Pacific herring: In the middle seat of the Puget Sound family car

Ask anyone who’s ever been stuck in the back seat of a long family road trip about the many trials of being in the middle.

While it doesn’t have to count license plates or tolerate bony elbows, the silvery Pacific herring does have a special spot in the middle of Puget Sound’s food web.

Growing on a diet of the many tiny planktonic crustaceans that float through Washington’s marine waters, as much as 70 percent of Puget Sound herring are, in turn, feed for numerous marine animals, such as seabirds, marine mammals, and other fishes.

Pacific herring live in 18 distinct zones in Puget Sound. One of those critical spots is Quartermaster Harbor between Vashon and Maury islands.

As part of an ongoing commitment to ensure the state’s busiest waterway remains suitable habitat for the many species that rely on it, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) plans to remove old 170 creosote-saturated pilings and debris from seven sites around Vashon and Maury islands.

Nestled on eelgrass and marine algae on the sea floor, Pacific herring eggs are delicate. They have an especially high mortality rate when exposed to creosote, a mix of some 300 chemicals that leach into marine waters as pilings age and break up.
Less eggs means less herring, which means less food for the salmon and shorebirds that find them so delicious.

DNR will continue to protect the Pacific herring’s habitat, along with 28 other sensitive species, through its Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan, a measure designed to balance use of lands beneath marine and fresh waters with protection of those areas.

A draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Aquatic Lands HCP prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service is currently open to public review and comment. Written comments on the Environmental Impact Statement will be welcomed until December 4, 2014, to be addressed to: Tim Romanski, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 510 Desmond Drive SE, Suite 102, Lacey, WA, 98503; or Scott Anderson, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region, 510 Desmond Drive SE, Suite 103, Lacey, WA, 98503. Comments may also be submitted by email, to

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