The Salish Sea: An Ecosystem Divided

The Salish Sea is a 17,000 square kilometer ecosystem with an arbitrarily drawn dividing line directly through its center. While that line (the United States/Canada border) is largely invisible to the naked eye, it is a serious hindrance on the conservation and study of the ecosystem as a whole. Here are some ways in which the border has made research and protection of the Salish Sea uniquely challenging and how the SeaDoc Society, which is part of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, is making progress in spite of that obstacle.


In Washington state they called it Puget Sound and in Canada they called it the Georgia Basin. It wasn’t until 2009 that the whole ecosystem was given an all-encompassing name: The Salish Sea. Here’s why that was a huge step. 


Researchers on both sides of the border wanted to come together and talk about possible population declines in forage fish — the small fatty fish that many other animals depend on for food. But neither government could facilitate work across the border to have that meeting. So they met at a place called the Peace Arch. They even had to enter through separate doors.


Most human beings are accustomed to borders as territorial dividing lines. Most harbor porpoises, on the other hand, are not. That's a problem when trying to conduct an accurate count of the population.


Video shot/edited by Justin Cox. UNDERWATER FOOTAGE BY BOB FRIEL. STILL PHOTOS VIA Sasquatch Publishing.