Marine and Coastal Planning

Brokering Lane Agreements Between Crabbers and Towboat Operators

Jenna Keeton, Fisheries Specialist

In the late 1970s, conflicts between oceangoing tugs and commercial crabbers became a major problem in Washington, Oregon and California. Crab pots fouled tugs as they moved between coastal ports, and the loss of gear created severe hardships for commercial crabbers. Sea Grant programs on the West Coast helped broker an agreement that provided navigable towboat and barge lanes through the crabbing grounds between Cape Flattery, Washington, and San Francisco.

Since the late 1990s, WSG has led this process, maintaining the industries’ cooperation and saving them more than $1 million annually. WSG will continue to hold several negotiations each year, improve electronic towlane charts and evaluate the project’s economic impacts.

Towards that, in summer 2016 a new set of visually enhanced charts (“chartlets”) was published, and a Google map webpage that will reflect the same detail as the chartlets is currently under development. In addition, WSG is facilitating discussions between industry and the National Weather Service and U.S. Coast Guard to improve marine weather forecasting and coastal bar-closure policies, and will highlight discussion outcomes.

Marine Spatial Planning for Washington’s Pacific Coast

Increased activities in marine waters create potential conflict and competition between uses, from shipping and fisheries to sediment management and renewable energy development. Marine spatial plans (MSPs) grounded in strong public participation and science-based decision making can be important tools for balancing these interests, preserving existing sustainable uses and maintaining ocean health. WSG is part of the state team charged by the Washington Legislature with developing an MSP for Washington’s Pacific coast.

WSG’s role is to help coastal communities understand marine spatial planning and facilitate information sharing between state planners, federal partners, tribes, local marine resource committees and other stakeholders. Staff conduct public outreach, facilitate planning meetings and workshops and coordinate the project’s independent scientific review.

Sociocultural Indicator Assessments and Wellbeing

Melissa Poe, Social Scientist

Integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs) are important tools for ocean and coastal policy making. To foster a better understanding of the social dimensions of marine and coast environments, WSG is working jointly with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs to develop indicators of human wellbeing.

Social indicators provide important information on the status of and trends in human wellbeing. As part of the IEAs, social indicators also help decision makers better anticipate outcomes from policy and other social changes, and from ecosystem changes along Puget Sound and the West Coast.


Training and Professional Development for Shoreline and Coastal Planners


Communities, nongovernmental organizations and coastal businesses in Western Washington need information to help them prepare for future coastal issues. WSG meets this need by providing training, outreach, networking opportunities and technical assistance to shoreline and coastal planners. Working with the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), WSG established and will continue to support the Shoreline and Coastal Planners Group (SCPG), providing regular opportunities for coastal professionals to discuss policy concerns, new technologies, emerging issues and other relevant topics.

More information is available here:

WSG maintains the SCPG email list and website, coordinates regular group meetings, facilitates new partnerships and provides a network for exchanging technical information. WSG also coordinates and presents a broad range of full-day training sessions for professionals working with Ecology’s Coastal Training Program.

Examples of past training topics include:

  • “How to Administer Development Permits in Western Washington’s Shorelines,”
  • “Presentation Skills for Scientists and Public Officials,” and
  • “Climate Change Series.”


Whatcom Watersheds Information Network

The Whatcom Watersheds Information Network (WWIN) is a network of representatives from government agencies, non-profit organizations, educational institutions and citizens who are involved and interested in marine and freshwater ecosystems and natural resources education and outreach.

WSG educator Sue Blake coordinates and supports WWIN activities. The primary mission of the network is to support and improve watershed education, stewardship, information exchange and public involvement in Whatcom County.

Working Waterfronts and Waterways

Working waterfronts contribute to local economies and enrich Washington’s cultural and social heritage. But shoreline-dependent industries, government agencies, native tribes and the public struggle to gain access to shorelines, waterways and waterfronts. The past decade has brought notable, accelerating conversion of valuable waterfront real estate, with negative socioeconomic and environmental effects. WSG works with stakeholders in Washington and across the nation along with other Sea Grant programs to promote the best uses of working waterfronts.

WSG is a member of the National Working Waterfront Network and works with the Washington Public Ports Association and other community-based maritime efforts to develop and maintain a Washington network. WSG actively supports efforts to strengthen maritime workforce capacity in the state working collaboratively with a coalition of public and private maritime education and training providers and industry representatives.

WSG hosted the 2013 National Working Waterfronts and Waterways Symposium in Tacoma and the Coastal Management Specialist was a member of the steering committee for the 2015 symposium.

In addition, the Working Waterfront Podcast was created in collaboration with the American Shoreline Podcast Network through the NWNN. One of the latest episodes can be listened to on their website here.