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The Salish Sea : North America Gets A New Sea In The Pacific Northwest

Updated on July 16, 2011
The Salish Sea is the name used for the combined bodies of water that make up Puget Sound, the Straight of Georgia, and the Straight of Juan De Fuca
The Salish Sea is the name used for the combined bodies of water that make up Puget Sound, the Straight of Georgia, and the Straight of Juan De Fuca | Source

In the Pacific Northwest there is a large portion of interconnected waterways, basins, and straights that have, since the origins of our country, have all been called by separate names. These bodies of water lie on the boarder between the USA and Canada and offer the best and most protected cruising grounds in that region of the world.

Well, now these bodies of water - mainly Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan De Fuca, and the Strait of Georgia - all have a singular name ... the Salish Sea.

If you haven't heard of the Salish Sea before, don't worry ... you're not alone. While it might take some time for this new name to become common place, it has been officially recognized by the United States (2009) and Canada (2010). While the name doesn't replace the individual names of the bodies of water that make up the Salish Sea, it does create a sense of continuity for this expansive, unique, and wondrous marine environment that our two nations share.

The History of the Salish Sea

The term "Salish Sea" was first coined in 1988 by Bert Webber, a marine biologist working in Bellingham Washington, in an effort to raise awareness of the areas interconnected ecosystem. Webber wanted to completely do away with the other names associated with the many water ways, but for now he'll just have to be content with the official recognition of the combined name.

The term salish comes from the indigenous people of the region. The Coast Salish are a group of related peoples who all shared a common linguistic and cultural origin (although 23 different variants of the salish language are recognized). For centuries before European occupation, the Salish people used the water ways of the Pacific Northwest and Southwest Canada for trade, transportation, and as a source of food and resources.

Orcas in the Puget Sound
Orcas in the Puget Sound | Source

Ecosystem of the Salish Sea

The Salish Sea is a marine environment with some of the most diverse and amazing animals on the planet. From Orcas ("killer whales") to salmon - the Salish Sea has just about a little bit of everything. One of the most amazing animals of the Salish Sea is the North Pacific Giant Octopus ... arguably the largest species of octopus on the planet!

The ecosystem of the Salish Sea is fragile though. One of the main reasons the term was adopted was in order to create a more cohesive approach between the United States, Canada, and the people living in the area to the preservation and protection of the marine environment.

Because of the rapid development of the Pacific Northwest, government funded clean-up is falling behind the amount of pollution being dumped into the steams, rivers, and estuaries that ultimately make up the Salish Sea. The biggest problem is stormwater runoff. This polluted water clouds the marine environment, making it harder for native eelgrass and other wildlife to grow, creating a break in the ecosystems food chain. Efforts are being taken to curtail the human impact - and there has been some headway. Its hoped that the renaming of the system as a whole will help people view the entire sea as one single entity, and in turn become more aware of the environment.

The North Pacific Giant Octopus
The North Pacific Giant Octopus | Source

Cruising Grounds of the Salish Sea

The Salish Sea is home to some of the most pristine and beautiful recreational sailing grounds in the entire world. Being somewhat protected from the fury of the open ocean, the inland waterways that make up the Salish Sea create are a sailors paradise.

Most notably are the San Juan islands (in US territory) and Vancouver Island (Canadian territory). These amazingly beautiful and rural islands provide sanctuary to a plethora of marine wild life, amazing waterfalls and wilderness, and some of the most beautiful coves, inlets, and landscapes you could ever hope to see. Easily accessible from both Seattle Washington and Vancouver B.C., these waters have become the quintessential stomping grounds for sailors from all over the Pacific Northwest.

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    • Fortadam profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Portland Oregon

      Thanks Lee! I hope you enjoy it :) I had no idea about the Salish Sea until I started doing research for sailing those waters. The term kept coming up ... so I decided to figure out what was going on. I think the term will catch on quickly :)

    • Lee B profile image

      Lee Barton 

      7 years ago from New Mexico

      Just bookmarked your blog--I'll definitely be back!

    • Lee B profile image

      Lee Barton 

      7 years ago from New Mexico

      Fantastic hub! No, I had never heard of the Salish Sea, and I am in it!!

    • Fortadam profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Portland Oregon

      I'm glad you liked it!

    • NicholasA profile image


      7 years ago from Midwest

      This is the first time I have heard about the Salish Sea. This was very interesting, thank you for the post.

    • EducationCoop profile image


      7 years ago

      Very interesting read!

    • Fortadam profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Portland Oregon

      I have yet to sail them myself, but I plan on moving up to the Salish Sea in the next few years and I can't wait to visit the islands!

    • Tiffany Regan profile image

      Tiffany Regan 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      The San Juan Islands remain one of my all time favorite places to visit. Thank you for this informative piece.


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