget Sound

Dr. Tish Conway-Cranos, WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Moderator: Lisa Kaufman, Northwest Straits Foundation staff

4:00 PM – 4:15 PM Lessons learned from painting Fishes of the Salish Sea

Ray Troll, Artist

4:15 PM – 4:30 PM Remarks from Senator Liz Lovelett
Introduced by Tom Cowan, Northwest Straits Commission
4:30 PM  
5:00 PM – 6:30 PM Reception and networking

Podcast: OCTOPOD – Open Communications for The Ocean

Raye Evrard and Allie Brown


Book signing: Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline
Dr. Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll

6:30 PM – 8:30 PM Dinner and Keynote Speaker

Welcome – Chairman Shawn Yanity, Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians

Environmental Leadership Award

Deep Time and the Salish Sea
Dr. Kirk Johnson, Sant Director, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History




Saturday, November 16

Location: Courtyard by Marriott Ballroom

8:45 AM – 9:00 AM Tying it all together – summary results

Dr. Tessa Francis, Puget Sound Institute

9:00 AM – 10:30 AM Building community connections

Cheryl Lowe, Jefferson MRC staff

Rebecca Benjamin, North Olympic Salmon Coalition

Dr. Julia Parrish, UW Coastal Observation & Seabird Survey Team

Moderator: Sasha Horst, Northwest Straits Commission staff

10:30 AM – 10:40 AM Remarks from Representative Debra Lekanoff
Introduced by Tom Cowan, Northwest Straits Commission
10:40AM – 10:50 AM Break
10:50 AM – 11:50 AM Climate change and the blue carbon revolution

Dr. John Rybczyk, Western Washington University
Moderator: Dr. Ron Thom, Northwest Straits Commission

11:50 AM – 12:00 PM Remarks from US Representative Suzan DelBene

Introduced by Christina Koons, San Juan MRC and Northwest Straits Commission

12:00 PM – 1:15 PM Lunch – buffet
1:15 PM – 2:15 PM Transboundary cooperation in killer whale conservation

Dr. Rob Williams, Oceans Initiative

Moderator: Ginny Broadhurst, Salish Sea Institute

Day 2: continued on next page
2:15 PM – 2:45 PM MRC Awards

Presented by:

Nan McKay, Northwest Straits Commission/Foundation

Anne Murphy, President, Northwest Straits Foundation

2:45 PM – 3:00 PM Closing announcements




Ghost-net busters are entering a new era of hunting and removal – Kitsap Sun

Chris Dunagan gives us a great overview of the ongoing project of the NW Straits Foundation, which helps fund our Marine Resources Committees in the North Sound. This is good news for all of us for removing a legacy going back probably 50 years.

Chris Dunagan in Watching Our Water Ways writes: “My mind is unable to grasp, in any meaningful way, how much death and destruction was caused by fishing nets that were lost and abandoned through the years. Nearly 6,000 of these so-called “ghost nets” have been pulled from the waters of Puget Sound over the past 17 years. Until removed, they keep on catching fish, crabs and many more animals to one degree or another….”

Ghost-net busters are entering a new era of hunting and removal 

Marine Resources Committees Annual Meeting in Port Townsend

The annual meeting of Marine Resource Committees (MRC) that help guide policy and restoration work in the seven north Sound counties took place this weekend in Port Townsend. The MRCs are funded and supported by the Northwest Strait Commission. The annual meeting is always a full house packed with great speakers on the latest scientific and policy issues around restoration of the Salish Sea.

Speakers included President Obama’s Director  of the National Ocean Council, Beth Kerttula who gave a spirited talk on working under the Obama Administration to set ocean policy. Also the Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership, Sheida Sahandy spoke on the direction of the PSP under her leadership up to now (Ms. Sahandy took over the PSP earller in the in year). Ms Sahandy braved a serious cold to give the audience what may be one of the better ways of moving the Partnership forward in some time. Julie Horowitz from the Office of the Governor Shellfish Initiative spoke on the latest coordination efforts in shellfish science at the State level. Ian Miller spoke on climate change and the impacts of it on coastal Washington communities, which includes problems ahead for Port Townsend, which will be negatively impacted by climate change. Jamestown S’Klallam tribal elder Marlon Holden who is also the chair of the Natural Resources Committee for the tribe gave us his blessing, as well as an overview of the tribal point of view on environmental protection, to kick off the proceedings. Look for links to the audio of the speakers at the web site of the NW Straits Commission,

MRC speakers (Clockwise from top): Jamestown S'Klallam Tribal member Marlin Holden, Sheida Sahandy, Beth Kerttula,,Betsy Peobody,Ginny Broadhurst,Ian Miller,Julie Horowitz, Christine Woodward

MRC speakers (Clockwise from top): Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal member Marlin Holden, Sheida Sahandy, Beth Kerttula,,Betsy Peobody,Ginny Broadhurst,Ian Miller,Julie Horowitz, Christine Woodward

In the morning, the Jefferson County MRC had a tour of local restoration sites, on the Glacier Express.

MRC Conference Boat Tour

Additional speakers also included Betsy Peabody, Puget Sound Restoration Fund, who spoke on a multi-faceted Approach to Combating Ocean Acidification;Tom Mumford, Ret. Dept of Natural Resources on  kelp research; Ron Thom, Pacific Northwest of the National Laboratory on eelgrass research: restoring Puget Sound’s meadows. From Jefferson County,Cheryl Lowe of the Jefferson MRC presented on: Local Action: MRCs and Eelgrass Protection Efforts .

MRC Conf 4

Ron Thom, Tom Mumford,Cheryl Lowe, Nan McKay, Jerry Masters, and Jill Clark presenting award to Joe Chang of F/V Bet Sea.


Job Listing: Northwest Straits Foundation Seeking Executive Director

This is a super job for the right person. I’ve been involved with the NW Straits for a number of years now, as part of the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee. They NWSF are really great folks, doing a wonderful job. We wish Robyn all the best. 

The Northwest Straits Foundation is seeking an Executive Director.  The current Executive Director, Robyn du Pre’, is resigning as of September 30 due to health issues.  Please share this posting widely as we would love a slew of great candidates to lead us into the future.

For more information about the Northwest Straits Foundation, please visit

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