By Ken Carrasco
Vice-Chairman, San Juan County Marine Resources Committee
We have all had this experience on the ferry – a chance conversation with folks who are visiting our islands. I’ve found that talking with these visitors about our scenic home gives me an opportunity to see it through other peoples’ eyes and to regain the amazement that we live in such a wondrous place.
But our beautiful area has been paying a price because of the burgeoning numbers of residents and visitors, the growth in ship and boat traffic, and our alteration of land and water habitats. The decline in numbers of a variety of wildlife like whales and salmon, the dirtying of our water, and the presence of unhealthy ecosystems have become commonplace.
Have you ever asked yourself if there is some way that you can contribute to restoring and protecting our precious water, land and habitat? To bring back what has been lost so that future generations can enjoy the islands as we do?
The San Juan County Marine Resources Committee is a local organization that is meeting these challenges. We are one of seven MRCs formed in the northern Puget Sound to protect and restore the Salish Sea as part of the Northwest Straits Initiative, which includes the Northwest Straits Foundation that raises funds for local projects.
The members of the MRC are all volunteers, except for a staff person who supports us logistically, and we all come from a wide range of backgrounds including economic interests. The guiding principle of our organization is to apply local knowledge and passion, informed by science, to address problems in our marine ecosystem.
The activities of the MRC include serving as an advisory board to our county council and to conduct science-informed projects. You may be aware of the workshops we have held about the decline in the southern resident killer whale population and about the impact of petroleum spills on our waters. We also reviewed a white paper on the policy of dispersant use in major oil spills and we are also developing an interpretive display at the Orcas ferry landing so visitors and residents can better appreciate the local marine ecosystem.
Members of our MRC also serve as members of the county’s Salmon Citizen’s Advisory Group, in which we have the opportunity to aid in the restoration of local salmon runs.
The San Juan County MRC is currently seeking new members and we encourage those with an interest in protecting and restoring our marine waters to apply, and this certainly includes those with economic and commercial ties to our resources and community. The time commitment includes a monthly two-hour meeting in Friday Harbor and a teleconference later in the month. Of course, other projects also consume additional time, but they are seen as challenging and fun.