What is the Salish Sea?
The Salish Sea is one of the world’s largest and biologically rich inland seas.
The Salish Sea is the unified bi-national ecosystem that includes Washington State’s Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands as well as British Columbia’s Gulf Islands and the Strait of Georgia. The name recognizes and pays tribute to the first inhabitants of the region, the Coast Salish.
The name Salish Sea has been approved by naming boards in both British Columbia and Washington State as well as by the United States and Canadian naming boards. (Read a history of the naming issue on the Western Washington University website about the Salish Sea.)
Politically the Salish Sea is governed by the USA and Canada, but the international boundary separating the Puget Sound Basin (USA) from the Georgia Basin (Canada) corresponds to no natural barrier or transition. The border is invisible to marine fish and wildlife. Species listed as threatened or endangered under the US Endangered Species Act or the Canadian Species at Risk Act, including Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca), marbled murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus), and some ecologically significant units or species of Pacific salmon (Onchorynchus spp.), traverse the boundary daily. Oceanographic processes such as freshwater inflows and wind driven surface currents exchange biota, sediments and nutrients throughout the larger ecosystem.
Take a look at some of the biggest and longest-lived animals in the world that make their home in the Salish Sea.
Salish Sea Facts:
- Coastline length, including islands: 7,470 km (1:250,000 scale World vector Shoreline and TEOPO2 topographic/bathymetric GIS grid)
- Total number of islands: 419 (1:250,000 scale World vector Shoreline and TEOPO2 topographic/bathymetric GIS grid)
- Total land area of islands: 3,660 square kilometers (1:250,000 scale World vector Shoreline and TEOPO2 topographic/bathymetric GIS grid)
- Sea surface area: 16,925 square kilometers (1:250,000 scale World vector Shoreline and TEOPO2 topographic/bathymetric GIS grid)
- Maximum depth: 650 meters (Bute Inlet, BC; 1:250,000 scale World vector Shoreline and TEOPO2 topographic/bathymetric GIS grid)
- Total population approximately 8 million. (source)
- Number of different marine animals species estimated: 37 species of mammals, 172 species of birds, 247 species of fish, and over 3000 species of invertebrates (See Gaydos & Pearson 2011 and Brown and Gaydos, 2011.)
- Number of species listed as threatened, endangered or are candidates for listing: 113 (See Brown and Gaydos, 2011.)
Note: the numbers of species in the ecosystem changes as we learn more about the ecosystem, and the number of species of concern goes up as more species are listed by federal, state and provincial entities.
Population Map of the Salish Sea