Proposed Abstract Title

Assessing Habitat Impact of Recreational Kelp Harvesting, a Tom Sawyer Approach to a Culturally Sensitive Citizen Science/Outreach Project, Smith & Minor Islands Aquatic Reserve, Whidbey Island, WA

Type of Presentation

Oral

Session Title

Kelp and Eelgrass

Location

2016SSEC

Description

Smith and Minor (S&M) Islands lie a few miles off the western shore of Whidbey Island near Oak Harbor and are managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a National Wildlife Refuge. The Islands lie within the 36,300 acres of tidelands and seafloor habitat of the S&M Islands Aquatic Reserve, managed by the State DNR. The largest kelp forest in the Salish Sea, much of the kelp lies west of S&M Islands accessible only by boat and is not harvested. To the east of S&M Islands, within the tidelands along the west coast of Whidbey Island are significant kelp beds which are harvested. There are over 300 species of algae. The kelp beds, habitat to spawning fish and invertebrates, are one of the most important aquatic habitats protected in the S&M Islands Aquatic Reserve.

Kelp harvesting occurs in 1-2 feet of water, in the spring months by recreational harvesters at minus tides. Harvesters must have a shellfish/seaweed license. Regulations for harvesting are specified on their license and posted on the WDFW webpage. Information obtain pre-study from casual observers (beach goers) and local residents indicated a possible increase in annual harvesters and that the kelp was not harvested sustainably which would contribute to the degradation of the overall habitat. In addition, we were told that most the harvesters were Korean and spoke little or no English. Preliminary consensus from scientific community indicated a lack of previous research.

Whidbey Watershed Stewards developed and facilitated this effort last summer with support from State DNR and technical support of Island County MRC. Two research strands were developed: 1. Biologic --gathering data on kelp abundance, productivity and removal; 2. Social -- the collecting of harvester data through surveys and by providing public information/outreach to harvesters on importance of a sustainable habitat.

Comments

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Assessing Habitat Impact of Recreational Kelp Harvesting, a Tom Sawyer Approach to a Culturally Sensitive Citizen Science/Outreach Project, Smith & Minor Islands Aquatic Reserve, Whidbey Island, WA

2016SSEC

Smith and Minor (S&M) Islands lie a few miles off the western shore of Whidbey Island near Oak Harbor and are managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a National Wildlife Refuge. The Islands lie within the 36,300 acres of tidelands and seafloor habitat of the S&M Islands Aquatic Reserve, managed by the State DNR. The largest kelp forest in the Salish Sea, much of the kelp lies west of S&M Islands accessible only by boat and is not harvested. To the east of S&M Islands, within the tidelands along the west coast of Whidbey Island are significant kelp beds which are harvested. There are over 300 species of algae. The kelp beds, habitat to spawning fish and invertebrates, are one of the most important aquatic habitats protected in the S&M Islands Aquatic Reserve.

Kelp harvesting occurs in 1-2 feet of water, in the spring months by recreational harvesters at minus tides. Harvesters must have a shellfish/seaweed license. Regulations for harvesting are specified on their license and posted on the WDFW webpage. Information obtain pre-study from casual observers (beach goers) and local residents indicated a possible increase in annual harvesters and that the kelp was not harvested sustainably which would contribute to the degradation of the overall habitat. In addition, we were told that most the harvesters were Korean and spoke little or no English. Preliminary consensus from scientific community indicated a lack of previous research.

Whidbey Watershed Stewards developed and facilitated this effort last summer with support from State DNR and technical support of Island County MRC. Two research strands were developed: 1. Biologic --gathering data on kelp abundance, productivity and removal; 2. Social -- the collecting of harvester data through surveys and by providing public information/outreach to harvesters on importance of a sustainable habitat.