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Defending our Shorelines
Land Use
Critical Areas Ordinance Update
Shoreline Master Program Update
Safe Shipping in the Salish Sea
Endangered Species





Safe Shipping in the Salish Sea

"San Juan County is at the center of existing and proposed fossil fuel export projects. We have everything to lose and nothing to gain. It is important that our community stay informed, get involved and be part of the public input process."

- San Olson, FRIENDS' Board President and former Naval Officer


Our Salish Sea at Risk

Are coal and tar sands a threat?

J2/Granny is the whale pictured.  Estimated to be over 100 years old, she is the eldest whale in the Southern Resident Community.

There are approximately 7 million people living within the immediate watershed of the Salish Sea, which includes the major cities of Seattle, Tacoma, Victoria and Vancouver.

The Salish Sea is also home to many threatened or endangered species including Southern Resident killer whales, marbled murrelet seabirds, multiple species of rockfish and Chinook salmon.

If all of the new and expanded terminals and refinery projects in the Salish Sea are permitted and developed, including those that became operational in 2014, there would be a 43% increase in large, commercial marine vessel traffic.

Click here for the Salish Sea Vessel Traffic Projections informational flyer & map, press release and source document.

These proposed projects, if permitted, would impact our waters, shorelines, climate and the economy that depends on a healthy marine environment.


Drift Card Study

Jennifer and Steve from Victoria finding the first drift card on March 25, 2014.

FRIENDS launched “this could be oil” wooden drift cards in the Salish Sea during 2014. Information from the drift card study is helping researchers calculate where oil from a spill might end up over what length of time and along what route. The results of the study will help communities allocate resources most efficiently to prepare for a spill. 

For more information, to see study results, or to report a drift card, visit 

Click here to read an article about the study in the San Juan Journal (October 29, 2014)

Click here to see a video of the Rosario Strait drift card drop from March 2014.

Listen to the a story from Free Speech Radio News.


Additional Information:

Protecting the Future of the Pacific NorthwestVideo by LUSH Cosmetics:


Orcas NO COALition’s comment letter to Canada's National Energy board regarding Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline Exapansion (written by Friends board member Michael Riordan).

Salish Sea Vessel Traffic Risk Assessment (VTRA 2010) Update (Prepared by George Washington University and Virginia Commonwealth University for the Makah Tribe)

See Gary Shigenaka, a marine biologist for NOAA, talk about oil spill risks in San Juan County (from his talk at the San Juan Island Grange in Friday Harbor on March 16, 2014).


Click here to see the full Salish Sea: In Danger infographic and learn about the interconnectivity of the Salish Sea and how increased shipping traffic and a major spill could devastate our environment and our economy.

Click here to see the full Gateway to Extinction infographic and learn about the unprecedented increase in rail and ocean vessel transport of fossil fuels through the Pacific Northwest.

The Salish Sea Imperiled: A Community Response to Increased Coal Transport Around the San Juan IslandsA White Paper written by the San Juans Alliance

FRIENDS' Scoping Comment Letter and Appendices for the Gateway Pacific Terminal

San Juan Alliance's Scoping Comment Letter for the Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview EIS



The Salish Sea Particularly Sensitive Sea Area

To reduce the risks posed by an oil spill from global shipping, FRIENDS is leading a transboundary effort in Washington State and British Columbia to designate the Salish Sea as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). With our waterways already crowded and intense increases in international shipping traffic proposed, a PSSA designation can synchronize the Salish Sea’s complex, and often conflicting, domestic and international laws and policy goals.

To achieve a PSSA designation, an area’s ecological, social or cultural resources must be vulnerable to impacts from international shipping. A PSSA designation allows specific measures to control the maritime activities of large international shipping vessels in that area. These measures include implementing best practices for things such as anchorages, routing systems that avoid certain areas, discharge of ballast water, vessel maintenance, and equipment for ships.

In 2014, FRIENDS, with support from the Samish Indian Nation, completed a Feasibility Report to designate the Salish Sea as a PSSA.  In 2015, the Washington Women’s Foundation awarded FRIENDS $100,000 for PSSA work.


Effects of PSSA Designation

A PSSA designation would benefit the wildlife, marine habitat, air quality, and people who live, fish and recreate in the Salish Sea. FRIENDS has engaged with tribes, scientists, government, industry, and non-governmental partners to draft the nomination report that would tailor protections to regional needs. The designation continues to garner strong support.

What you can do to help achieve PSSA Designation:

  • Invite FRIENDS to present PSSA information at speaker’s bureaus, lecture series, house parties, and other speaking engagements.

  • Join FRIENDS to receive the latest information and add your voice to the growing community support for a PSSA.

  • Call or send letters to help inform your elected leaders about the need for PSSA protections.

Learn more about the Salish Sea PSSA:

PSSA Working Group: Background Paper

PSSA Feasibility Study Report for the Salish Sea

Designating the Salish Sea as a PSSA Informational Booklet


Take action! 

Community members gather at a "No Coal" rally at FRIENDS' annual meeting in September, 2012.

1.Take action on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion! Canada's National Energy Board (NEB) recently recommended approval of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project proposal. The Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion would increase project-related tanker traffic in the Salish Sea from one tanker per week to one tanker per day, significantly exacerbating oil spill risk. Though the NEB approved the proposal, it accepted that the consequent increased marine traffic would cause "significant adverse effects to the Southern resident killer whales."

We need to tell our elected officials: Don't let Canada condemn our whales! The proposed expansion's seven-fold increase in tanker traffic would put our whales, other marine life, and our San Juan Islands community at risk. Click here to send a letter of concern to your leaders today and tell them to speak up against the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Click here to see the Orcas NO COALition’s comment letter to the NEB written by Friends board member Michael Riordan to learn more about the issues surrounding this project.

2.Sign the Save the Salish Sea pledge.  You’ll be adding your voice to the growing community of Salish Sea champions on both sides of the border who are taking action to stop new fossil fuel projects in their tracks.

3. Stay engaged and informed!  Click here to receive email updates and action alerts from FRIENDS about fossil fuel export in the Salish Sea.

4. Take action at home to reverse the demand for coal and other fossil fuels.  Drive less, bike or walk more.  Turn off lights and other things with switches when not in use.  Buy less, reuse more.  Click here for more ideas.

Resources and Partners:

United States/Regional:

Climate Solutions

Coal Train Facts

Evergreen Islands

Lopez NO COALiton

Orcas NO COALiton

Power Past Coal

RE Sources for Sustainable Communites

San Juan Islanders for Safe Shipping

Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign

Stand Up to Oil

Sightline Institute

Washington Department of Ecology

Whatcom County Department of Planning - Gateway Terminal Project


Dogwood Initiative

STAND (U.S. and BC)

Georgia Strait Alliance

Raincoast Conservation Foundation

Sierra Club BC

Tar Sands Free BC

Voters Taking Action on Climate Change

Wilderness Committee


PO Box 1344, Friday Harbor, WA 98250 Phone: (360) 378-2319, Fax: (360) 378-2324 © 2013


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