Fidalgo Bay Day: Celebrating an Aquatic Reserve

Over 350 attendees got the chance to have a hands-on experience with marine life in touch tanks, experience a beach seining demonstration, create crafts, and play games to help the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) celebrate its Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve. The celebration took place at the 14th annual Fidalgo Bay Day on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. DNR’s Puget Sound Conservation Corps also was on hand to provide environmental education about the aquatic reserve by staffing a DNR information booth.

Nathan Boyer-Rechlin from DNR’s Puget Sound Conservation Corps and DNR’s Aquatic Reserves Manager, Birdie Davenport at DNR’s information booth during Fidalgo Bay Day.

In addition to a fun family event, celebrating Fidalgo Bay Day is an opportunity for the public to learn about aquatic reserves and environmental stewardship. The Fidalgo Bay Reserve is one of seven aquatic reserves in Washington state created by DNR to protect unique habitats and native species through preservation, restoration and adaptive management practices. The reserve at Fidalgo Bay contains diverse wildlife habitats such as tidal flats, salt marshes, sand and gravel beaches, along with the native eelgrass beds. These habitats are essential to the reproductive, foraging and rearing success of many fish and bird species such as Pacific herring, surf smelt sand lance, Dungeness crab. The reserve also is home to animals protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, such as bald eagles, peregrine falcons and Puget Sound Chinook salmon.

Just offshore, a harbor seal pokes its head out of the water during the 2017 Fidalgo Bay Day.

Among the education events at the celebration was a beach seining demonstration. Beach seining is when a fishing net is hung vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. The fish, crabs and other marine life captured in the seining were put into water-filled tubs for onlookers to view more closely.

beach seining
Onlookers at a seining demonstration get a close-up look at fish, crabs and other marine life from Fidalgo Bay.

While the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve was established in 2000, the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve Plan was completed in 2008, after extensive public process and environmental review. Located in northern Puget Sound in northwestern Skagit County, Fidalgo Bay is home to the largest bed of eel grass in the continental United States. Currently, DNR is conducting several research, monitoring and restoration projects in Fidalgo Bay to further promote the bay’s marine health.
Find more information on the aquatic reserve here.